Laryngeal Paralysis is a slowly developing disease. The muscles that cause the larynx to open and close simply no longer work. This causes the larynx to flop weakly impacting both vocalization and breathing.
What does the Larynx do?
The larynx (voice box) is located in the throat. We know that it is what gives animals the ability to vocalize, but it is also the cap of respiratory tubing. The larynx closes the respiratory tract off while we eat and drink, so we don’t inhale our food. When you take a deep breath, the folds open directing air in.
What are signs of Laryngeal Paralysis?
Laryngeal paralysis is slow acting. It can affect one or both sides of the larynx. Eventually it will progress to the point that the muscle can no longer open and the larynx flaps weakly. When it has progressed to this stage the dog can no longer take a deep breath. This can lead to anxiety and rapid breathing and distress. A respiratory crisis can occur from the partial obstruction creating an emergency and even death. Early warning signs include:
- Excess panting
- Exercise intolerance
- Voice Change
- Loud Breathing Sounds
- Respiratory gasping or distress.
What are the treatment options?
The only treatment options are surgical. There are two main surgeries to treat it that we perform at Veazie Veterinary Clinic. Based on the severity of the problem the veterinarian will discuss with you which is best.
Laryngeal Tieback (Lateralization Surgery)
This is the most commonly performed surgery for laryngeal paralysis. In this surgery a couple of sutures are placed to pull one of the cartilages backward in an open position.
The chief complication is that the cartilage only needs to be move a few millimeters and if opened too far the larynx cannot properly close and aspiration pneumonia becomes a greater risk. These patients often have a persistent cough after eating or drinking.
The de-barking surgery is generally thought of as a surgical solution to a dog that barks excessively. However, it is also a possible treatment for laryngeal paralysis. The surgery removes the vocal folds, removing the patient’s voice to a whisper. The hole created in the absence of the vocal fold makes a larger airway opening and is generally large enough to relieve obstruction.
Complications include swelling and bleeding (which can cause obstructions in themselves); regrowth of webbing or vocal tissue can also occur. For this reason this technique is rarely used.