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Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is a disease that although it cannot be cured, can be treated and managed. Our Redmond vets explain how you can give your pup the best quality of life possible while living with laryngeal paralysis.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Just like humans, a dog's larynx (commonly referred to as the voice box) is composed of a series of plates of cartilage that form a box in the throat. The most important function of the larynx is that it closes off the trachea (windpipe) and lungs when eating and drinking. Alternatively, It will open wider if a deep breath is needed.

The integrity and stability of this box are maintained by the laryngeal muscles and when the nerves of these muscles become weak (paretic) or paralyzed, the muscles relax, and the cartilage plates tend to collapse inwards resulting in laryngeal paralysis.

What Causes It?

Laryngeal paralysis is the most common disease that can affect the larynx of a dog. Although in most cases of laryngeal paralysis the cause is unknown, there are plenty of cases in which the reasons are known. Below are some of the known causes:

  • Trauma to the throat
  • Tumors or lesions in the neck or chest
  • Congenital disease
  • Old age
  • Cushing's disease
  • Hyperthyroidism

Most impacted by LP are dogs that are middle-aged or older, as well as medium to large-sized breeds. This, however, does not mean smaller and/or younger dogs can develop it as well.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis can vary. Unfortunately, because the initial signs of this disease are not very intimidating (mild shortage of breath, coughing, and loud breathing) many cases go undetected and therefore, untreated.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms (which tend to be gradual) you can expect to see in a dog suffering from laryngeal paralysis:

  • An increase in panting during stress or on hot/humid days
  • Increase in susceptibility to heat stroke
  • Lethargy
  • Noisy panting
  • Anxiety
  • Voice change
  • Collapsing
  • Dark red, purple, or blue gums
  • Coughing or gagging when eating or drinking
  • Respiratory distress

Can It Be Treated Without Surgery?

Yes, more mild cases (especially in smaller breeds) of laryngeal paralysis can be controlled with medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and sedatives. 

Avoiding hot environments and strenuous exercise with your pup, while also avoiding collars that put pressure on your dog’s neck will increase the success of these mild cases. Harnesses are recommended for diagnosed dogs.

If the case is more severe, opting not to operate means it is not a matter of if, but when.

Treatment for Laryngeal Paralysis Via Surgery

Severe cases of LP will require surgery. Several different techniques have been developed due to the frequency of their appearances. Discuss with your vet to determine the best course of action for your dog's circumstances.

The most common technique is called unilateral arytenoid lateralization (UAL). Also referred to as laryngeal tie-back surgery,  this method uses two permanent sutures to tie the collapsed cartilage to the side of the larynx, keeping it open and air to pass through easier.

Although the surgery will not completely restore laryngeal function, it will significantly improve your dog's quality of life, giving them an additional 1-3 years of life on average.

What to Expect After Surgery

Coughing or gagging is initially normal following surgery while eating or drinking, but tends to clear up over time. The owner should be aware of the symptoms of food/water aspiration, which is the most common complication after this surgery.

Please monitor your dog closely for vomiting, gagging, or regurgitation. Your dog should also be monitored for hind leg weakness, and if noticed, notify a vet immediately.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pup is showing signs of laryngeal paralysis or has been diagnosed and requires surgery, contact our vets at Cinder Rock Veterinary Clinic today.

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