Medically reviewed by Dr. Irish on 9 Jan 2023
If you have a brachycephalic dog breed, you’re probably well versed in the fact that they can have their fair share of respiratory problems.
Dogs such as the French bulldog, Boston terrier, and English bulldog are just a few breeds with a shortened skull and facial features that leave them vulnerable to brachycephalic airway syndrome or brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).
Unfortunately, brachycephalic breeds are prone to several problems that can lead to difficulty breathing or noisy breathing. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Soft Palate Resection
Soft palate resection surgery may be suggested for brachycephalic dogs who have severe respiratory distress caused by an elongated or thickened soft palate.
Surgery like this involves the removal of excess tissue around the soft palate, a soft tissue structure located at the back of the throat behind the hard palate (the bony roof of the mouth). Ideally, successful removal of the tissue should improve airflow.
In brachycephalic breeds, the soft palate may be elongated or have excess tissue, which can obstruct the upper airway and cause clinical signs such as:
- difficulty breathing
- noisy breathing
- respiratory problems
- aspiration pneumonia
- heat stroke
- everted laryngeal saccules
- laryngeal collapse
While this surgery can be effective in improving a dog’s breathing and quality of life, it is important to weigh the risks against the benefits before deciding.
Benefits of Soft Palate Surgery
One of the main benefits of soft palate surgery is that it can significantly improve a dog’s ability to breathe and is especially beneficial for dogs with small nostrils or stenotic nares.
Stenotic nares should be surgically repaired at the same time as palate surgery for optimal results.
Enhanced quality of life
When a dog has difficulty breathing, it can affect their overall quality of life. They may become fatigued easily, have less energy, and may be more prone to heat stroke.
Prevention of complications
In severe cases of respiratory distress, an obstructed airway can lead to life-threatening complications such as heat stroke and aspiration pneumonia.
Risks of Soft Palate Surgery
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with general anesthesia. These may include allergic reactions, respiratory complications, and in rare cases, death. It is important to discuss the risks of anesthesia with your veterinarian and to choose a reputable and experienced veterinary surgeon to minimize these risks.
There is also a risk of surgical complications with soft palate surgery, such as bleeding, infection, and tissue damage. Again, choosing a skilled and experienced surgeon can help minimize these risks.
In some cases, the soft palate may grow back or become elongated again after surgery. This can lead to a recurrence of respiratory problems and may require additional surgery.
What’s Involved in The Surgical Procedure
The following explains what is involved in soft palate surgery for dogs:
Dogs are typically given a physical examination by a veterinarian to ensure they are healthy enough for the procedure. If the dog’s medical history isn’t fully understood, the veterinarian may order blood work to make sure there’s no underlying condition that could complicate surgery.
On the day of the surgery, the dog is given a sedative to help him or her relax. An intravenous catheter is placed to administer fluids and medications during the procedure. Dogs under general anesthesia are carefully monitored.
During the Surgery
During a soft palate resection, the surgeon will remove excess tissue from the soft palate to correct brachycephalic airway syndrome. Surgery time will vary depending on the technology used.
After surgery, the dog is taken to a recovery area where he or she is closely monitored until they are fully awake and stable. During this time, the veterinarian will check the dog’s vital signs.
Before bringing your dog home, the veterinarian will prescribe some pain medications. In addition to the instructions on how to administer pain medications, you may also be given instructions on what to feed your dog and when they can expect to resume normal activities.
Considerations for Soft Palate Surgery in Dogs
There’s a lot to think about when considering surgery for your dog. Ultimately, you’ll want to make that decision in consultation with your dog’s veterinarian. Here are some things to think about before scheduling surgery:
It is important to diagnose and treat respiratory problems in dogs as early as possible to prevent complications and improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Soft palate surgery may be more challenging in older dogs due to the increased risk of complications and the potential for slower recovery.
If a dog is overweight, weight loss may be recommended before surgery to reduce the risk of complications.
Quality of Life
It is important to consider the overall quality of life of the dog when deciding whether to pursue soft palate surgery. Speak with a veterinarian with any questions and concerns you have about soft palate resection surgery for your dog.
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The decision to schedule soft palate resection surgery for your dog can be difficult, especially if you have specific concerns. Make sure to the veterinarian about all your concerns so that you can feel comfortable going ahead with the procedure.
Ultimately, soft palate resection may be the most important thing you do for your brachycephalic breed, especially if he or she is experiencing any type of respiratory problems.
Overall, the benefits of surgery far outweigh any risks associated with it. Specialty soft tissue surgeons will be a bit more expensive than general practitioners; however, that’s likely because they have more experience along with specialized tools like surgical laser.
In many cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct this issue.
“Soft Palate Resection.” Metropolitan Veterinary Center, www.metrovetchicago.com/services/surgery/soft-palate-resection. Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.
“Corrective Surgery: Dogs With Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, 1 Jan. 2014, todaysveterinarypractice.com/soft-tissue-surgery/corrective-surgery-dogs-with-brachycephalic-airway-syndrome.
Delamarter, Marissa. “Anesthesia and Analgesia in Brachycephalic Dogs.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, 9 Aug. 2022, todaysveterinarypractice.com/anesthesiology/anesthesia-and-analgesia-in-brachycephalic-dogs