Pets with short muzzles -- such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Persian cats -- are awfully cute. Unfortunately, this darling feature can also cause some problems, most notably breathing issues. Some short-snouted breeds are born with an elongated soft palate which overlaps and partially blocks the entrance of the windpipe. This obstruction can make breathing difficult, and can cause serious consequences if left untreated.
Read on to learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of an elongated soft palate in dogs and cats.
Causes of Elongated Soft Palate
An elongated soft palate is a congenital condition (one present since birth) that is common in pets with short muzzles. These pets are often referred to as brachycephalic -- “brachy” meaning “shortened” and “cephalic” meaning “head.”
In brachycephalic pets, the bones in the face and nose are shorter, and this can have an affect on the anatomy of the head and its tissues. One possible effect is an elongated soft palate. The soft palate -- the soft tissue located at the back of the roof of the mouth -- grows too long for the head, and can block the entrance of the windpipe, resulting in respiratory problems.
Pets with an elongated soft palate are suffering from something called brachycephalic airway syndrome, which refers to a specific set of congenital abnormalities that affect animals with shortened muzzles. Other abnormalities associated with the syndrome include stenotic nares, hypoplastic trachea, and everted laryngeal saccules. A brachycephalic pet may be affected by one or more of these upper airway problems.
Commonly affected breeds include the Bulldog, French Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Boxer, Lhasa-Apso, Mastiff, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, Persian cat, Himalayan cat, and Exotic Shorthair cat.
Symptoms of Elongated Soft Palate
The symptoms of an elongated soft palate in dogs and cats can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Noisy breathing
- Bluish gums
- Heat stroke
- Exercise intolerance or collapse after exercise
Symptoms may be worse in hot or humid weather.
If left untreated, an elongated soft palate can cause developmental problems, inflammation of other respiratory tissues, heart disorders, laryngeal collapse, and even death.
Treatment for Elongated Soft Palate
Treatment will depend on the severity of your pet’s condition. In many cases, surgery is required. Surgery involves amputating the part of the soft palate that is blocking the airway. This is a relatively simple procedure that takes only several minutes to perform and does not require sutures.
If the airway obstruction is not significant enough to warrant surgery, your veterinarian may recommend that you manage the condition by keeping your pet at an appropriate weight, monitoring exercise, reducing stress, and avoiding heat and humidity (which may mean keeping your pet in air conditioning during the warmer months).
Your veterinarian will determine which treatment option is best for your pet. In most cases, the prognosis is very good. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the chances of your pet suffering long-term developmental problems or other health complications.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.