Laryngeal Paralysis (LP)

Beware Excessive Panting

Summary: Older dogs, particularly during the hot months, can start exhibiting signs of Laryngeal Paralysis (LP). Panting, louder breathing, with a raspy quality, and can’t exercise are some indicators. This doesn’t come on suddenly, but builds up. Keeping fans on and air conditioning around 72 degrees is important to help with the distress.

What is laryngeal paralysis (LP)?

Normally, the voice box (the “larynx”) opens as the dog inhales and partially closes during exhaling.  Laryngeal paralysis (LP) occurs when the nerves controlling the voice box slowly but progressively lose their function.  When dogs normally breath, the voice box is opened permitting inhaled air to pass to the lungs. LP diminishes that ability when the tissue folds edging the sides of the voice box either do not move at all or move out of time with the phases of breathing. One or both these vocal folds may be affected. “This syndrome has been reported as a congenital (present at birth) problem in the Bouvier des Flandres, Siberian Husky and Dalmatian breeds,” according to the U. California at Davis Vet Medicine’s “Book of Dogs,” 1995 ed., pp. 289-290.  Thus, LP slowly narrows the dogs’ airway making breathing progressively difficult.  The condition can occur in any breed and at any age but veterinarians report it to be most common in older dogs of large breeds.

What are the early signs of LP?

Symptoms during early LP can be merely changes in the sound of barking as if debarked or with laryngitis.  Frequent coughing and clearing-of-the-throat may be seen plus slight panting for no detectable reason.  The dog’s breathing can sometimes sound like the wheezing of an asthmatic.  As LP worsens, the dog pants strenuously after the slightest exercise or mildest excitement.  (The normal reaction is to inhale more at these times but

What are late signs of LP?

In late-stage acutely severe stages of LP, the dog is intolerant to exercise, heat and stress…anything which puts the slightest burden on its lessening ability to take in air.  When stressed, the animal goes into seizure episodes of desperately gasping for air.  Those with fear of thunder and lightning show alarming LP symptoms during their periods of anxiety.  As the dog struggles to inhale, the limited intake of air worsens its excitement and the dog can collapse and even die from lack of oxygen.  If the animal also has coexisting heart problems, these episodes can be ominously stressful to those dogs’ capacity to endure them.

What causes LP?  What are its treatments?

The California textbook states, “It was once thought that [LP] was linked to… hypothyroidism…Instead it is now believed that [LP] probably occurs as a component of a more serious inflammatory  disease involving either the neurologic system, the muscular system, or both.”   A specific cause rarely is confirmed and may be just the aging process in some animals.  Thyroid medication and tranquilizers have been tried but surgery seems to be the only significant and lasting relief.

What type of surgery is showing the greatest success?

“Unilateral arytenoid lateralization” is the surgical procedure most currently in favor.  It involves tying back one side of the voice box so  that a permanently open airway exists for the dog to breath through even though the LP continues to progress.  Tying back both sides proved to create too many complications after surgery, as did conducting the surgery internally through the mouth.  It now appears preferable to surgically access the voice box for the tie-back by opening up the neck externally. Owners of dogs with LP, most 12 years or older, report with a few exceptions that their dogs came out of the surgery rapidly, were home within two to three days and rarely if ever had breathing difficulties again.  The choice of a surgeon experienced in the tie-back procedure is of course critical. All dogs learned to drink and eat after the surgical tie-back within a very few days.

From:    Suzanne Stack DVM <Yumadons@AOL.COM>

LP surgery is usually done by a boarded surgeon, and they are honestly pretty comfortable with it. The one we refer to ties back just one side to minimize the likelihood of problems, realizing that the second side can always be done later if needed.

Whether to do it or not really depends on how much trouble LP is giving your dog. If she’s just noisy but not having trouble breathing, there are lots of unsurgicated LP dogs running around out there. This is actually a *good* time for LP to start up if there is any such thing. The dangerous time is summer. Imagine that the only way you can breathe is sucking 100-degree air through a
straw and you get the picture.

If you expect your dog to participate fully in life, do the surgery. Without surgery, she’s best off just hanging around the house. That would be another qualifier IMO. If she’s OK in her day-to-day activities at home, you can probably get by without surgery. But this means no walks, gatherings, meet n’ greets, and especially no car rides. Anything that makes her upset needs to be avoided, like especially the vet’s office. If she’s a high maintenance girl who’s always at the vet, you might want to get the surgery done. IMO, one of the best ways to bring on an LP crisis is to pack her up in the car and off to a place (like a vets office) that stresses her out. IF you ever have to take her anywhere, do so in the cool morning or at night, not in the heat of the day. You will have to supervise her outside time even in your own yard – don’t expect that she’ll know when she’s had enough and come in on her own.

It’s best to have drugs on hand for a crisis. IF you have to load her up and take her to a clinic in crisis mode, you’re very likely to lose her. You’re far better to cool your house down like an icebox, point a fan at her face (unless she fights it – nothing is worth stressing an LP dog for), and administering drugs to decrease swelling and calm her down. Injectable preferably if your vet will give them to you because not only do they work faster, you don’t have to shove pills into a dog who’s struggling to breathe. It’s best to use  a sedative you’ve used before if possible so that you know how she reacts to it. Or if you haven’t, “test drive” one before you need it. A steroid should also be administered to stop swelling.

Other web sites with information:

Marvista Vet

Pet MD