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Laryngeal Paresis and Paralysis

By: Dr. David Diamond

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Take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as the first signs of respiratory difficulty arise. Minor abnormalities such as change in the character of the dog's bark or loud breathing noises should be brought to the veterinarian's attention during the annual check-up if they are not causing difficulty breathing before then.

Your veterinarian's recommendations for medical management should be followed closely to avoid respiratory crisis situations. If medical management is pursued, protect your dog from overly stressful situations, avoid excessively warm days outside, avoid letting your dog become overweight, and always use a harness-type leash instead of a neck collar. Watch for deterioration of clinical signs. If the dog becomes dyspneic or cyanotic, or collapses, visit your veterinarian immediately. Severe respiratory distress leads to periods of hypoxia (low oxygen in the blood) and can cause irreversible injury to the body.

If surgical management is done, watch for potential complications after surgery. After partial arytenoidectomy, the tracheostomy site must be monitored until it is completely healed.

After a surgical procedure, the dog must be monitored for recurrence of respiratory difficulty that could indicate failure of the surgery or aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia is a relatively common complication of any surgical treatment for laryngeal paralysis because moving or removing part of the larynx out of the airway leaves the airway unprotected from food or vomit entering from the pharynx.

Gagging or coughing during eating or drinking may occur during the recovery period as the animal accommodates to the permanently open larynx. Try different food types to find the one that minimizes these problems in your dog. If drinking water causes gagging, you may need to mix in with the food so it is easier to swallow.

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