Laryngeal paralysis is a condition where a dog's windpipe fails to open correctly when breathing in. Rather than opening as it should, the sides of the windpipe are sucked into the opening. In severe cases, laryngeal paralysis can lead to suffocation, but treatment is available if caught early. Our Rock Hill vets explain more...
What is dog laryngeal paralysis?
A series of separate cartilage plates in the throat make up your dog's larynx (voicebox). The larynx is responsible for the very important function of blocking off the lungs whenever your pet is eating or drinking, and opening the windpipe wider when a deep breath is required.
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 are the causes of sudden laryngeal paralysis in dogs?
In many cases dogs are diagnosed with idiopathic laryngeal paralysis, meaning that the cause of the condition is unknown. Often idiopathic laryngeal paralysis can result as a symptom of neuromuscular disease. When this proves to be the case the condition is termed geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy (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.
While most dogs diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis are middle-aged or older, Bouvier de Flandres, Siberian Huskies, Bull Terriers and Dalmatians have been shown to have an increased risk for the congenital form and often show signs of the condition when young.
What are the symptoms of laryngeal paralysis in dogs?
Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis in dogs can be vague and may not always be taken seriously. The condition is most often seen in medium to large dogs who are middle-aged or older. For this reason, some of the signs of laryngeal paralysis can be mistaken for slowing down or lack of fitness due to the aging process, cardiopulmonary disease, bronchitis or difficulties related to 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 and severe cases of laryngeal paralysis can result in a blue tinge to the mouth caused by respiratory distress or even collapse.
Can dog laryngeal paralysis be treated?
If your dog has severe laryngeal paralysis or the congenital form of the condition, surgery can be very effective. Arytenoid lateralization by tie-back can be done to surgically tie back the collapsed cartilage on one side of your pup's throat in order to prevent obstruction when breathing
This surgery is known to be very successful in many cases and can greatly improve the dog's quality of life.
Are there alternatives to surgery for laryngeal paralysis in dogs?
There are few effective alternatives to surgery for severe laryngeal paralysis in dogs, however, if your dog's condition is detected in the early stages your vet may want to try treatment alternatives such as 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.