What is Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis ?
While your dog is at rest you may not notice anything different about him, but if he gets excited or he is exercised more than normal then you will notice that he will have trouble breathing and become distressed. This will also occur on a hot day and especially if your dog doesn’t have any shade. This respiratory distress can change into a life-threatening condition if you are not aware of it.
Laryngeal paresis and paralysis is when your dog’s vocal folds are unable to open, causing difficulty in breathing especially they are active or excited.
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Symptoms of Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis in Dogs
One of the most notable changes you may notice is a change in your dog’s voice (it usually becomes quite hoarse)
- Your dog may start coughing often, especially when out and about
- If your dog gags during eating or drinking this may be the development of laryngeal paresis and paralysis
- During exercise your dog may have difficulty breathing and want to stop all the time
- His breathing sounds loud and laboured
- In severe cases your dog may faint
- Veterinarians call this condition is Lar Par for short; t can be a distressing condition for your dog as he will not understand why he can barely breath
- It is a progressive disease gradually getting worse as your dog ages
- Larger dogs are usually more prone to this condition, with Labrador Retrievers being one breed that is susceptible to this
- Little is known why this condition occurs, but disease in the vocal cords is the result causing the paralysis
- Lar Par is a very stressful condition for your dog and for you
Causes of Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis in Dogs
- The larynx stops operating as it should which is to open and close as your dog eats, drinks, and breathes
- Although not a lot is known about why this happens, this condition occurs because the nerves that control the throat muscles which act on the cartilage of the larynx are diseased
- It often starts on one side and then affects both
- Because of the closed passageway it become difficult if not impossible to breathe; this can cause a feeling of suffocation for your pet
- Obesity in an older dog can make it much worse for him so keeping your pet at an appropriate weight will help in the early stages
- Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Setter breeds are prime examples of the typical dog prone to this condition
Diagnosis of Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis in Dogs
You may not notice this condition, or you may put it down to old age when your dog does not want to exercise or pants a lot as though he is not fit. It is only when it becomes obvious that your dog is in trouble and stressed trying to breathe, that you may realize a veterinarian visit is essential. Your veterinary caregiver will notice immediately when you bring your dog in to be examined, the strain and discomfort as your pet attempts to take in air.
If your dog’s condition is an emergency, then it is crucial to remain calm while the veterinary team helps your dog to breathe (usually in an oxygen tent). Blood tests will be ordered, and your veterinary specialist may take an X-ray of the chest to confirm that there are no problems there. Once your pet is stabilized the team will sedate your dog and investigate the larynx. Your dog’s mouth will be opened and the workings of the throat examined. If it is laryngeal paresis and paralysis, the folds of the larynx will be paralysed and they will not open and close as they should when your dog is breathing.
Treatment of Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis in Dogs
Surgery is the best treatment to enable your dog to live a normal life again. Previous methods favored the widening of the passageway, though not always successful. Methods have changed in the veterinary field today, and now the most successful surgery is to do a tie back procedure. This involves the surgeon using heavy stitches or sutures to open one side of the larynx and tie it back into an open position. Usually this is only done on one side to prevent aspiration pneumonia, which is when food, water, saliva, or vomit particles are inhaled into the lungs. This operation provides relief for your dog enabling him to breathe easier. Your dog will recover and the results are usually good.
Recovery of Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis in Dogs
After surgery, your dog will need time to recover, to ensure no complications occur. Allow two months for recovery and keep your dog confined to allow healing. A potential serious side effect is pneumonia, but thankfully it is a rare occurrence. Keep water intake to just little sips at first, rather than large gulps. The food should be soft and mushy, and easy to swallow. Your dog will have a bit of a cough and it will be most prominent after eating and drinking. You can expect your dog’s voice to change and his bark will disappear, but otherwise things will return to normal. Long term after recovery we recommend that instead of using a collar to walk your dog, it is better to use a harness. Recovery results from the surgery are good to excellent.
Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
If a dog (golden retriever 12.5 years old) has a history of regurgitation, can they have the one side tie back surgery? Breathing was heavy but returned to normal after hypothyroid medication was lowered (Dr. unsure whether there was a false lab result from arthritis medication making it seem like there was hypothyroid issues and thought some symptoms were caused by hypothyroid medication causing her to go into hyperthyroid - once med dosage was lowered, breathing returned to normal)
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