Because of their Brachycephalic nature (short noses) every bulldog has an elongated soft palate to some extent. This is the most common breathing disorder. The soft palate is the flap of skin at the back of the throat. If the palate is too long and thick, it blocks the airway making it difficult for the dog to breathe. The dog can also choke on or spit up pieces of kibble and even pass out from lack of air. Signs are excessive panting, unable to calm down quickly when excited, making a weed eater starting type sound, and possibly vomiting frequently. Loud snoring and/or loud, raspy breathing when overheated is another symptom. Heat and exercise will cause loud, gurgly breathing, (aka “roaring”). The severity can range from loud breathing when excited, during/after exercise to total exercise intolerance.
An experienced Bulldog breeder or experienced Bulldog vet can check the palate by looking down the dog’s throat, many times while the dog is awake if he/she is calm and will allow it. Otherwise, a mild sedative can be given so that the vet can do a thorough check.
Surgery can be performed but is not suggested until the dog is about a year old as the palate may still grow. Earlier surgery is only recommended in a very severe case. In these cases a second surgery is usually necessary at a later date. Sometimes the dog may need to have laryngeal saccules or tonsils removed also, and the vet will do this during the palate clip if required.
Laser surgery is now the most common way to shorten the palate. It cauterizes as it cuts, which cuts down the bleeding and swelling, and lessens recovery time. During post-op recovery, only soft food should be given to allow the throat time to heal. Hard kibble can be irritating. Rice/ground beef or chicken, soft dog food, eggs, oatmeal and even baby food are some of the meals that can be fed. Kibble can also be softened with hot water.
Most people are searching for the stereotypical Bully with a really pushed in nose. Remember the more pushed in the nose, the more likelihood of an elongated pallet. I have seen these surgeries cost as much as $1500. My group cost is around $400 bucks out the door. Healing time varies by dog but normal time is between 2-3 weeks.