What is Staphylectomy?

Dogs that are experiencing airway obstruction and breathing difficulties as a result of abnormalities in the soft palate may be treated with staphylectomy. Staphylectomy is a surgical procedure to perform a resection of the posterior soft palate to remove tissue and open up the airway. This procedure is commonly used on brachycephalic dogs. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is especially common in some dogs, referred to as brancylecephic breeds, and is a condition in which congenital differences in soft palate tissues result in difficulty breathing, due to restricted air passages. Your veterinarian can perform a staphylectomy to remove palate tissue under general anesthesia and free up your dog's airway. 

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Staphylectomy Procedure in Dogs

The night prior to soft palate resection, your dog will need to be fasted from food. Blood tests may be performed a few days prior to surgery to ensure your dog does not have an infection and is not likely to experience complications from surgery. On the day of surgery your dog will be sedated, and intravenous anesthetic will be administered. When your dog is in a deep sleep an endotracheal tube will be inserted, and anesthetic sustained by gas throughout the procedure.

The tongue is moved aside, and the area where excision is to take place is determined. Usually the juncture of the epiglottis and soft palate is a starting point for soft palate resection. A scalpel, electrocautery tool or CO2 laser is used to perform the excision of excess soft palate tissue. The endotracheal tube is covered with gauze if a laser is being used so as not to damage the breathing tube, and the oral cavity packed with gauze to prevent inhalation and ingestion of blood during the surgical procedure. Forceps are used to hold the rear portion of the soft palate and stretch and manipulate the soft palate so that excess tissue can be removed. Stay sutures may be used to hold palate tissues in place during the procedure. Excess tissue is resected, and if excision with a scalpel is performed, the incision is sutured. Laser and electrocautery tools do not require suturing. Once the procedure has been completed your dog will be moved into a recovery area and monitored as they regain consciousness.

Efficacy of Staphylectomy in Dogs

In young animals, staphylectomy is associated with good prognosis, and the dog may be able to return to a normal activity level. In older dogs where complications have already begun, such as laryngeal collapse, prognosis is more guarded and a return to normal airway functioning is less likely.

Staphylectomy Recovery in Dogs

Post-surgery, your dog may be hospitalized for up to 24 hours to provide supportive care and ensure that an adequate air passage is established. If breathing difficulties occur, a breathing tube may need to be inserted temporarily to aid with breathing until swelling diminishes. If severe airway complications occur, a tracheostomy may be required. Painkillers and anti-inflammatories will be prescribed by your veterinarian and should be administered as directed. Once released home you will need to restrict activity and feed your dog a modified diet of soft or liquified food until soft palate healing is established. The oral cavity should be monitored to ensure rupture of the surgical site does not occur and no signs of infection are present.

Cost of Staphylectomy in Dogs

The cost of staphylectomy including anesthetic, procedure, hospitalization and medication ranges from $500 to $1,500 depending on the cost of living in your area. Complications with palate resection or airway difficulties may increase this cost if further procedures and intervention is required.

Dog Staphylectomy Considerations

The use of a laser or electrocautery device is associated with less side effects, including decreased hemorrhaging, swelling, pain, and less surgical procedure and recovery time, however, compromise of the endotracheal tube with such tools is possible and care needs to be taken to protect and avoid the oxygen filled endotracheal tube. If other conditions are present such as respiratory infections or compromise of tissue and associated structures, prognosis is more guarded and full recovery more unlikely.

Staphylectomy Prevention in Dogs

When selecting a brachycephalic breed, care should be taken to choose a reputable breeder that avoids the use of dogs in their program with brachycephalic airway syndromes requiring intervention. Dogs experiencing congenital soft palate disorders causing airway obstruction should be removed from breeding programs.