Q. After a lengthy period of undiagnosed respiratory trouble, our dog Samba was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis. Now that she’s had surgery to correct it, she’s like a new dog. I’d appreciate it if you could let other people know about this disease so they don’t wait so long for treatment.
Laryngeal paralysis is a fairly common disease that’s especially problematic in large dogs who have to handle year-round heat in South Florida.
Known as “lar-par” in veterinary speak, it’s an upper respiratory condition seen mostly in older animals. Patients will typically start to pant more often than usual, pant more loudly or exhibit a funny change toward the raspy end of the vocal spectrum.
Those are just the early warning signs. As the disease progresses, dogs will look like they’re working harder to breathe. Their pant becomes harsh, simple walks can elicit exhaustion, and they might start to look a little anxious. (“What’s up? Why can’t I breathe?”)
The larynx, which is the opening to the windpipe (trachea), is normally pulled open by muscles when dogs (and we) breathe. In lar-par, these muscles and/or the nerves that control them no longer work properly, and the larynx doesn’t open as it should.
Some dogs become so severely affected they can suffer heat stroke (dogs regulate their temperature largely via respiration) or accidently inhale food and water, leading to complications like pneumonia. Death by asphyxiation is also possible.
The complication rate can be high for the surgery required to fix this condition, but it’s great to hear that Samba is doing well.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to email@example.com, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.