Many of you with old dogs have dealt with this problem, it is common in older large breed dogs. Early signs include, gagging, throat clearing, hacking cough, and occasional wretching.
My Kweezy, who will be 12 May 30, has been mildly affected for more than a year, indeed I have had to be careful roading her, especially in hot weather. I had pretty much resigned myself to let her live with it and just not hunt her much but last week for the first time she made a whistling noise when she was breathing. I was able to open her mouth and pull her tongue out and visualize her larynx which had 2 flaccid vocal folds obstructing her airway.
Severly affected dogs have loud forceful respiration and sometimes almost total airway obstruction. In the normal respiratory cycle when inhalation occurs a laryngeal muscle contracts and opens the airway. Laryngeal paralysis does not allow this to happen and the dog has to inhale against an obstructed airway. Symptoms are typically worse in hot weather and dogs can die from airway obstruction and laryngeal edema.
After discussions with several "dog family members" and sleeping on it I decided it was time the have laryngeal tie-back surgery performed. This procedure is generally done on one side and permanently pulls the arytenoid cartilage to the side creating an open airway. The down side is that dogs are more susceptible to aspiration pneumonia (about 20% of dogs who have had the surgery may develop aspiration problems) but these are generally controlled with antibiotics and only a very small percentage are serious.
Since I was going to be in Auburn last week for a social visit we scheduled her for surgery. Last Wednesday Dr. David Tillson performed a unilateral laryngeal tie back procedure at the small animal clinic, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University. Kweezy spent the night in the clinic in the capable hands of Dr. Tillson's senior veterinary students beginning their clinical year. I picked her up Thursday afternoon and the effect is dramatic.
She is on exercise restriction until the surgical site has healed but I could not be happier with the outcome.
A few interesting facts about laryngeal paralysis:
1. It has been stated that laryngeal paralysis can be secondary to low thyroid gland function. In my experience this has never been the case.
2. It has been theorized that laryngeal paralysis is the result of a neuropathy of the nerves supplying the larynx.
3. A significant percentage of dogs with laryngeal paralysis are affected with megaesophagus which indicates a more generalized neuropathy.
4. There is some recent thinking that the posterior weakness seen in old dogs may also be linked to this more generalized neuropathy.
Kweezy's prospects for pheasant season look pretty good now....
thanks Dr. Tillson et al...