As part of the anatomy of the oral cavity, the soft palate is the muscular back portion of the roof of the mouth. A soft palate is elongated when it extends past the top of the epiglottis or the mid to lower part of the tonsillar crypt (See Figure 1). Having an elongated soft palate partially blocks the throat and often causes breathing and feeding-related issues. An elongated soft palate is one of the symptoms of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and can be treated surgically with an Aesculight CO2 laser.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is a genetic disorder that compromises the upper airway most commonly in flat-faced/short-headed (brachycephalic) dog and cat breeds. Upper airway abnormalities correlated with BOAS include an elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, laryngeal collapse, extended nasopharyngeal turbinates, and others. A dog or cat with BOAS could be affected by one or more of these abnormalities.
Dog Breeds prone to Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome include:
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- American Bulldog
- Boston Terrier
- Brussels Griffon
- Cane Corso
- Chihuahua (apple-headed)
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- English Mastiff
- French Bulldog
- Griffon Bruxellois
- Japanese Chin
- King Charles Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Olde English Bulldogge
- Shar Pei
- Shih Tzu
- Tibetan Spaniel
- Valley Bulldog
Cat Breeds prone to Brachycephalic Airway Obstructive Syndrome:
- British Shorthair
- Exotic Shorthair
- Himalayan cat
- Persian cat
- Scottish Fold
Some common symptoms of elongated soft palate are breathing difficulties such as snoring, stridor (high-pitched whistling sound when breathing), and snorting. Also feeding issues can occur such as gagging, retch, and food aspiration. Also the animal may prefer to sleep on its back to help open up the throat. Depending on the severity, the animal may be unwilling to exercise and can develop a complete collapse of the airway.[4, 5]
Figure 6A: Elongated soft palate breathing before surgery. This video was taken using a video vetscope by Louis Gotthelf, DVM of Montgomery, AL.
Figure 6B: Breathing after elongated soft palate laser surgery. This video was taken using a video vetscope by Louis Gotthelf, DVM of Montgomery, AL.
Early detection and treatment of elongated soft palate is highly recommended. Many BOAS-related surgeries can be performed at the same time as spay or neuter procedures, thereby reducing the cost to pet owners and the number of visits to the veterinarian. If treated late, the elongated soft palate may contribute to the development of secondary problems and make the benefits of surgery less effective.
During an Aesculight laser elongated soft palate resection, the laser is used to excise the excessive soft palate tissue that blocks the airway.
An elongated soft palate resection can be performed with either a scalpel, electrocautery or a CO2 laser. Scalpel surgery requires suturing the soft palate. Resection with electrosurgery may cause severe tissue edema or a large band of necrosis.
Aesculight CO2 laser surgery allows for minimized bleeding, excellent visualization of the surgical field, less postoperative swelling, discomfort and pain, reduced risk of infection, shortened procedure time, and smoother recovery, as numerous human and animal studies have shown.[4,7-10]
Recovery after an Aesculight CO2 laser soft palate resection is most often uneventful and quieter breathing is noted immediately after the surgery. Often medium potency steroids are prescribed to reduce the possibility of inflammation, as well as a week of a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Limited exercise is recommended for the first 5 days after surgery.
What are Pet Owners and Veterinarians Saying About Aesculight Elongated Soft Palate Resection Surgery?
”Our pug is about 12 years old with breathing issues ... He told us he should have surgery to remove part of the soft palate which was probably elongated and was causing the breathing issues. Our regular vet does not offer laser surgery and all the research I did on that type of surgery indicated laser would be the best as there would be little to no bleeding. The procedure with no laser causes severe bleeding and is much more dangerous ... Recovery was quick for our little pug and he is doing great. Laser surgery was the best and only option for us … I would definitely recommend laser surgery to other pet owners.MyriamEl Paso, TX, US
”In using Laser we affect a decrease in pain, swelling, and bleeding during surgery. The laser is used in place of a traditional scalpel … We have observed a significant reduction in post-operative discomfort for all of our pets when procedures involve laser versus the traditional scalpel method … The laser is so precise in its capabilities that it allows us to do procedures that were once thought to be impossible or at least very risky ... When used during the reduction of a long soft palate in Bull Dogs, it dramatically reduces the risk of bleeding.North Town Veterinary HospitalBrampton, ON, CA
Watch Elongated Soft Palate and BOAS Laser Surgery Videos
- Davidson EB, Davis MS, Campbell GA, et al. Evaluation of carbon dioxide laser and conventional incisional techniques for resection of soft palates in brachycephalic dogs. JAVMA 2001;219(6):776-781.
- Packer RMA, Henricks A, Tivers MS, Burn CC. Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLoS One. 2015; 10(10).
- Recognition and Diagnosis. In BOAS Research Group at the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge. www.vet.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
- Arza R. Elongated soft palate resection with a CO2 surgical laser. Veterinary Practice News. 2015;10:32-33.
- Brachycephalic Syndrome. In Small Animal Topics at the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. www.acvs.org. Retrieced 2019-10-02.
- Schultz WE. Elongated soft palate resection with a flexible fiber CO2 laser. Veterinary Practice News. 2017;3:48-49.
- Haytac M, Ozcelik O. Evaluation of patient perceptions after frenectomy operations: a comparison of carbon dioxide laser and scalpel techniques. J Periodontol. 2006; 77(11):1815-19.
- López-Jornet P, Camacho-Alonso A. Comparison of pain and swelling after removal of oral leukoplakia with CO2 laser and cold knife: A randomized clinical trial. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2013; 18(1):e38-e44.
- Pogrel MA. The carbon dioxide laser in soft tissue preprosthetic surgery. J Prosthet Dent. 1989; 61:203-208.
- Carreira LM, Azevedo P. Comparison of the influence of CO2-laser and scalpel skin incisions on the surgical wound healing process. J Anesthesiol. 2016; 1(3):1-8. Accessed Oct 2, 2019.