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Soft Palate Disorders in Dogs

By: Dr. Nicholas Trout

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Clefts of the soft palate should be distinguished from clefts involving the hard palate alone (although they can be in conjunction with hard palate clefts) and clefts involving the lips and nostrils, a primary cleft or harelip. The latter is usually easy to define on physical examination.

Traumatic clefts should be distinguished from congenital clefts. Traumatic clefts may not have a defined history of trauma, but they usually occur in older, active, outdoor animals.

Since congenital clefts of the soft palate are frequently associated with nasal discharge, other causes of rhinitis, or inflammation of the mucus membrane of the nose, should be considered, such as bacterial or viral disorders or inhalation of a foreign body.

Dogs suspected of having an elongated soft palate must also be evaluated for concurrent airway problems such as stenotic or narrowed nostrils, everted laryngeal saccules and laryngeal collapse.

In theory, upper airway noise from an elongated soft palate may be similar in nature to the noise associated with the disorder of laryngeal paralysis. For the most part, the affected breeds of dog and age groups are quite different, with laryngeal paralysis being uncommon in younger brachycephalic dogs and most common in geriatric medium to large breeds of dogs such as Labradors and golden retrievers.

The presence of a mass like an abscess or tumor on the soft palate, the larynx or the trachea can mimic the noise of an elongated soft palate and should be considered, especially in an older dog or non-brachycephalic breed.

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