Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is a potentially serious condition that could, in severe cases, lead to suffocation. Our Kennesaw vets explain more about laryngeal paralysis in dogs, including symptoms and treatments.
What is laryngeal paralysis?
Your dog's larynx (aka voicebox) is comprised of a series of separate cartilage plates in the throat. The larynx is responsible for the very important function of blocking off the windpipe whenever your pet is eating or drinking to prevent choking 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 can cause sudden laryngeal paralysis in dogs?
In many cases, dogs are diagnosed with idiopathic laryngeal paralysis, which means that the cause of the condition is unknown. Often, idiopathic laryngeal paralysis can be a symptom of neuromuscular disease, and is then 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 signs of dog laryngeal paralysis?
Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis in dogs can appear unclear and may not seem like something to worry about. The condition is most often seen in medium to large dogs who are middle-aged or older. For this reason, some 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 after physical activity
- Intolerance for exercise
- 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?
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.
Don't allow your pet to play or exercise strenuously 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.