Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal paralysis (also known as Lar-Par) is a condition in which the muscles of the larynx become paralyzed. When this occurs the larynx (voice box) cannot expand, which restricts a dog’s ability to breathe deeply to get air into the trachea (windpipe). Most dogs with laryngeal paralysis exhibit rapid, loud, labored breathing and throat clearing. The disease can cause life-threatening breathing obstruction if left untreated. It is critical that dogs be able to pant in hot, humid weather to reduce their body temperature; if they cannot do so adequately, they may develop heat stroke.

This condition is more common in older, large-breed dogs including Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Standard Poodles. However, it can also be seen in mixed-breed dogs as well. Laryngeal paralysis can also be inherited in Siberian Huskies, white-coated German Shepherds, and Dalmatians. In most cases, the cause of Lar-Par is unknown, but it can occur secondary to hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease (a failure of the adrenal glands), and severe trauma to the neck. Recent research indicates that laryngeal paralysis may be an indicator of more generalized neurological degeneration.

Review the symptoms below and contact our animal hospital in Decatur immediately if you observe them in your pet.

Symptoms of Laryngeal Paralysis

The primary concern with laryngeal paralysis is that it obstructs breathing, which can cause:

  • Increased panting, even when pet is calm and staying cool
  • A hoarse-sounding bark
  • Labored breathing (anxious expression, eyes prominent, chest expanding vigorously)
  • Tiring easily during a normal walk
  • Quick overheating (limit your pet to minimal exercise on hot, humid days)
  • Rapid, wheezing breaths
  • A tongue that is red or purple in color

If you see any of these signs, contact us immediately at (217) 428-7709. Be aware that your pet’s noisy breathing and tendency to tire quickly may not be age-related, but due to a harmful condition that could potentially be fatal.

Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs: A Dalmatian Walks in the Grass

Treatment Options

Laryngeal paralysis can be deadly; seek treatment for your pet right away. Possible treatment options include:

  • Sedation
  • Oxygen therapy
  • External cooling
  • Intubation and assisted breathing (if necessary)
  • “Tieback” surgery (Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization), one of the highest-rated techniques for correcting laryngeal paralysis

Every pet’s situation is unique, and it will take a thorough discussion and examination with your pet’s veterinarian to decide the best treatment option. The goal is to treat your pet’s condition before it becomes severe.

Helping Your Pet Recover

If your pet has undergone surgery to open their airway, there are several things you can do to aid them in their recovery:

  • Walk them with a harness instead of a collar
  • Try to minimize situations that may cause your dog to bark
  • Elevate your pet’s food bowl/dish
  • Consider a weight loss program if your pet is overweight
  • Pre-form their meals into meatballs for easier swallowing