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Vodka: Laryngeal Paralysis

Education > Patient Stories 16th August 2019

Few weeks ago, Vodka started having breathing difficulty. A thorough examination under general anaesthesia confirmed he was suffering from laryngeal paralysis - a dysfunction of the nerves controlling the muscles and cartilage that open and close the larynx. This condition is more common in older large breed dogs like Labrador Retrievers.

The larynx (voice box) is located in the throat at the entrance of the respiratory tract. It opens to allow air into the trachea (windpipe) and lungs as we breathe. In some dogs, the nerves supplying the muscles that open the laryngeal cartilages lose function over time. The folds of the larynx are paralysed and fail to open and close as Vodka breathes in and out.

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis tend to tire easily and display noisy laboured breathing, increased panting, coughing. These signs, unfortunately, are often mistaken for old age or arthritis.

Left untreated, the condition can be life threatening when the dog becomes anxious and goes into respiratory distress. Given the go ahead from his family, Vodka was immediately prepared for surgery with Dr Dennis Choi.

The most effective surgical treatment is a laryngeal tie back, also known as arytenoid lateralisation. The goal of surgery is to permanently open up the larynx to allow more air to get in. A tie-back is a delicate procedure which involves placing heavy nylon sutures to open (tie back) the left side of the larynx. This opens up the airway and allows Vodka to breathe more easily.

Vodka had to spend his 14th birthday at our hospital as he needed close monitoring after surgery. Dogs who have undergone laryngeal tie back should avoid neck collars and instead use a harness during walks.. Activity should be restricted and swimming is not recommended due to risk of airway compromise and aspiration pneumonia. Avoid heat stress and maintain a healthy body weight.

2 weeks post-surgery, Vodka is doing very well - home sweet home with Jasmine and Gary, the people he loves the most. Puppy years may be full of fun and play. But the golden years bring some of the best days when you are loved by the truest and most loyal of friends. Happy 14th Birthday Vodka!