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Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is characterized by the failure of your dog's windpipe to open correctly as they breathe in, causing the sides of your dog's windpipe to be sucked into the opening. Tragically, in severe cases, laryngeal paralysis can lead to suffocation, but if diagnosed early treatment is available. Our San Gabriel vets explain... 

What is canine laryngeal paralysis?

Your dog's larynx is made up of various cartilage plates that are located in the throat (voice box). When your pet eats or drinks, the larynx performs the crucial task of closing off the lungs. It also opens the windpipe wider when a deep breath is needed.

The movement of the cartilage plates relies on particular muscles within your dog's throat. When the nerves that control those muscles become weak or paralyzed the cartilage plates cannot move correctly and begin to collapse inward resulting in laryngeal paralysis.

What can cause sudden laryngeal paralysis in dogs?

Idiopathic laryngeal paralysis, which means that the condition's cause is unknown, is a common diagnosis for dogs. Idiopathic laryngeal paralysis is frequently a sign of a neuromuscular condition. When this is the case, the condition is known as polyneuropathy and laryngeal paralysis with geriatric onset (GOLPP).

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is known to be caused in some cases by tumors or lesions in the neck or chest, trauma to the throat, hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease, and congenital issues.

Most dogs diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis are middle-aged or older, and breeds including Bouvier de Flandres, Siberian Huskies, Bull Terriers, and Dalmatians have been shown to have an increased risk for the congenital form - often showing signs of the condition while they are still young.

What are the symptoms of laryngeal paralysis in dogs?

Early signs of canine laryngeal paralysis are frequently ambiguous and may not always be taken seriously. Medium to large dogs that are middle-aged or older and exhibit the condition are most frequently affected. Because of this, some of the symptoms of laryngeal paralysis can be mistaken for signs of aging, cardiopulmonary disease, bronchitis, or problems brought on by obesity.

Common symptoms of dog laryngeal paralysis include:

  • Coughing following exercise
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Change in the sound of your dog's bark
  • Coughing when eating or drinking

Sudden laryngeal paralysis can be severe and may result in a blue tinge to the mouth caused by respiratory distress or even collapse.

What is the treatment for dog laryngeal paralysis?

Surgery is typically the best option for treating dogs with severe laryngeal paralysis or the congenital form of the condition. By surgically tying back the collapsed cartilage on one side of your dog's throat, arytenoid lateralization by tie-back prevents the obstruction from occurring as your dog breathes in.

This surgery is known to be very successful in many cases and can greatly improve the dog's quality of life.

What are the alternatives to surgery for laryngeal paralysis in dogs?

If your pooch has mild laryngeal paralysis your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, sedatives, antibiotics, or doxepin to help reduce the severity of your dog's breathing difficulties.

Do not allow your pet to take part in strenuous exercise in hot weather and avoid putting a collar around your dog's neck (have your dog wear a harness on walks).

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.

Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis should always be investigated by your vet. Contact our San Gabriel vets if your dog is showing any symptoms or behaviors that could indicate a health problem. Our experienced vets are here to help.

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