What is Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization?

A dog’s windpipe, or trachea, works in tandem with the respiratory system to bring oxygen to your dog’s body. When breathing normally, the trachea will pull down on both sides while inhaling and then relax while exhaling. If the dog experiences laryngeal paralysis, the muscles which open the airway are not functioning properly. Often this will mean the airway does not completely open but rather is sucked closed as the dog inhales. If this is happening with your dog, a unilateral arytenoid lateralization may be required to tie back one side of the wall of the trachea permanently, causing the airway to remain open.

Book First Walk Free!

Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization Procedure in Dogs

A unilateral arytenoid lateralization is minimally invasive but requires a veterinary surgeon. Your veterinarian may request X-rays of your dog’s chest as well as throat. The dog will be under general anesthesia and may be required to fast for 12 hours before surgery if this is a planned surgery. If fasting is not an option because of emergency care, the surgical team will be able to handle the risks of food aspiration while sedated during this procedure.

The surgeon will incise a three to four inch space along the dog’s neck to access the trachea. Then with a fine needle and sutures, the surgeon will tie back one side of the windpipe by suturing the arytenoid cartilage to the wall of the trachea. This will keep one side permanently open for easy airway passage. Your dog will be returned to you once fully awake with a shaved neck, a sutured incision, and bandages.

Efficacy of Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization in Dogs

Studies show most dogs who have a unilateral arytenoid lateralization fare well. However, there could be complications during surgery and after. The dog will be susceptible to food aspiration and aspiration pneumonia for the rest of their lives once there is an opening in the windpipe. Aftercare and food management will be imperative once the dog has recovered. Many dogs who undergo this procedure are often older dogs, and this procedure helps them to breathe well for the rest of their lives.

Your veterinarian may discuss alternative treatments and potential complications with each procedure. However, your dog’s personal condition will dictate which procedure is best for them.

Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization Recovery in Dogs

Your veterinary surgical team will observe your dog closely after surgery. They will send you home with post-surgery instructions as well as medications, potentially including antibiotics and pain control. The dog will not be allowed to eat or drink for up to 24 hours. At this time, you will be directed to hand feed the dog a soft food such as a meatball. Watch carefully to ensure the dog is eating slowly and can swallow the food. Handfeeding soft foods will be necessary for about two weeks. In the first 48 hours after the dog begins to eat from your hand, only offer water to wash down the soft foods. Observing your dog as they eat will be crucial. You will want to make sure the dog is not eating too fast, potentially causing aspiration.

For the first week after surgery, keep your dog resting as much as possible. Your dog should go outside for elimination purposes only. During these times, if your dog needs to be on a leash, be sure to use a harness and not a leash attached to a collar around the dog’s neck.

Once your dog is eating on his own, be sure to elevate his food bowls, so the dog is not bending over to eat. The food bowl should be at a level so that your dog does not need to bend their neck to eat. It could take up to six weeks for your dog to be fully recovered. Remember the risk of aspiration pneumonia is high after a unilateral arytenoid lateralization. You will need to watch for signs of illness for the years to come. Be sure to let your veterinarian know if your dog experiences difficulty breathing, lethargy, fevers, loss of appetite, coughing, or nasal discharge at any point during the rest of the dog’s life. Moreover, attend all follow-up appointments with your veterinarian.

Cost of Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization in Dogs

The cost of a unilateral arytenoid lateralization in dogs is between $1,500 and $3,000. If you can visit a teaching university for the surgery, you might be able to save a few hundred dollars on the surgery. This price will vary depending on your surgical team and location but will include office visits, blood work, and X-rays.

Dog Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization Considerations

Laryngeal paralysis typically occurs in older dogs but can occur in younger dogs. Without performing the unilateral arytenoid lateralization, the dog runs the risk of a suddenly closed airway. This procedure will give your dog a clear air passage. However, your dog will also be in danger of developing aspiration pneumonia for the rest of his or her life. But with careful consideration and observation, aspiration pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics through your veterinarian. It will be imperative to have the ability to pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and demeanor after this surgery.

Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization Prevention in Dogs

Consider a harness or a gentle leader for your dog’s leash instead of attaching the leash to the dog’s collar. Pulling on a collared leash to correct the dog’s behavior can injure the dog’s trachea. Do not use choke collars or prong collars. Retractable leashes can also pose a hazard to your dog’s neck and trachea. As your dog grows, keep their food and water bowls elevated, so the dog does not have to bend to eat or drink. Watch to ensure the dog is not eating too quickly.

Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is also important for overall health. Excess weight on the dog adds strain to your dog’s entire body. Keep an active lifestyle with your dog for your family's overall health. Exercising together using a harness or gentle leader will be good for the whole family.

Visit your veterinarian on a regular basis. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for diet, weight, and exercise. Moreover, be sure to tell your veterinarian of any problems which may arise with your dog’s health as soon as possible.