Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that severely affects a pet’s breathing and can cause suffocation. As it is often under-diagnosed, pet parents need to pay extra attention to their pets to identify if it is the cause to their pets’ illness.
The larynx is composed of a series of separate plates of cartilage that form a box in the throat. It is the gatekeeper of airways, keeping whatever the pets swallow out and directing air in. It closes off the trachea and lungs while eating and drinking; and expand and open widely when taking a deep breath. The functioning of larynx is maintained by laryngeal muscles. When the abductor muscles cannot work properly, the cartilages tend to collapse inwards resulting in laryngeal paralysis. In such situation, the pet attempts to breathe deeply and simply cannot, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety and respiratory attempts. The laryngeal folds may become swollen, making the throat obstruction worse. The gums become bluish in color from lack of oxygen and the animal begins to overheat. Fluid could begin to flood the lungs and the pet begins to drown.
In most cases of laryngeal paralysis, the cause is unknown. While trauma to the throat or neck, tumor or space occupying lesions in the neck or chest area can cause this condition; hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism have also been associated with laryngeal paralysis in dogs. According to recent studies, laryngeal paralysis is now considered to be the first symptom of much more pervasive neurological deceases.
Coughing, especially after exercise, is probably the most frequently reported sign of laryngeal paralysis, followed by noisy breathing, exercise intolerance, and a change in the sound of the bark (usually a hoarse sound). And since this condition usually affects middle aged and older dogs of medium and large breeds (e.g. Labradors, Golden Retrievers), the signs are often mistaken for old age and arthritis, which delays treatment. And the same signs are also associated with cardiopulmonary disease, and bronchitis, especially if the dog is obese. Therefore, laryngeal paralysis is probably more common than it is diagnosed.
When pets suffering from laryngeal paralysis is in a breathing crisis, it is crucial to calm down the animal. Providing them with ample of supplementary oxygen and external cooling could help them stabilize. To confirm the suspicion of laryngeal paralysis, an exam of the larynx at the vet is necessary. Laryngeal paralysis is not a terminal illness, and it is treatable with a “Tie Back” surgical procedure to open the cartilages and allow air in. If you suspect your beloved pet may be suffering from such condition, seek for a thorough examination at the vet early.
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