If you have a puppy with a flat or sunken chest, it should have an outward curve. As a result of chest bone deformities, there may be less area for the heart and lungs to function. It is important to treat the pigeon chest deformity in your dog as soon as possible since it may lead to serious breathing and heart problems.
Pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum are usually harmless deformities that do not require treatment. If you believe your puppy may be suffering from these conditions, reach out to your veterinarian to get a checkup.
Several chest bone deformities can occur including pectus excavatum (funnel chest), which consists of a separation between the sternum and cartilage, narrowing of the thorax, and unusually shaped ribs.
A pigeon breast refers to the appearance of the chest as a point rather than a curve because of pigeon-like chest bones and ribs. The lungs and heart can be seriously compressed by either of these disfigurements.
Before you scroll down to this guide about “Pigeon Chest Dog: What It Is, Why It Happens, & What to Do,” check out: Can a Puppy Get Cradle Cap? (Symptoms and Treatment) (2023) and What is Littermate Syndrome: Signs and Treatments! (2023).
Can Pigeon Chest in Dogs Be Fixed?
Unless the deformity compresses vital organs like the lungs or heart, no treatment is needed. A veterinarian will simply watch your puppy to make sure that its heart and lungs don’t become compressed as it grows.
There are a couple of options for treating your dog if it requires treatment. French Bulldogs typically receive physical therapy as their first course of action. The chest can also be manually compressed by the owner to provide a more convex shape to the sternum and costal cartilage.
What Are the Symptoms of Pigeon Chest in Dogs?
There are many symptoms of this condition and some dogs will display all of them while others may have very subtle symptoms. It takes a veterinarian to properly diagnose the disorder, but here are symptoms that you may look for:
- Your dog has a hard time walking
- Problems with the teeth
- Appetite loss
- Exercise inability
- Chest outwardly bowed
- Problems breathing
- Chest with a point
- Umbilical hernia
- Digestive issues
- Disfigured legs
- Failure to thrive
Can a Dog Live With Pigeon Chest?
Many pigeon-chested dogs suffer from other problems, including scoliosis, but if owners know that pigeon-chested dogs may not tolerate much exercise, they can still lead quite normal lives. Veterinarians can recommend chest-wall bracing or surgery as possible treatments.
Alternatively, pigeon chest refers to a dog who has a narrow chest, tucks up well below the elbows, and does not have a posternum. From the side, the dog appears to lack a forechest and has a short breastbone. Due to insufficient room for the heart and lungs, such a dog lacks endurance.
The breed standards for a Great Dane and Chinook specify that their forechests should be well developed, or that their posternums should be prominent. It’s a fascinating concept that means too much for one breed, and too little for another, but extremes at either end are undesirable.
How Do You Fix a Pigeon Chest on a Puppy?
All dogs with indented chests are subject to a debate about surgical correction. It is well known that pectus excavatum can progress over time in dogs.
Dogs with pectus excavatum are commonly treated with external splinting. If the dog has a pliable sternum, this treatment is recommended. It is common for young dogs to have more flexible costal cartilage and sunken breastbones than older ones. As long as the technique is performed correctly, it will alleviate breathing problems in young animals.
Straightening the breastbone with external splinting should be permanent. Short-term pressure from the splint is exerted on the breastbone by the stitches around it.
A brace must be worn for long enough to cause lasting changes to a dog’s breastbone. There is ample evidence that external splinting can correct an indented breast deformity within one to three weeks.
What Are Pigeon Chest Symptoms?
Rather than curving, pectus carinatum dogs’ manubriums come to a point. When puppies are born, it’s easier to feel the point and identify it. Males are far more likely to suffer from this deformity than females.
Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, is often observed in dogs with pectus carinatum. As a result of pectus carinatum, the heart, and lungs of severely deformed dogs can become damaged. While pigeon-chested dogs may experience exercise intolerance, most live fairly normal lives.
The thoracic vertebrae of a dog’s spine connect to its breastbone, or sternum, via 13 pairs of ribs. A floating rib pair is one that doesn’t always connect to a breastbone. The xiphoid process, manubrium, and keel are the three bones that make up the breastbone.
The manubrium resides near the first two rib pairs, near the region of the esophagus, which is the upper part of the breastbone. The keel is the bone between the front legs of the dog, while the xiphoid process is located at the rear.
Can Pigeon Chest Go Away?
It won’t go away on its own, but surgery or treatment isn’t always required. The best way to determine the severity of the problem is to have a veterinarian examine your dog and make recommendations.
Depending on the severity of the case and whether the bones are pressing on an organ, treatment may not be necessary. In other cases, a simple brace can be used to prevent the condition from getting worse and to correct it.
Does Pigeon Chest Keep Growing?
Dogs with pigeon chests can grow out of the issue, but that doesn’t happen very often. A dog’s organs and bones grow larger as it develops, but this growth isn’t enough to relieve pressure on the organs.
Often, the condition becomes more severe as the dog gets older. The vet can usually determine early in a dog’s life whether the condition will require treatment. The dog should grow fine as long as the proper treatment is provided, and it should have no more problems in the future.
Is Pigeon Chest Something to Worry About?
Veterinary diagnosis and treatment are necessary if you suspect your puppy has a pigeon chest. A veterinarian may take a look at several things.
Compression of the heart and lungs is the cause of clinical symptoms. Problems may include coughing, digestive issues, chest infections, and more. To make sure the dog’s sternum is healthy, vets just need to check his sternum. Pectus excavatum may be present if it is indented.
The dog may also cough frequently, have a loud heart murmur, or have cyanosis. Veterinary medicine can identify a noisy heartbeat without performing echocardiography, even though the murmur’s roots may be clinical. Pectus excavatum can also be diagnosed by a thoracic X-ray.
How Do I Get Rid of Pigeon Chest at Home?
It is not possible to fix a pigeon chest on your dog on your own.
There may be options to treat your dog besides surgery that help move the ribs away from the organs, or that help train the muscles so that the pigeon chest does not become more severely malformed. Your veterinarian may suggest surgery or may decide there are other options.
In some cases, veterinarians suggest physical therapy to stretch the muscles or strengthen them so the dogs’ skeletal structure can be supported and chest bones can move as they grow.
These stretches and movements can probably be done at home with your dog if this is the case. Whenever you attempt to do any form of physical therapy on your dog, speak with your veterinarian first to ensure you know how to do it correctly and won’t harm your pet.
Do You Need Surgery for Pigeon Chest?
Dogs that have severe pigeon chest that requires treatment usually require surgery. This is the only way that a veterinarian can properly fix the problem. Your veterinarian may try other things before surgery such as monitoring the dog or physical therapy.
If their pigeon chest is so severe that it is considered life-threatening, then surgery will need to be performed immediately. Some dogs are born with a pigeon chest deformity and will not live more than a few hours or a day.
What Causes Pigeon Chest?
Breeds with brachycephalic heads generally have a genetic predisposition to pectus excavatum, but any breed can develop spontaneously. There may be no obvious symptoms until several weeks after birth unless the condition is severe. It is also possible for puppies to develop this condition if they are raised on surfaces that cause poor footing.
Males are more likely than females to suffer from chest bone deformities, which are usually hereditary. You may not notice your puppy’s pectus excavatum or pectus carinatum until they begin to show signs of breathing difficulties and failure to thrive. There is a much greater likelihood of pectus excavatum than pectus carinatum in puppies.
Frequently Asked Questions
French Bulldogs are susceptible to pectus carinatum, otherwise known as “pigeon chest” or “pigeon breast.”
In dogs, pigeon chests are more common in brachycephalic dog breeds like Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bull Mastiffs, and Chow Chows.
Pigeon chest is a hereditary disorder that most commonly occurs in males.
Conclusion For “Pigeon Chest Dog: What It Is, Why It Happens, & What to Do”
Noticing that something is off with your dog’s chest can be worrisome. If they do not seem to have any problems other than aesthetic ones, there may not be a need for treatment. If your dog is having issues with breathing, digestion, or simple mobility, it may need treatment.
Try reducing the amount of exercise you give your dog and see if you notice a change. Dogs with a pigeon chest have a hard time with physical activity. You can make your walk time shorter, and demand less of your dog during playtime. If you are exercising with your dog, pay close attention to how it reacts. If you notice it is struggling, you may want to consider taking your dog to a veterinarian.
You may also check with the dog’s breeder to find out if there were any deformities among other puppies in the litter. Pigeon chest is genetic but that doesn’t mean it will affect all the puppies in a litter. Still, it can be good to find out if the breeder is aware of the problem so they can potentially stop the genetics from spreading with future breeds or alert other puppy owners so they can check their own puppies.
Some breeders also offer to pay for some of the medical treatment if they know the puppy was born with the issue because of their poor breeding or choice of parents.
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Learn more about dog chest bone deformity by watching “Chest Bone Deformity in Dogs | Wag!” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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