Laryngeal paralysis may require surgery

Dr. Jeff NicholQ: We think our dog Dakoda has laryngeal paralysis. Our veterinarian said she can have surgery but it is only 70% effective and it could have terrible side effects.

Dr. Nichol: Breathing is rather important isn’t it? Most of us draw each lungful without a thought. But struggling to move air can trigger panic for anyone, especially a dog who desperately needs to dissipate excess heat by panting.

The larynx is the structure in Dakoda’s throat that includes her vocal cords. It controls the movement of air and protects her lungs from inhaling food. The nerve supply to her vocal cords is slowly failing, reducing their ability to fully open for effective airflow. Her early signs of noisy breathing can turn dangerous if she exercises hard or gets overheated. She can only survive with an open airway.

The surgery you’re considering for Dakoda requires precision, work that would be best handled by a trained specialist. Dr. Kendra Freeman, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS-LA of the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Albuquerque, shared this advice: “Laryngeal paralysis is not uncommon in older, large breed dogs. Although dogs that are mildly affected can respond to medical treatment, more severe cases require surgery due to the risk of an acute respiratory crisis. Improvement in symptoms is expected in 90% of dogs that have surgery for laryngeal paralysis. No surgery is without possible complications, so it is important to discuss the procedure with a veterinarian experienced with this procedure.”

Dakoda’s doctor is correct to urge caution regarding laryngeal tie-back surgery. The Nichol family border collie, Miss America, developed laryngeal paralysis at age 12. Her telltale noisy breathing has so far responded well to a combination of supplements: riboflavin, Co-enzyme Q10, and L-acetyl carnitine. A prescription medication called doxepin has been helpful for some dogs.

Conservative management doesn’t work in all cases but my excellent dog has improved nicely. We protect her from hot weather that would trigger her need to pant. If her condition worsens I will have surgery done. Life with Miss America is sweet for our whole family. We’d take a risk to have more good time with her.

Dr. Jeff Nichol, a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist, provides consultations in-person and by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

 

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