Many pet breeds are known for, and even prized for, their flat-nosed or short-nosed appearance. While this characteristic is especially prevalent among many smaller breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus and Pekinese, it also is recognized in Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, Boxers and even Mastiffs. Unfortunately, the cosmetic appeal of this feature is outweighed, from a veterinary standpoint, by the limits it places on a pet’s ability to breathe. The combination of reduced nasal capacity and laryngal obstruction from an enlarged soft palate can cause wellness problems such as snoring, loud breathing, gagging and oxygen deprivation. Fortunately, at Hunt Valley Animal Hospital we can correct this issue, known as brachycephalic syndrome, with soft palate surgery.
There are three different surgical procedures that can help brachycephalic pets breathe normally, depending on which physical issues contribute to the airway obstruction. One procedure involves correcting nostrils that collapse inward to impede breathing, while another removes excess tissue in front of the vocal cords. However, the most significant procedure, soft palate surgery, is the shortening of an unnaturally long soft palate. This excess palate tissue actually extends into the airway, making inhalation especially difficult. Animals with elongated soft palates breathe heavily, gag when they try to swallow, and may have blueish gum tissue from lack of blood oxygenation.
Because brachycephalic syndrome can seriously impair an animal’s wellness, veterinarians typically recommend a surgical procedure in which the soft palate is cut laterally, the excess tissue is amputated, and the remaining palate edges are fused together with a laser. The patient is held for observation for a few hours in a private recovery room with his/her owner. Many brachycephalic animals experience immediate and significant improvement in their breathing and overall wellness thanks to this specialty procedure.
Breeds affected with elongated soft palates:
Advanced Treatment Methods
Hunt Valley Animal Hospital
Drs. Frank and Johnston use advanced techniques and technologies when performing soft palate surgery at our Hunt Valley veterinary center. To ensure that patients suffer less pain, bleeding and recovery time, we employ the LigaSure Tissue Fusion Device. This sophisticated cautery surgical tool works even more quickly and effectively than other laser surgery technologies to seal blood vessels securely and permanently in a matter of seconds. The unit is equipped to respond to feedback, so it stops the flow of energy to the tissues the instant the seal is completed.
Our surgical team has developed a high degree of skill with the LigaSure unit. By using this technology, we can resect an elongated soft palate with minimal blood loss or injury to surrounding tissues — and with no need for sutures.
We encourage pet owners with animals who suffer from brachycephalic syndrome to contact our Hunt Valley veterinary office for a consultation. We will be happy to examine the animal’s airways, nasal structure and breathing efficiency to determine whether soft palate surgery can help. For our out of town patients, our front house team is happy to provide pet friendly lodging options within a short distance of our hospital.