Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Breathing Difficulty / Collapse / Gagging / Licking / Noisy Breathing / Out of Breath

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Rated as moderate conditon

9 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Breathing Difficulty / Collapse / Gagging / Licking / Noisy Breathing / Out of Breath

Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What are Soft Palate Disorders?

Soft palate disorders in dogs involve abnormalities in the soft tissues in the back of the mouth which have occurred in the developmental and gestational processes.  These abnormalities can include the length and thickness of various parts of the soft palate which can affect the relationship between the hard and soft palate in your dog’s mouth.  These abnormalities and their associated effect on the relationship of the hard and soft palates can cause some physical problems with your animal companion.  Some of these problems are correctable while others are not and the possibility of death or the need for euthanasia exists.

The roof of the canine mouth consists of a hard palate and a soft palate. The hard palate is the bony tissue located in the anterior or front part of the roof of the mouth, while the soft palate is soft tissue located behind the hard palate in the back part of the mouth.  Disorders of the soft palate involve those resulting from genetic or inherited abnormalities of this soft tissue.

Symptoms of Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

There are some symptoms that you will notice about your dog that will alert you to the need for medical assistance.  Some of these symptoms will be immediately noticeable while others may take a bit longer to present, depending on the age of the animal.  When they do present, however, it is vital to get medical assessment of the situation so that whatever treatment is deemed appropriate can be initiated. These are the most obvious and commonly observed symptoms:

  • Noisy breathing, especially when inhaling
  • Retching or gagging in some dogs, especially when swallowing 
  • Cyanosis (blue tongue and gums) secondary to decreased levels of oxygen
  • Occasional collapse especially after over activity, excitement or excessive heat and humidity
  • Difficulty suckling, drinking or licking
  • Difficulty vocalizing
  • Resistance of panting and the subsequent regulation of the temperature

Types

The soft palate disorders are genetic or inherited and can occur at birth as well as in the earlier stages of development periods that occur after birth.  They can be characteristic of the dog breed, (note the differences in the shape of the head, muzzle and throat of English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Chinese Pugs, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and Bull Mastiffs).  The following list of types of disorders that have been found in dogs:

  • Brachycephalic syndrome (a combination of anomalies that can include elongated soft palate, stenotic nares and everted laryngeal saccules)
  • Congenital oronasal fistulas (cleft palate and cleft lip)
  • Occlusal anomalies (these include abnormal lengths of upper jaw and lower jaw) Ankyloglossia, a tongue anomaly sometimes referred to as tongue tie 
  • Macroglossia, or large tongue 
  • Microglossia, a tongue anomaly that presents with underdeveloped tongue tissue that can make nursing difficult as well as difficulty with swallowing
  • Epitheliogenesis imperfecta, relates to skin structure 
  • Tight-lip syndrome of Chinese Shar-Peis, small or missing lower lip portion
  • Brachycephalic syndrome, includes a combination of elongated soft palate, stenotic nares and everted laryngeal saccules

Causes of Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

Soft palate disorders in dogs are generally congenital (present at birth) or inherited (defect passed from parents in DNA).  The disorders are caused by anomalies or abnormalities which have a physical effect on basic vital functions.

  • Shape of the head, muzzle and throat 
  • Brachycephalic (structural defects that will change how the dog breathes, eats and drinks)
  • Throat and breathing passages are often smaller than normal or are flattened by the shape of the head and muzzle
  • May have narrowed windpipes 
  • May experience collapse of the larynx (cartilages that open and close the upper airway)
  • May have paralysis of the laryngeal cartilages that prevent the opening and closing of the airway
  • Elongated soft palate, the soft palate is longer with the tip extending into the airway and can interfere with air movement into the animal’s lungs
  • Stenotic nares, abnormal or misshapened nostrils which can narrow or even collapse inwardly when the dog inhales
  • Everted laryngeal saccules, this is tissue in the airway, located just in front of the vocal cords that, due to the defect, gets sucked into the windpipe to cause at least partial obstruction to the air flow
  • Brachycephalic syndrome is a combination of elongated soft palate, stenotic nares and everted laryngeal saccules that can cause narrowing of the windpipe, collapsing of the larynx or paralysis of laryngeal cartilages

Diagnosis of Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

Diagnosis of soft palate disorders in dogs can take several forms.  Once the defect or symptoms have been noted, your veterinarian will need to do a physical examination.  The discovery of defects could come as a result of a normal, routine evaluation or as a result of an episode of respiratory distress.  The examination by your veterinarian may require some anesthesia in order to be performed adequately.  Before this is attempted, your veterinary caregiver will likely do some blood work and get a chest x-ray to detect possible respiratory issues before general anesthesia is administered.  

CT scan of the head and throat area will reveal any soft tissue defects and this will give a better idea of what will be found upon anesthetized examination.  Knowing the possible defects in advance will allow decisions to be made prior to anesthesia as to what surgical options should be exercised while the dog is under anesthesia.  This will reduce additional administrations of anesthesia which will put the dog at risk for further respiratory issues.

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Treatment of Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

The treatments for soft palate disorders of dogs varies depending on the type of defect causing the disorder as well as the degree to which it affects the dog’s ability to function normally.  Some treatment options may seem more extreme than others but these recommendations are made based on the animal’s overall ability to function within a normal environment. 

Surgical intervention is dependent upon the size and location of the cleft defect.  Those animals having extensive soft palate involvement generally have a poor prognosis even after surgery.  Before surgical intervention is attempted, ethical questions should be addressed as well as sterilization or exclusion from the breeding stock be decided.  If you are a breeder or have plans to breed your dog, prevention of reproducing defects in your dog’s offspring should be a high priority.

Occlusal anomalies will most likely require orthodontic or endodontic procedures to correct.  Endodontic procedures involve treatment of dental pulp, like a root canal for humans. Prognathia will require orthodontic repair or procedures or appliances. 

For tongue anomalies there exists a variety of surgical repairs to the soft tissue available that are dependent upon the size and location of the defect.  In the case of microglossia (bird tongue), there exists a poor prognosis even when supportive dietary steps are taken. Euthanasia could be a more viable treatment. In the case of tight-lip syndrome of Chinese Shar-Peis, surgical repair involving creating mucosal flaps is available.

Recovery of Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

In any of these cases, decisions to euthanize may be needed if the dog survives its early post-birth developmental stages.  Some conditions will likely result in the early death of the dog regardless of medical or surgical intervention.  Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog thoroughly and will provide you with solid and ethical treatment options.  There may be significant changes in your lifestyle and home environment that will be needed to accommodate your pet’s physical limitations.  Recommendations for treatment options including euthanasia will come as a result of consideration and discussion about the extreme management and quality of life for your pet given the extent and type of soft palate disorder involved.  

In the event that your pet is diagnosed with any soft palate disorder and if the dog survives beyond infancy, it is vital that steps be taken to render the dog sterile so that the  risk of reproducing the defect in its offspring is eliminated.

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Soft Palate Disorders Average Cost

From 419 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$850

Soft Palate Disorders Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Diesel

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English Bulldog

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty

Diesel is 2 years old at a few months old we were told his palate was border line needing intervention, as he’s got older we’ve noticed no improvement in fitness, but we are wondering will more frequent walks help, we keep them to about 20 minutes he becomes out of breath towards the last 5 minutes and his breathing become extensively loud (as though he is struggling), will walking help (if so how frequent?) or does he need intervention?

July 17, 2018

Diesel's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If Diesel is having difficulties breathing after a twenty minute walk I would recommend popping into your Veterinarian for an examination of the palate as well as a general examination of the respiratory tract to determine if any intervention is needed or not; without examining Diesel myself I cannot recommend any particular exercise regimen. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 18, 2018

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Baby

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Brussels griffon

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6 Weeks

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Snorting
Snorting, Milk Comes Out Of Nose

I have been told that my puppy may have a palate issue but she seems fine other than a snort here and there or when she nurses sometimes the milk comes up through her nose- we are scared to have her checked and they may give us bad news. If she's eating, playing, and growing fast what are her chances she could have a life threatening issue.

March 14, 2018

Baby's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Milk leaking from the nose is a reliable indicator of a palate defect which should be managed appropriately with tube feeding to prevent against aspiration pneumonia and other complications. This isn’t something that will go away and will only get worse when transitioned across to solid food; you can try to open the mouth fully and shine a light to the back of the throat, you may be able to visualise the defect. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.acvs.org/small-animal/cleft-palate www.veterinarydentistry.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/cleft_palate_dog-04625.jpg http://vetmed.illinois.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/pc-kling-palate-fix.jpg

March 14, 2018

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Esmae

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Yorkshire Terrier

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bad Breath,

I just got this little dog from an older woman who has been in and out of the hospital because she couldn't care for her any longer.I got home and checked her over and noticed some black in her mouth. I thought at first glance it was her tongue,however it wasn't. The hard palate I believe has for some reason pushed so far forward she has no teeth on the top front of her mouth. I have no clue what it is or what caused it. But the hard palate sticks out past where her teeth should be.

Jan. 9, 2018

Esmae's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without seeing Esmae, I can't comment on what might be happening with her mouth, but it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian regardless, as she is new to you, and get a good examination. Your veterinarian will be able to look at her mouth and give you a better idea as to what might be going on, and if it is anything to worry about. I hope that everything goes well for Esmae.

Jan. 9, 2018

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Missy

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Chihuahua

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing, Gags, Wheezes

13 year old chihuahua. Just dx with Cushings, and has not started treatment. Taking melatonin 1.5 mg BID. Has all signs of soft palette issues. Gagging, wheezing, nasal discharge (clear) at times, with noisy breathing. No white count elevation. Dr suggested a sedated airway exam. Dog has classic Signs of Cushings. Unsure if I want to put her through traditional treatment with medicine for the Cushings, and am researching natural products. Wondering your thoughts on ways to help with soft palette disorder without another expensive diagnostic test, when there have been so many tests and labs already.

Jan. 7, 2018

Missy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are alternative treatments available for Cushing’s, but I am not so familiar with them and there is little reputable scientific studies on these treatments; if you are looking into an alternative you should speak with a practitioner of alternative medicine (not Homeopathy) for guidance. For the soft palate disorder, further examination would be useful to determine the specific cause for the symptoms you’re seeing; once there is a diagnosis, treatments can be sought. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 8, 2018

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Bailey

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Cavachon

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

i have a three year old cavachon who has been diagnosed with a soft palate disorder. the first episode of difficulty breathing happened when she was under stress being washed and started to wheeze and snorting like noises , two days ago whilst out walking the same thing happened .she was very distressed. on taking her to the vet i was told she had a soft palate disorder. given steroids and anti biotic to ensure no underlying condition. she was weighed and was 9.6 kg advised to loose weight until she is 8 kg. I am worried this gets worse . how do I manage this and would you recommend surgery /

Oct. 18, 2017

Bailey's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Some dogs respond well to losing some weight, whilst others do require surgical correction; the severity and frequency of breathing difficulties may increase over time so it is important to determine the specific soft palate issue and whether surgery is required. The weight loss should help, but surgery is generally recommended for a long term solution; all cases vary in severity, it may also be worth having another opinion by another Veterinarian in your area. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 18, 2017

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Frodo

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Yorkshire Terrier

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging, Wretching

Will X-rays pick up a soft palate disorder. Our vet has ruled out collapsing trachea but my little boy still gags and wretches often. He has that typical “goose” honk. He has suffered from this all his life but we have noticed it is progressively worsened.

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Charlotte

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French Bulldog

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty

Hi , my pup had her soft palate surgery done at 1 year of age , she seems to have worsened when going for walks and being a bit more noisy then expected. Can the palate grow back or worsen? She also has a heart murmur which obviously comes into factor but has had an echocardiogram.

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Lilly

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty
Soft Pallet

We have a cavalier King Charles spaniel and she is 10 years old and she was having trouble breathing after she falls asleep and then wakes up and runs in a circle trying to breathe, then she stops and stretches her neck up in the air to catch her breath. we took her to the vet and they say she has a soft pallet issue and it is moving around and blocks her airway. it is enlarged. they gave us an anti-inflammatory, but it is not working. I guess we are headed in the direction of surgery. any suggestions of alternatives to surgery due to her age?

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Bella

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German Shorthaired Pointer

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6 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Sometimes Chocking When Eating.

I have a 6 months old GSP who was sneezing since the day we got her with small pieces of food coming out in the mucus. She also has allergies to grass or weeds. She had a rhinoscopy done a month ago and the specialist told us that she has no soft palate, at all, and that she’d never seen anything like this before. She advised us that there is not much that can be done. She grows, eats and plays like any puppy her age without getting out of breath. Please advise if there is anything that can be done. Thank you

Soft Palate Disorders Average Cost

From 419 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$850

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