Elongated soft palate is most common with brachycephalic breeds (brachycephalic means short headed) like the Pug, Pekinese, Boxer, Shit-zu and the Bulldog. The soft palate is a flap of tissue which closes of the dog’s airway during swallowing or exercise. With an elongated palate the palate overlaps the windpipe, partially or temporary, obstructing the Bulldog’s airway.
An elongated palate is a congenital and hereditary medical condition. This means that dogs are born with this condition and that dogs who have this condition should never be used as breeding dogs. Many dogs live with this condition for a while with only excessively loud breathing noises as a symptom. But when an affected dog becomes hot or excited, the palate swells and more of the windpipe opening is blocked. The dog has difficulty breathing, makes loud clattering breathing noises and can even collapse or faint. Untreated elongated soft palate causes poor quality of life, inability to enjoy a normal and active dog life and can even result in death.
Heavy mouth breathing
Coughing up slime or gagging
Throwing up when eating or when excersized
Complete examination which usually requires anesthesia to do a thorough laryngeal exam.
Because brachycephalic syndrome can seriously damage a dog’s health, veterinarians usually 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 procedure.
From my experience I would definitely recommend everyone who has a Bulldog with this problem to do the surgery. It will give your dog a much longer and enjoyable life. Imagine if you would have to fight for every breath and still wouldn’t get enough oxygen, or imagine that every time you wanted to eat you would throw up and choke? This condition needs surgery and there is no way around it. Make sure to go to a veterinarian who specializes in the Bulldog breed.
Below you see a photo of my Bulldog Twister who had this surgery done by Dr. Strikkers (a well-known veterinarian in the Netherlands and Bulldog breed specialist). Even though she had hours of surgery (besides the soft palate she also needed other surgeries to make her a healthy dog again) she was already a different and happier dog after two days of recovery. You could hear the difference, we could take longer walks together and she was obviously enjoying the walks way more than she did before. She became more active and playful. She would still snore like a Grizzly Bear but she could finally breathe normally.
About a decade ago you could state that the majority of Bulldogs suffered from this condition. Fortunately this condition affects the breed far less now, than it did a decade ago but still many Bulldogs suffer from this condition. But then again a lot of Bulldog owners and breeders are still in denial and just claim that Bulldogs are supposed to sound like that. Of course the Bulldog is known for its flat face but over the years breeders exaggerated the breed specific looks which causes these health problems. So it is our hope that with new breeding standards that will be more focused on health than looks, this condition will soon be history.