The complications of an elongated soft palate surgery in english bulldogs

Updated April 17, 2017

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (see Reference 1), brachycephalic syndrome commonly affects English bulldogs. One of the main symptoms of this syndrome is an elongated soft palate, a condition where the soft palate extends longer than it should and blocks the airway. Surgery involves slicing away a section of this palate to clear the air passage. With English bulldogs, surgery may cause serious complications, including death.

Inflammation of the Throat

After most types of surgery, vets expect to see some mild swelling because, as the body begins to heal, fluids and cells collect. However, due to the high incidence of tracheal stenosis, a dangerously narrow wind pipe, in English bulldogs, this inflammation may make breathing difficult or even impossible. (See Reference 1.)

Bleeding of the Throat and Hemorrhage

Some bleeding is normal during surgery, but in the English bulldog, it carries the extra risk of blocking the windpipe. This can cause breathing problems and, possibly, death. (See Reference 1.)

In addition, according to the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Oklahoma State University (see Reference 2), soft palate surgery carries the risk of a haemorrhage. However, they also report that by using a CO2 laser--instead of more traditional methods--this risk is greatly reduced. This laser cauterises as well as cutting thereby reducing recovery time.

Temporary Tracheotomy

It some cases it may be necessary during surgery to insert a tube into the throat of the dog. This is to enable the dog to breathe comfortably. However, according to “Veterinary Anaesthesia” (see Reference 3), due to the idiosyncrasies of the breed, this can prove troublesome in English bulldogs, and sometimes only an extremely small tube can be inserted.

Anaesthesia-Associated Complications

Complications from anaesthesia are higher in all dogs than in humans, but the risk is especially high in this breed. They are in jeopardy from cyanosis, a respiratory condition, when the anaesthesia is administered, and are more liable to vomit when recovering. (See Reference 3.) Fortunately, as the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center points out (see Reference 4), most animal hospitals are well-versed in the extra precautions necessary for English bulldog surgery. This includes sitting with the animal as it recovers and may also involve chest radiographs prior to any surgery.

Other Complications

It is possible that soft palate surgery may need to be repeated later in life if the animal has this surgery before it is 1 year old. (See Reference 5.)

Nasal regurgitation--food going up the nasal passage--is possible if too much of the soft palate is removed during surgery. (See Reference 6.)

Swelling of the laryngitis is possible during surgery, causing additional complications. (See Reference 2.)

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About the Author

Based in rural Andalusia, Spain, Joel Barnard has been teaching English and writing travel-related articles since 1999. His articles have appeared in "Travel and Food" magazine, "Backpacker Essentials" magazine and a number of travel websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with honors in sociology and comparative Western societies from East London University.