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Chest Bone Deformity in Dogs

Pectus Excavatum in Dogs

Pectus excavatum in dogs is characterized by a deformity of the sternum and costal cartilages, leading to a narrowing of the chest horizontally, particularly at the back. The sternum, which is a flat bone situated in the center of the thorax, and the costal cartilages, which connect the sternum to the ends of the ribs, undergo this deformation. Instead of having a slightly convex appearance, the middle of the chest appears flat or concave.

Brachycephalic breeds of dogs, characterized by short noses, are more prone to this condition, and it is typically congenital, meaning dogs are born with it.

Symptoms and Types

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to engage in regular exercise
  • Increased depth of breathing
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Weight loss
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Failure to gain weight


Causes of pectus excavatum in dogs include a genetic predisposition in certain breeds, especially brachycephalic breeds. However, it can also manifest spontaneously in any breed. The condition might not become apparent until several weeks after birth, unless it’s a severe form. Additionally, raising puppies on surfaces that provide poor footing may increase the likelihood of them developing this condition.


To diagnose pectus excavatum in your dog, provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, including any details about its parentage and genetic background, as well as when symptoms began. Standard laboratory tests will involve complete blood tests, biochemical profiles, and a urinalysis.

Your veterinarian will perform multiple X-rays of the thoracic cavity to confirm the presence of pectus excavatum. These X-rays will reveal the deformities and any associated structural abnormalities. In some cases, the heart may be displaced from its normal position on the left side of the thoracic cavity due to the abnormal bone shape. X-rays will also detect any respiratory system abnormalities or concurrent diseases. Additionally, echocardiography, a sonographic image of the heart, will be used to assess the heart’s condition, function, and possible cardiac defects.


The only treatment option for repairing pectus excavatum in dogs is surgery. However, if the condition is mild and the dog’s chest is only flat, improvement may be possible without surgery. In such instances, your veterinarian may demonstrate manual chest compression techniques to encourage the sternum and costal cartilages to adopt a more convex shape.

For some dogs with mild defects, applying a splint may be effective. However, if the sternum sinks inward moderately or severely, surgery is necessary to correct the deformity. The surgical approach chosen by your veterinary surgeon will depend on factors such as your dog’s age and the severity of the condition. Dogs experiencing respiratory problems directly linked to pectus excavatum typically experience significant improvement after surgery and find breathing more comfortable.

Living and Management

The prognosis for severely affected patients of pectus excavatum is generally poor, but timely intervention and correction at an early age can improve the outlook. If your dog has a mild form of the condition, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for home physical therapy.

After surgery, your dog may experience discomfort and will require adequate rest in a quiet area away from other pets, active children, and high-traffic areas. Consider using cage rest for a brief period until your dog can move around safely without overexertion. Outdoor trips for bathroom breaks should be brief and gentle during the recovery phase.

Your veterinarian might prescribe a short course of pain medication and a mild antibiotic regimen to prevent opportunistic bacterial infections. It’s crucial to administer medications precisely as directed, adhering to the correct dosage and frequency. Remember that overdosing on pain medication is one of the most avoidable causes of death in household animals.

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