Laryngeal Paralysis

Overview

Laryngeal paralysis is a medical condition that affects the larynx of the dog in question. With laryngeal paralysis the cartilage (arytenoid) on either or both sides of the larynx becomes inflamed or paralysed restricting it’s ability to open and close as it needs to.

The larynx of a dog works two key functions for a dog much in the same way as it does for us humans. It is the ‘voice box’ that we all rely heavily on and it also works as a valve allowing either food/liquid to reach the stomach or air to reach the lungs.

This is primarily achieved by the larynx closing when swallowing allowing food/liquid to flow down the GI and staying open allowing air into the oesophagus at all other times.

As the name suggest, Laryngeal paralysis directly affects this process in form of either total or partial paralysis of the larynx. The nerves within the throat and larynx are no longer efficiently sending electrical signals to operate the process.

This paralysis has an impact on both eating as well as breathing. Since the larynx cannot fully open or close food may be coughed back up as it enters the airway and enough oxygen may not be reaching the lungs.

Contracting laryngeal paralysis can happen through injury or trauma to the throat at any age for the dog. Age related deterioration can also be a factor for the condition and some dogs are born with the condition already present.

Symptoms

The majority of UK dogs who suffer from laryngeal paralysis will present with symptoms to some degree. As with a lot of conditions, particularly in dogs, these symptoms will be easier to spot the more severe the condition.

The most common of all symptoms is the harsh wheezing sound that can be heard consistently by your dog. Many UK dog owners report that the wheezing started small and sporadic but continued to harshen as the condition continued untreated.

The reason for this symptom is because of what is mentioned above in our overview: the larynx isn’t allowing air to efficiently enter the lungs.

In extreme cases this restriction and wheezing can escalate to the dog fainting or passing out due to lack of oxygen. This is an extremely dangerous situation and it is important to see a UK veterinarian immediately as it may be fatal for the dog.

Diagnosis of laryngeal paralysis is done under sedation. The veterinarian will need to enter the mouth of the dog, usually with an endoscope, to fully inspect the larynx and any damage in the area. Upon inspection they will be able to determine the extent of the issue and if both sides are affected.

As with any other condition a follow up X-ray or blood tests may be needed to ensure this is not related to any other undiagnosed conditions that may be a result of laryngeal paralysis.

Affected Breeds

As mentioned previously, laryngeal paralysis can be a result of trauma or simply age so all UK dog breeds are capable of developing the condition.

When it comes to laryngeal paralysis as an inherited disease (congenital), there are a few specific breeds that have been observed to be a higher risk of the defect.

UK dog breeds most at risk to being born with laryngeal paralysis are:

UK dog breeds most at risk to developing laryngeal paralysis later in life are:

Treatment

Laryngeal paralysis treatment for UK dogs is highly specific to the severity of the symptoms that the dog is showing.

In cases where the defect is not affecting breathing or eating there may be no need for future action outside of everyday behavioural changes as a UK dog owner.

Taking extra care not to over-exercise your dog and switching to a harness over a collar are both great steps to spare your dog any additional pressure on their larynx.

Many UK dog owners have also recommended switching to a slow feeder bowl to stop overworking of the larynx during feeding time.

For any UK dogs suffering more severe laryngeal paralysis symptoms the only real option is surgery for the affected area. UK veterinarians have options of either removing part of the cartilage that is obstructing the airways or pinning the cartridge to the wall lining to stop the obstruction.

Both of these procedures of surgery carry their own risks when it comes to short and long term health.

Whilst surgery is certainly an option for any UK dogs suffering from the condition, it is important to remember that it will not solve the issue. It should relieve some of the everyday symptoms but it is almost certain that your dog will have further problems the older they get and/or see symptoms return art a later date.

Treatment Cost

Since treatment is only needed in severe cases many UK dog owners should be able to avoid treatment costs in favour of behavioural changes as an owner mentioned above.

Should your dog need surgery for laryngeal paralysis, it is likely that you will see veterinarian bills in the region of £2,000-£4,000 depending on where in the UK you are and which vet is performing the procedure.

Should your dog see any side effects or complications then this fee could obviously rise significantly.

Most UK pet insure will cover some or all of these fees.

Further Reading

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