You fell in love with your bulldog's pushed-in face, but those facial features can cause him a lot of problems. Your bulldog is a brachycephalic -- short-nosed -- breed. His nasal and facial structure predispose him to breathing issues, which may require surgical correction, including shortening of an elongated soft palate. As with any surgery, complications in elongated soft palate surgery in English bulldogs can occur. Those complications can include swelling or excessive bleeding.
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
Short-nosed breeds such as the English bulldog often suffer from respiratory problems known collectively as brachycephalic airway syndrome. An elongated soft palate occurs when the end of the soft palate extends into the airway, interfering with the dog's ability to breathe properly. Symptoms of an elongated soft palate include coughing, breathing difficulties, gagging and exercise intolerance. Along with an elongated soft palate, brachycephalic dogs might suffer from stenotic nares -- small, malformed nostrils -- and everted laryngeal saccules. The latter involves tissue pulled into the windpipe, interfering with airflow. Surgery might involve correction of all three brachycephalic airway syndrome components.
Elongated Soft Palate Surgery
The veterinary surgeon performs a soft palate resection using a scissors, scalpel or a CO2 laser, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. After stretching the palate, excess tissue is cut off with the scissors or scalpel. Once snipped, the surgeon sews up the cut edge with absorbable sutures, so no "stitches" need removal after healing.
After surgery, veterinary technicians will monitor your bulldog for any complications. Potential problems include heavy bleeding or swelling that can interfere with breathing. If swelling occurs, your dog might receive anti-inflammatories and replacement of his anesthetic tube. In a worst-case scenario, the vet will perform a tracheostomy, placing a tube into the windpipe through a hole in the throat. The dog breathes through the tube until the swelling subsides. In any event, your bulldog probably will stay in the veterinary hospital for 24 to 48 hours post-surgery. It's not unusual for bulldogs to cough and gag post-surgery.
Recuperating from Surgery
For two weeks or more following surgery, feed your bulldog soft foods until his palate heals. While he's recuperating, keep him comfortable in a cool, quiet part of your house and avoid stimulation that might cause him to bark or otherwise become excited. Once he's back to normal, ask your vet to recommend a diet to keep your bulldog at a healthy weight. Overweight bulldogs usually have more breathing difficulties than those of normal size.
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons: Brachycephalic Syndrome
- DVM360: Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, Part 2 -- Veterinary Surgery of the Soft Palate and Larynx
- Veterinary Surgical Centers: What and Who is Affected?
- The Veterinary Expert: Surgical Treatment of Brachycephalic Upper Airway Obstructive Syndrome (BUAOS) Part 2
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.