My dog Finnegan is a beautiful, sweet and loving Labradoodle. I love him more then anything. I have been blessed to have him over 10 years now.
Anyone that has ever raised a “Doodle” knows that these wonderful dogs have such a sense of love and feel thing almost like a humans. They really have this uncanny ability to look at you and it’s almost like they are really seeing you.
Whenever something big is going on in my life, good or bad, Finn is always there for cuddles to try to make me feel better.
Having an older dog is always hard because everyday you wonder how much time do I have left. Now if you have read any of my other posts, you know that my FINN has Addison’s Disease. This disease of course has been a challenge that he has had to live with almost his whole life. But he has been a real trooper.
When you notice a sudden change in your older dog, a trip to the Vet is in order pretty quickly. The Vet checks him over and says well I think his symptoms tell us he has “Lar Par” or “Laryngeal Paralysis”. We looked at each other with a look of fear and confusion.
Next it was well what is Laryngeal Paralysis in dogs? I had never heard of it before.
What is Laryngeal Paralysis?
Laryngeal Paralysis (Lar Par) is a fairly common condition that generally affects dogs over the age of 10. Lar Par is an upper respiratory problem that was first diagnosed in dogs in the 1970s. This condition is most commonly found in large breed dogs especially Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlander, as well as many other large breed dogs.
Lar Par condition affects the function of the vocal cords or larynx.
We all know that vocal cords and our voice box are important. When vocal cords are strained or injured a common condition that occurs is Laryngitis. Meaning that you have no voice and can’t speak.
Laryngeal Paralysis is something more devastating that happens when the abductors muscle of the larynx can not function properly. The muscles that surround and protect the vocal cords, become effectively paralyzed.
The larynx muscles are responsible for opening and closing the respiratory tract so that when we eat we aren’t inhaling our food. These muscles expand and contract which allows our dogs to take deep breaths.
When one side or both sides of the larynx is paralyzed the muscle becomes floppy or flaccid. Then when your dog tries to take a deep breathe in, they don’t get it. Our dog then becomes anxious and under stress. This stress causes them to get worked up or panicked and they then start to breathe rapidly which creates more distress.
At this point respiratory distress occurs which can then cause an emergency situation. Ultimately it means that our dogs can potentially suffocate to death.
This Lar Par condition is not something that just comes on out of the blue. It happens very slowly over time, which makes it that much more difficult. By the time we find out about the condition it has usually already progressed.
Some symptoms that you will see that indicate that your dog may have Lar Par are:
- Excessive panting
- Intolerance to exercise
- Their bark or voice sounds different
- A difference in their breathing (breathe are more shallow)
- Heat intolerance
When our dogs have one or two of these symptoms, we tend not to be concerned right away. If they are panting a little more then usual or don’t feel like going for that long walk, we tend to just assume they are tired that day.
So unfortunately when they start to exhibit more then a few of these symptoms this generally means that the conditions has progressed already. With Lar Par there is also the underlying neurological issues that one also needs to consider.
Laryngeal Paralysis and neurological issues.
Lar Par is also considered to be the first symptom of a much more consuming issue of neurological weakness. Or also called the tip of the iceberg.
Because of this, it is often referred to as Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis or Polyneuropathy. Polyneuropathy is the abnormality of the nervous system. Which means a weakness or damage to the nerves.
The larynx nerves in this case become damaged and don’t function properly which causes the onset of Laryngeal Paralysis.
For dogs at this stage of the condition of Lar Par will likely show symptoms that will affect their hind legs. They start off as appearing to be weaker then normal. You may notice that they don’t want to jump up on things much anymore and if they do, appear to have an unbalanced back end.
The difficult part of these issues is that we often see these symptoms, but can dismiss them simply due to the fact that we have a senior dog that likely just has some arthritis. We don’t right away jump up to the fact that it is actually a neurological issue.
The damaged nerves is what causes the hind legs to appear weak.
In order to diagnosis a dog with Lar Par there are specific things that the Vet looks for. When you take them for the Vet visit, they start with listening to our dogs heartbeat to see if there is any wheezing sounds at all. Also, they are checking to see if their lungs are clear and how their breathing is.
A dog can have one side or both sides of their larynx paralyzed. Usually with only one side affected we will hear breathing that is laboured but not wheezing. When it affects both sides we would be looking for a constant sound of wheezing every time they breathe. This would be something that would sound completely obvious to us.
After the initial visit, the Vet recommends sedating the dog so they can put a scope down the throat and see if they can see the collapse of the muscle while the dog is breathing.
This would help confirm the diagnosis of Lar Par.
This effectively stopped him from vomiting and we assumed that the problem was solved. Now a year later we started to notice other things that raised some red flags for us.
We then took Finn to the Vet. Our Vet found that his breathing sounded laboured. He was panting a lot and his breathing was very shallow breaths. He isn’t able to get a deep breathe.
As she continues to monitor his breathing she saw that he was starting to get panicky and anxious. She then asked us what some other symptoms we had noticed. We told her the main issue for bringing him in was his bark sounds like he is a seal. It is very high and typically Finn has a very deep bark.
Then we mentioned that he is walking very slow and his back legs seem a bit wobbly. He really doesn’t seem like his joyful, bounding self.
Her first thought is that he has Laryngeal Paralysis on one side of his larynx. His has not gone to the other side quite yet, but that it will progress there at some point.
She recommends that we sedate him so she can put a scope down his throat and see for sure if it is Laryngeal Paralysis.
What’s next after diagnosis.
When you first hear the diagnosis of Lar Par, it is honestly very frightening. Hearing your Vet say that this condition will progress and that your dog will effectively suffocate to death is unfathomable.
My FINN is my world. I just instantly starting crying. Not my boy! Our other dog BOO is almost 16, so yes we have obviously thought about life without him sooner then we wanted. But hearing that it was our FINN was just so startling. I guess we just thought that we would have him for so much longer.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are treatments available for this condition. Depending on whether we want to treat it with surgery or conservative treatment there are options. Although surgery is most likely the route to go, not everyone is ready or able to go ahead with this option.
Taking the conservative approach involves switching your dogs collar to a harness to avoid putting any pressure on the larynx. Making sure that you avoid heat all together, to avoid your dog from any panting, and also stay away from any exercise at all. A steroid medication like Prednisone may also be prescribed for trying to help with inflammation. Sometimes an anti anxiety medication like Doxepin may help to avoid your dog getting stressed.
Opting to go ahead with surgery will involve a 2-hour plus surgery called a Unilateral Cricoarytenoid Lateralization or “Tieback” surgery. Where they make an incision in your dogs neck to put sutures to tie-back the cartilage on one side of the tracheal opening. This opens the trachea up to allow your dog to breathe fully and avoids any respiratory distress from occurring again.
After surgery there are some real strict post-op care instructions that your Vet will explain to you. The recovery can take about six weeks. There are risks involved with this surgery, like any other. Your dog will be susceptible to aspirating food or water into your their lungs. Which can also lead to pneumonia.
For us and our dog FINN we are not going the surgery route at this time, so we are moving ahead with the conservative approach and will watch closely for any signs he is in distress.
What is Laryngeal Paralysis in dogs, is something I honestly wish I never had to find out. Today FINN is at home, and we are just cherishing every last moment we have with him. Being a dog owner sometimes is such a difficult job. To be responsible for making the decision to put your pet down is absolutely excruciating. I know it is coming soon, but for now my boy is here alive and the real love of my life.
HUG YOUR DOG TODAY ♥