VCA Animal Hospitals

Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

What is laryngeal paralysis?

larngeal_paralysis-1_2009The larynx or "voice box" is composed of a series of separate plates of cartilage that form a "box" in the throat. The stability of this box is maintained by the laryngeal muscles. When the nerves of these muscles become weak (paretic) or paralyzed, the muscles relax and the cartilages tend to collapse inwards.

What causes laryngeal paralysis?

"In the majority of cases of laryngeal paralysis, the cause is idiopathic or unknown."

In the majority of cases of laryngeal paralysis, the cause is idiopathic or unknown. Trauma to the throat or neck can cause laryngeal paralysis. Tumors or space occupying lesions in the neck or chest area can also cause this condition. Endocrine or hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease have also been shown to cause laryngeal paralysis in dogs. Some dogs are born with congenital laryngeal paralysis.

The nerve paralysis rapidly leads to laryngeal muscle wasting (atrophy).

Do certain breeds more commonly develop laryngeal paralysis?

The most commonly affected breeds for idiopathic laryngeal paralysis are Irish setters and Labrador retrievers. The congenital form is seen in Bouvier de Flandres, Siberian huskies, bull terriers and Dalmatians, and clinical signs usually occur at an early age in these breeds.

What are the clinical signs of laryngeal paralysis?

larngeal_paralysis_2009The clinical signs of laryngeal paralysis vary widely. Unfortunately, laryngeal paralysis is probably more common than it is diagnosed. It usually affects middle aged and older dogs. Medium and large breeds are more likely to develop the condition. One of the primary reasons the condition is under-diagnosed is due to the fact that the initial symptoms often only involve a shortage of breath, noisy breathing or a cough.

"Coughing...noisy breathing, exercise intolerance and a change in the sound of the bark."

Coughing, especially after exercise or exertion is probably the most frequently reported symptom, followed by noisy breathing, exercise intolerance and a change in the sound of the bark (dysphonia). These signs are more common in older dog. Unfortunately, these signs are often also associated with advanced age, cardiopulmonary disease and bronchitis, especially if the dog is obese.

In sudden, severe cases the dog may develop respiratory distress with bluish mucous membranes (cyanosis) in the mouth and may collapse.

How is laryngeal paralysis diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on medical history and clinical signs. Coughing and shortness of breath are often the only early signs of the condition. Diagnostic tests that may be recommended include blood and urine tests, chest radiographs and laryngoscopy or examination of the larynx with an endoscope.

How is laryngeal paralysis treated?

leptospirosis_2_2009Mild cases of laryngeal paralysis can often be controlled with medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics and bronchodilators.

"The pet should avoid hot environments and strenuous exercise, and should not wear a choke collar."

The pet should avoid hot environments and strenuous exercise, and should not wear a choke collar.

In severe or congenital cases, surgery is indicated. Patients with laryngeal paralysis are at slightly increased risk of anesthetic complications. Surgical correction is often very successful at reducing or eliminating clinical signs.

What does the surgery involve?

There are several surgical techniques available. Surgery will be based on the severity of the patient's condition. A common surgical procedure involves arytenoid lateralization by "tie-back." This involves tying the collapsed cartilage to the side of the larynx to prevent it from creating an obstruction to breathing. Surgery will often dramatically improve an affected dog's quality of life. Your veterinarian will discuss the anesthetic concerns and the specific surgical technique with you prior to surgery.

Related Tags

laryngeal, paralysis, larynx, idiopathic, bronchodilators, cyanosis

Looking to learn more?

We also offer free, instant access to over 1,500 related articles on your pet's health including preventive medicine, common and not so common diseases, and even informative case studies. We encourage you to read any of these popular articles below or search our extensive pet health library.

Most Popular Articles

About our approach to exceptional pet health care

At VCA Animal Hospitals, our veterinarians take you and your pet's health seriously. With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. We understand your pet is an extension of you, and appreciate the opportunity to share in providing exceptional pet care and quality of life.

* Free initial health exam for new clients only. Not to be combined with any other offer. Not good toward boarding, grooming, prescription and non-prescription medication, and retail items. Not good toward emergency and/or specialty veterinary services. Coupon good for up to two pets (dogs or cats only) per household. Redeemable only at a general practice VCA Animal Hospital. For pet owners who are aged 18 and older.

If you are a new client, you can get a free first exam* on your first visit.

Free First Exam

Get to know us by visiting one of our neighborhood hospitals.

Locate a Hospital
CLOSE CLOSE

General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

Find a VCA General Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:

 

See all VCA Animal Hospitals >

CLOSE CLOSE

Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.

CLOSE CLOSE