Symptoms of Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is a condition that affects the nerves that control the larynx, preventing it from functioning properly. This can lead to an inability to breathe normally and will also leave the airways unprotected while the dog swallows food, increasing the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Recognizing the symptoms of laryngeal paralysis will enable the owner to offer help and prevent possible complications.

Causes of Laryngeal Paralysis

The cause for laryngeal paralysis is usually idiopathic, so it cannot be determined. However, the disease can be caused by neuromuscular disorders, hypothyroidism or hormonal imbalance, neuropathy or trauma. The condition can also be hereditary and in this case, it may occur when the puppy is 2 to 6 months old. The condition develops more often in larger dog breeds.

Symptoms of Laryngeal Paralysis

The symptoms of laryngeal paralysis are visible and you should not ignore them. Your dog will have a changed voice and may sound hoarse when barking. Other symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • The dog will make frequent chocking sounds after meals or ingesting water
  • Heavy breathing after exercising
  • Incapacity to exercise for as long as usual
  • Fainting, typically after exercising
  • Lethargy

The dog may be affected on one or both sides. The symptoms will be worse in warm and humid weather and may also be triggered by stress or excitement. Obese pets will display more severe symptoms.

The condition will often cause secondary problems such as upper respiratory issues, aspiration pneumonia or lung edema.

Due to the inability to regulate their body temperature through regular panting, dogs with laryngeal paralysis may often get heat strokes when exposed to warm temperatures.


The larynx should be closely examined and the dog is put under anesthesia to allow this. The symptoms of laryngeal paralysis may be similar to heat strokes or heart and lung disease, so the vet will perform some additional tests to rule out these. The vet should establish the cause of the paralysis. A thyroid profile will also be made to determine if the paralysis is influenced by the thyroid gland’s function.

Treatment Options

The treatment should be administered depending on the underlying cause.

  • A dog with laryngeal paralysis shouldn't exercise or be exposed to heat.
  • If the condition is mild, the vet will only recommend a close monitoring of the dog and possibly a bit of weight loss, if the dog is overweight. Mild sedatives may also be prescribed.
  • If the laryngeal paralysis is severe and the dog is not able to breathe normally or has aspiration pneumonia, the vet will prescribe sedatives and oxygen therapy, antibiotics or steroids to stabilize the condition of the pet.
  • In the worst case scenario, the dog will need a tracheotomy.
  • A surgery that consists of the suturing of one aretynoid cartilage can be performed when the dog's condition is stable. This will allow proper ventilation, exercise and heat resistance and will reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia.