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Laryngeal Disease in Dogs

7 min read



Your dog will be treated as an outpatient while awaiting surgery, as long as its health remains stable. If it is an emergency situation characterized by marked breathing distress, oxygen therapy, combined with sedation and steroids, will be administered.


If your dog is in distress, the staff at the animal clinic can employ active body-cooling measures with intravenous fluids and ice, and your veterinarian can create a temporary surgical opening into the windpipe (or trachea – a procedure known as a temporary tracheostomy) to make oxygen intake easier. This care may prove life-saving if your dog is not responding appropriately to the emergency medical approach.


If you are providing your dog with temporary care at home while awaiting surgery, you will need to avoid warm, poorly ventilated environments, as these can further compromise the body's normal cooling mechanisms and proper air exchange. Avoid the use of collars during this time as well, in order to minimize pressure on the voice box or windpipe. You will also want to restrict activity pending surgery, or if you have opted out of surgery.


In the case of paralysis, surgical management is the treatment of choice. A variety of procedures have been reported, but correction on one-side only is preferred. The benefit of this procedure will depend on the surgeon's experience and expertise. In case of trauma to the trachea, a temporary surgical opening into the windpipe (temporary tracheostomy) may be life-saving and curative. A permanent surgical opening into the windpipe (permanent tracheostomy) may improve quality of life.


If cancer has been diagnosed, surgical removal of the tumor may be curative. For squamous-cell adenocarcinoma, surgical removal, coupled with radiation therapy, is the management of choice.


Prescribed medications will depend on the final diagnosis and long-term course of treatment that is prescribed by your doctor.



Living and Management


Your veterinarian will want to monitor your dog frequently for aspiration pneumonia, as this is one of the major life-threatening risks of Laryngeal disease. There is an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia after any surgical procedure involving the voice box or larynx, as surgery places the larynx in a “fixed-open position,” eliminating its protective function during swallowing or regurgitation. There is an increased risk of aspiration, overall, particularly if evidence of aspiration was noted before surgical treatment of paralysis, and when swallowing disorders were found to be present as well.


Generally, improvements in activity and exercise tolerance are reported by owners after effective surgery. The long-term prognosis is good to excellent with successful surgery for paralysis. If the initial surgery was unsatisfactory, additional surgery may improve the prognosis. For the treatment of trauma, progress is usually satisfactory with conservative management, even after an emergency tracheostomy.


Development of scar tissue that blocks the voice box or larynx (laryngeal web formation) has been seen in dogs after surgical removal of both vocal cords. Follow-up surgery and treatment with steroids may be necessary.


The prognosis is more often than not poor in the treatment of cancers such as squamous-cell adenocarcinoma, even with radiation therapy.




Affected dogs breeds, in which hereditary transmission of paralysis of the voice box or larynx has been documented, should not be used for breeding purposes. It is highly advised that owners of such breeds have their dogs neutered in order to prevent accidental insemination.



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