Surgical Treatment for Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs causes the larynx to work improperly, leading not only to voice changes or the inability to bark, but also to difficulty breathing and severe respiratory distress. This disease does not occur suddenly, but rather develops over a period of time. A dog may experience breathing difficulties when walking and exercising or may begin to breathe loudly and gasp for breath. Older and larger breed dogs are at a higher risk, but some breeds can inherit this disease and experience symptoms at a young age.

Symptoms and Potential Outcome

Since symptoms of laryngeal paralysis often involve the inability to breathe properly, if this condition is left untreated it could become fatal. When a dog begins to gasp for breath and cannot get sufficient air, anxiety is also added to the mix. A combination of the disease and the anxiety can cause the larynx to swell even further, making it even more difficult to breathe. During this scenario, the dog's gums may turn blue and the body may become heated. Fluid may also begin to collect in the lungs, causing the dog to experience the sensation of drowning. Emergency care at this point may be able to restore normal breathing by administering oxygen and cooling the body. Corticosteroids may help with swelling, but surgical options will likely be discussed.

Surgical Options for Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

There are several different types of surgery that can be considered to relieve a dog of laryngeal paralysis. Following is a brief description of many of these options:

  • De-barking surgery - also called ventriculordectomy, this surgery aims to remove the vocal folds to create a larger airway for breathing. This will result in the loss of the ability to bark and may cause swelling, bleeding and regrowth of vocal tissue. A tracheostomy should be considered to help with administration of anesthesia and to reduce the potential for swelling and other complications.
  • Partial arytenoidectomy - removal of the vocal fold and surrounding cartilage on one side only. This has the likelihood to cause significant bleeding which may result in a further obstruction.
  • Lateralization surgery - this may also be referred to as a laryngeal tieback and involves repositioning one side of the larynx to provide a larger opening for the purpose of breathing. This is one of the most common types of surgery performed for this condition may cause a persistent cough. Dogs who experience this type of surgery may also be at risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Castellation - with this option, a square of the thyroid cartilage is cut and reattached to provide additional room for breathing. A tracheostomy will likely accompany this surgery.

Prognosis for Laryngeal Paralysis

The prognosis for laryngeal paralysis in dogs will rely on several important factors. If a neurological disease or other respiratory conditions are present, there is a much larger likelihood that the dog will experience complications. Aspiration pneumonia is of significant concern, and while this may be treatable with antibiotics and special types of therapy, it is potentially fatal.