This is an acquired disease that occurs in older dogs
of the large and giant breeds, particularly Labrador Retrievers, Golden
Retrievers, Irish Setters, St. Bernards, and Great Pyrenees. In Siberian
Huskies, Bouviers des Flandres, Bull Terriers, and Dalmatians it occurs as a
hereditary defect. In these breeds, dogs with this problem should not be
Laryngeal paralysis results from damage to the nerves that control the
movement of the larynx. Trauma and age may be factors. Hypothyroidism may also contribute to this problem.
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A classic sign of laryngeal paralysis is a characteristic croupy or
“roaring” noise heard as the dog inhales. Initially it appears during or after
exercise. Later it occurs at rest. Another sign is progressive weakening of the
bark, which ends in a croaky whisper. In time the dog develops noisy breathing,
labored breathing, reduced exercise tolerance, and fainting spells. Laryngeal
edema may develop and further compromise the airway, causing respiratory
collapse and even death.
The diagnosis is made by examining the vocal cords with a laryngoscope.
Paralyzed vocal cords come together in the middle instead of remaining well
apart. This produces a tight air passage through the larynx.
Treatment: A number of surgical procedures have been used to enlarge the
airway. The technique used most often involves removing both the vocal cords
and their supporting cartilage. This relieves the obstruction, but the dog is
unable to bark. Surgery may also predispose the dog to aspiration pneumonia, so usually medical therapy is tried first
(keep dog calm and cool, and have sedatives and corticosteroids on hand).
Choke chain injuries, tight slip collars, or any rope around the neck can
fracture the hyoid bone and/or cause compression damage to the nerves of the
pharynx and larynx. Other causes of trauma to the larynx include bite wounds and sharp foreign
objects such as bones and pins that penetrate the larynx. Dogs with laryngeal
injuries often breathe normally at rest but show respiratory distress during
Treatment: Treatment of laryngeal trauma involves confining and resting the
dog and administering anti-inflammatory medications. If the larynx is severely
traumatized, a tracheostomy (an operation in which an opening is made through
into the trachea to establish a new airway) may be required. Choke chain
injuries can be prevented by using a buckle collar, head halter, or chest