Has your dog lost his bark, or the sound of his bark is raspy and lower than it used to be? Maybe your dog is coughing when eating and drinking water or his breathing is much more labored than it used to be.
If you dog is showing these symptoms, there is a chance that your dog might have the early signs of developing Laryngeal Paralysis. Laryngeal Paralysis in dogs is fairly common for older and large breed dogs. Most commonly affected are Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters.
I am going to cover what laryngeal paralysis in dogs is, what are the signs of laryngeal paralysis and treatment of laryngeal paralysis. I will also discuss how you can manage and live with laryngeal paralysis, as my Golden Retriever has had this disease for about 3 years.
What Is Laryngeal Paralysis
Laryngeal Paralysis or also known as Lar Par, is when the muscles of the larynx become paralyzed. It is a condition that alters how the larynx works.
There are laryngeal muscles around the voice box or larynx. When the nerves of these muscles become weak, the muscles will relax and the cartilages collapse inward. With the muscles of the larynx becoming paralyzed, the larynx can not expand and it restricts a dog’s ability to breathe deeply.
When breathing in normally, at the opening of the trachea, the 2 sides are pulled open and relaxes when breathing out. When your dog has Lar Par, the muscles that normally pull the airway open don’t work properly. The walls of the airway don’t pull open, but rather are sucked into the opening, making it hard for your dog to breathe.
The larynx or voice box protects the lungs from aspiration during swallowing. It is also used for barking or growling and is the passage for air to the lungs.
There are some breeds of dogs that are prone to laryngeal paralysis from a very young age. This is a congenital form that affects Dalmatians, Rottweilers, Huskies, Pyreneas Shepherds and Bouvier des Flandres. The symptoms for these breeds will show up between 3-8 months old, and males are affected 3 times more often than females.
For dog’s that get Lar Par and it isn’t hereditary, the reasons for a dog getting Lar Par is most times unknown. Some of the reasons could include a trauma to the throat or neck, tumors, hormonal disease such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.
Signs of Laryngeal Paralysis
Usually the first sign that you will notice is a change in your dog’s bark or your dog losing their bark completely. My dog lost his bark completely, but that wasn’t enough for our veterinarian to realize that it was an early sign of laryngeal paralysis. They first thought that my dog had a type of bronchitis and was given antibiotics.
His bark did eventually improve some, but a few months later it came back, and eventually my dog gave up trying to bark at all. It has been about 3 years now, and I am surprised that now once in a while he will try barking again. Sometimes there is a bit of a bark, but not the same bark he once had.
There are many other signs of laryngeal paralysis as the disease progresses.
- Heavy panting – even when they aren’t exerting themselves.
- Noisy respiration and a high-pitched sound when breathing in.
- Change in bark. Completely losing their bark, raspy bark or a change in the sound of their bark.
- Occasional coughing or sounding like they are trying to clear their throat.
- Reduced activity or exercise intolerance.
- Coughing when drinking or eating.
- Regurgitating or vomiting more frequently especially when eating.
- Loud, labored breathing.
- Prone to overheating under normal conditions. This is because they use their breathing to cool themselves and they are having a harder time breathing.
- Elevated temperature.
How To Help A Dog With Laryngeal Paralysis
As I mentioned, my dog has been living with Lar Par for around 3 years now. Things have definitely changed on what my dog is capable of doing now, but he is managing with some changes in his routine.
- Don’t use a chock collar. It is best if you change your dog over to a harness system.
- Avoid hot environments. Humidity is very hard on a dog with laryngeal paralysis, and you will notice them struggling more during the humid hot months.
- Reduce strenuous exercise. I still walk my dog daily, but we go much slower and a shorter distance. I let him decide our pace and the distance. I do sometimes believe he is frustrated he can’t go further, but he still likes to get out there daily.
- Give your dog elevated food bowls. This will greatly help your dog with eating and drinking. My veterinarian recommended this when I mentioned the hard time he was having eating.
Treatment Of Laryngeal Paralysis
Your veterinarian might be able to determine your dog has Lar Par from a simple examination and from the symptoms you have noticed. If a more in depth examination is required, it could include a blood and urine test, chest radiographs or a laryngoscopy. The laryngoscopy will require your dog to be sedated.
In mild cases, it might be determined that there is no treatment needed with the exception of exercise restrictions and reduced stress. In mild situations your veterinarian might also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, mild sedatives, antibiotics or a bronchodilator to help your dog.
Severe cases could involve surgery. A common surgery that is performed is called a tieback. Your dog would be sedated and your veterinarian would put a permanent suture on one side of your dog’s Arytenoid cartilage to the side of the larynx so air can pass through the larynx easier.
An incision is made on one side of your dog’s neck approximately 3-4″ long. The recovery is generally fairly short and easy.
Dog owners who have chosen this method of treatment have stated that it has dramatically improved their dog’s quality of life.
Severe cases could also include oxygen therapy or hospitalization. If your dog is ever in distress because a lack of oxygen, you need to take action immediately.
Additional Side Effects
There has been a very in depth study done by Bryden J. Stanley, an Associate Professor of Surgery at Michigan State University with several dogs that have acquired paralysis (not hereditary) that have shown another symptom. Her test was based on 32 dogs that were suffering with laryngeal paralysis.
Her study found that laryngeal paralysis is an early sign of a more general neurological degeneration. Is shows that in time the dogs exhibit generalized neurological deterioration. It is initially noticeable in your dog’s hind quarters around 1 year after original diagnosis.
I have also experienced this with my dog. At times his back ends just slightly drops. He is more unsteady on his legs and he has lost his confidence on being able to do some activities that he used to do. His back legs at times almost seem wobbly.
If your dog is starting to show signs of possibly having Laryngeal Paralysis or Lar Par starting with when your dog lost his bark, is having problems breathing, coughing when eating or drinking or panting when he normally wouldn’t be panting, you should take your dog into your veterinarian to find out if your dog has laryngeal paralysis.
Elevating your dog’s bowls will greatly help your dog, and change your dog’s collar to a harness for walks.
Help your dog from overexerting themselves or from overheating. Only walk your dog as far as they are comfortable, allowing them to take breaks along the way. If it isn’t hot, don’t stop the walks though. They still enjoy getting out there, and it is better for them to get mild exercise.
My dog has been living with laryngeal paralysis for over 3 years now, and although he stresses us out sometimes with his coughing and not being able to walk far, he is still happy and interested in what is going on. We are just more conscious of our dog’s limitations. We elected not to do the surgery because of his age.
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