Your pug's adorable pushed-in face puts him at greater risk than other breeds if he's undergoing surgery and requires anesthesia. Don't worry. Your vet knows brachycephalic breeds -- those with snub-snouts -- have special needs regarding anesthesia, including extra monitoring.
Brachycephalic breeds such as the pug tend to suffer from respiratory problems because of the shape of their skull. Accordingly, they're susceptible to issues during anesthesia. Your pug might have stenotic nares, or little nostrils. He literally can't take in as much air as nonbrachycephalic dogs. It's likely his soft palate is elongated, so that tissue extends into the throat. The biggest risk for anesthesia concerns the pug's potential tracheal stenosis, or narrow windpipe. Any of these conditions lead to brachycephalic airway syndrome. Before surgery, your vet should X-ray your pug to determine the state of his windpipe.
Before inserting the tube that delivers anesthesia, your vet will administer pure oxygen to your pug. The vet or technician uses propofol or another drug of short duration for preoxygenation and intubation, both of which should be completed as quickly as possibly on a brachycephalic dog. When the surgery is completed, the tube should be removed only when your pug is capable of actively spitting it out, whereas it would be removed immediately from a non-brachycephalic dog who was not yet conscious. The heart rate of a brachycephalic dog often slows down during anesthesia, so your vet will have medications on hand if the heart rate requires increasing.
According to veterinarians Stephanie Krein and Lois A. Wetmore, writing in the North American Veterinary Conference Clinician's Brief, many brachycephalic canines respond well to the tranquilizer acepromazine in preparation for anesthesia, along with an opioid. It warns that the sedative dose should be only half of that used for non-brachycephalic animals. Another common sedative, dexmedetomidine, should not be administered to pugs because it can decrease the heart rate.
After the Surgery
Once your pug is out of surgery, anesthesia risks still linger. According to the petMD website, more than 50 percent of anesthesia deaths occur during recovery, in particular brachycephalic breeds. A veterinary nurse should stay with your pug until the vet deems it safe for the nurse to leave. Nurses and vets must check in on the recovering pug on a regular basis. Speak with your vet prior to the surgery so you'll know the protocol for caring for your pug once he's out of the operating room.
- North American Veterinary Conference Clinician's Brief: Breed-Specific Anesthesia
- petMD: Anesthesia Myths and Urban Legends in Veterinary Medicine
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons: Breed Considerations and Myths and Misconceptions in Small Animal Anesthesia
- Mar Vista Animal Hospital: Brachycephalic
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.