Laryngeal Paralysis: Does My Dog Have It?

Does my dog have laryngeal paralysis? 

Is this a problem for Rumpy?

Rumpy breathes heavily, especially when he sleeps. He also becomes tired more quickly when he walks. Sometimes when he’s excited he gags. And a few times while walking he’s seemingly tripped over something but nothing was there.

The vet first mentioned it last year but passed it off as a normal part of his growing older, so I didn’t worry too much about it. During his recent annual exam I mentioned what that vet had said to our current vet and he advised me to monitor Rumpy’s breathing. If it worsens he will sedate Rumpy and examine his throat to determine if it is indeed laryngeal paralysis. If it is, he could surgically alter his throat to help with his breathing.

But after doing a bit of research online, I’ve learned this is more than a problem with aging. Studies conducted on dogs with the disorder (and they are usually large breed dogs with Labrador retrievers the most common sufferer) have found it’s a sign of neurological degeneration. Some dogs eventually have trouble walking and a few lose the ability to walk.

He’s a happy boy, epecially when food is involved. 

The most common treatment is surgery that permanently sutures open one side of the larynx. Sounds easy enough, but one out of 5 dogs who have the surgery develops aspiration pneumonia. And almost half of the dogs have problems with swallowing.

In addition, in one study, within 6 months of diagnosis, nearly 60% of dogs showed signs of neuropathy in other parts of the body.

That having been said, many dogs who have been diagnosed can continue to have a quality of life years after diagnosis. And to be clear, Rumpy has not been formally diagnosed. 

We are all getting older, and we all have our ailments. I have some joint issues. June Buggie has his hyperthyroidism. And Rumpy has this issue with his breathing.

I am unsure how to proceed. Do you have experience with laryngeal paralysis? Will you share with me what you know? 

In the meantime, I will enjoy what Rumpy and I can experience together today. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed any of us.


63 thoughts on “Laryngeal Paralysis: Does My Dog Have It?

  1. I hope for good news from the vet and I hope there is a way that you have a good time together for maaaaany years… I hope there is someone who has an idea or an advice….. hugs to you and the cookie saurus, all paws are crossed for you two.

  2. Daisy has laryngeal paralysis as well. Hers was diagnosed. It wasn’t bad then, but seems to be progressing now. I have not opted for the surgery (yet) because I am afraid of the aspiration pneumonia that you mentioned. I am terrified to do nothing and terrified not to do something.
    I was not aware of the neurological component, so thank you for sharing. That adds note information to the mix doesn’t it?

  3. I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to the Rumpster. I know very little about this particular ailment, but I do have some experience with Canine Neuropathy. Tippy – the dog we had before Jack – lived to be 15, but her last couple of years were hard on us both. She had begun losing the use of her hind legs, about a year earlier, and eventually was completely paralyzed. I had to carry her outside to do her business, and we moved her bed from our room into the kitchen, so she didn’t have to struggle up the stairs. My heart was breaking, but the worst was yet to come. The paralysis eventually spread to her colon, and I needed to massage her in order to help her with her ablution. It was as tragic as it was disgusting, but I loved her so much, I wouldn’t have given up one day of it. I know that right up to the bitter end, Tippy had a great life with us, and I know she was grateful to us, for it. Towards the end, I would speak to her in non-verbal man/dog communication – I know you understand what I mean – and I would ask her if she was ready to end the suffering. And everyday… until that last one… she would say, “No. Not yet. I’m still your dog, and I wouldn’t want to be anything but.” Finally, she told me when it was time. I’m crying as I write this.

  4. Scary to think out pets get older too.I’ve never heard of this so I’ll be interested to see what you discover,Love to that fluffy boy of yours and to you too,xx Rachel

  5. I’ve had a dog with symptoms like that but it never got diagnosed. She went on to live a good on good long life- 15 y/o. If the statistics for surgery and aspiration pneumonia are 1/5 that’s a high statistic. If Rumpy (& you and) are comfortable with the status quo then staying the course and enjoying your time together may be the least harmful way to go. I hope and pray that you have many more wonderful quality years together. ❤

  6. I have heard of it but never had any direct hand experience. Norbert was 12 and a half when he passed away from very aggresive nasal cancer, he died a week after diagnosis I had noticed a month before that he was panting alot more and tho0ught of this but in hind sight it might have been the cancer Best wishes for Rumpy

  7. I’ve never heard of that before. My dog, a miniature schnauzer, occasionally gags when he gets excited. He also breathes heavily sometimes while sleeping. One night a few weeks ago I thought he was having a nightmare and couldn’t wake him up. He started defecating spontaneously, and I realized he was having some kind of seizure. He finally woke up, and I got him to go outside. He hasn’t had another similar episode, but that one scared me. He’ll be 14 in June and is in otherwise good shape.

    Thanks for bringing this ailment to our attention, Jen. I’ll have to look into it.

  8. Boomer has laryngeal paralysis. We noticed he was getting winded on walks and when playing, he would gag sometimes and others he did this weird “Darth Vader” breathing. Our vet gave him a small dose of sedative and looked in his throat to find only one side was working properly.

    We decided not to have the tie back surgery for several reasons. First, he eats and drinks very fast (even with a special feeder) so his risk of aspiration is very high. Second, he’s going on 13 and has liver trouble so surgery might be dangerous for him. Third, his case isn’t that severe. We decided to try a drug called doxipen (not usually prescribed for this) and it’s working. We still have to make sure he doesn’t over heat and that he doesn’t drink or eat too fast and watch how excited he gets.

    He does have a few old age neurological issues that have shown up but they don’t seem to be related. It’s something to keep in mind though!

  9. Only thing I would tell you as a friend is listen to Rumpy. I know it sounds stupid but form experience, I know they can tell us a lot if we listen carefully. So watch him closely for tiny signs even. This will most certainly help the vet too. Give him a hug from me and tell him to …be well! 😉

  10. “Trouble swallowing” sounds like Rumpy might not be able to enjoy his cookies as much. I’m pretty sure he would NOT like that at all. Good luck with your research. I’m happy to see a medication alternative in the comments.

    1. I am too because Rumpy is like Boomer and wolfs down his food. After looking into this I have moved him from crunchy cookies to the softer ones. He doesn’t mind that at all!

  11. We don’t know anything about laryngeal paralysis, so we will offer all good thoughts, and hopes that some of the dog-savvy readers have some good advice for you and Rumpy. Hugs!

  12. I don’t know about this problem..i do know we are saying goodbye to our old boy next week..the things that we can do will not make him better..only put off the inevitable which then will leave him pained or fearful..that is not how we want Forrest to spend his last days..this week is his Barkit list..he is happy and painfree and both he and us will have last memories of joy..damn this age thing..i hope Rumpy stays happy and munching those cookies xx

  13. Wow. My boy was in to the clinic today and the vet is fairly certain that his over-the-top panting is caused by this, so I’m thinking good thoughts for Rumpy.

    Seems like these two have quite a bit in common. I also found him by the side of the road and didn’t think i’d keep him, but here he is– 11 years later. He’s also a “sled dog”.

    Good luck to you and your boy.

    — Also Jen

      1. Because he’s 12 and he seems healthy, other than a lot of panting and noisy breathing, she doesn’t recommend surgery. At this point, keeping him cool, using fans and cooling pads are the priority while I monitor him.

  14. I haven’t known anything about this dear Jen, I hope and wish you both to have a good news from the vet. My fingers crossed too… Love you so much,nia

  15. Jen, so sorry to hear of this miserable development. I’ve never heard of it, so Ling Ling and I are sending extra special love and hugs to you and Rumpy. Now I know what angels feel like when they keep on outliving their loved ones.

  16. I’m very very worried of Rumpy’s sympton, and I can’t believe that he’s been getting older…….he still looks like a young boy……of course I know how old is he though…..anyway, he hasn’t been diagnosed, so probably it might be just he feels tired these days… happens to everyone, does it? Rumpy is a tough boy and he loves being with you, Jen and his gangs, so he surely overcomes what he has now!!! We’re keeping our fingers crossed for Rumpy!!! HUgs and love, Angel Kevin, kitties and mom.

  17. Molly has a damaged trachea (Tracheal collapse) – probably from original owner trying to choke her into submission or from trying to escape a chained life. She gags, coughs, has difficulty breathing at times. We cannot use a neck collar other than for ID – only harnesses and even with that she can twist the straps and tighten too much and have to stop and cough, hack, take a minute to breathe easier. We have not had her scoped but are making adjustments for that probably condition. (The hot humid climate is hard, too on heavy coated dogs like Huskies and Malamutes)
    The biggest worry about treating/diagnosing dogs over 5 is anesthesia. Sometimes they don’t wake up. My vet sister-in-law won’t put her older dogs/cats under unless there is no other choice.
    As long as she is showing she is happy and not in pain, we’ll just keep a close eye. Take things as they come and enjoy your friends. Paw waves to Rumpy! Stay cool!

  18. I have experience with Laryngeal Paralysis. My dog Webster (who passed away in December at approximately 15 years old) had it – he was diagnosed by a surgeon who specializes in the tieback surgery that is done to correct it. In his case, he was not officially diagnosed until we were in an emergency situation. There were signs as he got older (like raspy breathing), but we didn’t make the connection with LP because it was so subtle and infrequent. He also experienced the weakness in his hind legs you often see in older dogs. We attributed this to old age, but we would later learn it was LP which causes atrophy in the rear area of the body. So we’re trucking along thinking we just have an old dog. One day Webster was struggling to catch his breath after walking a relatively short distance. I thought it was odd, but again, thought he was just old. About a month later, his breathing became labored with regular activity (or no activity). Over the course of a few days, this labored breathing became more and more concerning and he had several bouts of respiratory distress. We were in touch with our vet the whole time who was coordinating with a specialist. We had to travel some distance to see the specialist and our vet did a ride along to provide respiratory support along the way, so we went from thinking we just had an old dog with age-related problems to being in an emergency situation very, very quickly. When we got to the specialist, our options were surgery or euthanasia. In Webster’s case, the laryngeal flap was actually getting stuck and closing his airway – not just partially blocking it, but covering it. The specialist said this is not the case in every LP dog, but does happen with some LP dogs. We had the surgery done that day and Webster lived about a year longer. The surgery was an instant fix for Webster’s breathing. We took precautions to avoid aspiration and this was never a problem for Webster. At its most advanced stage near the very end of Webster’s life, he had an extremely narrow waistline (from atrophy) and limited mobility. He could no longer walk up or down stairs and we had to install a ramp because he was no longer able to take the short single step to go into the yard. This was all due to the LP. It’s important to note that this was after the tieback surgery – all the surgery does is allow the dog to breathe more easily, it does not stop the other damage caused by LP from progressing. We were blessed to have a dog live to what we think was about 15 years of age. I’m so grateful to the surgeon who performed the tieback surgery and gave me another year with my beloved Webster. I hope this helps and I hope Rumpy is doing well. This link from MSU’s college of veterinary medicine might be helpful:

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! Just this evening Rumpy had a breathing episode that sounded almost like a panic attack. He quickly recovered but it frightened me. I’ll read the article. How did you manage to prevent aspiration?

      1. The panic attack you describe concerns me – this is what happened with Webster. The panicking itself can cause a vicious cycle – they freak out because they can’t breathe, which leads to accelerated breathing which leads to inflammation and more trouble breathing. During the days that we were waiting to see the specialist, our vet had us give Webster diazepam (Valium) to keep him from panicking. I know the aspiration is a big concern but it’s manageable. After his surgery, we were told that Webster couldn’t have kibble for a while because it’s too easy to inhale that and aspirate. So immediately following his surgery, we were feeding him meatballs. I would either roll up soft dog food into meatballs or make meatballs from hamburger meat. You have to find a soft food that has a thicker consistency (and not a stew like formula which is too loose to form meatballs). I hand fed him for a little while. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but I know you are an animal person and this won’t be a big deal for you. Eventually, he could eat from a bowl again but they said he had to eat from an elevated feeder (Webster was already using an elevated feeder, so this wasn’t a change for us). I would put chunks/meatballs of soft food in his elevated feeder just a few at a time, standing by him while he ate. When he’d finish those, I’d put a few more in, and so on. This controlled the speed of his eating. Webster was always a voracious eater, much more so than any dog I’ve ever had, so aspiration was always a concern. But by supervising him the entire time he ate, pacing the food in his bowl, and giving him larger pieces of soft food, there were no problems. I did eventually give him kibble again but mixed it with soft food so the kibble and soft food stuck together in bigger pieces. I am happy to answer any questions you have about Webster’s experience. You can always email me at my first name and last name (not dot or underscore) at gmail dot com. Sending positive thoughts your way.

  19. What a blessing to read the comments here! Our Howie will be 14 in a few weeks – retriever/chow/who knows? mix – diagnosed this spring with GOLPP. He’s still getting around pretty well, but can’t walk long because the labored breathing begins immediately, and he’s losing some hind leg control but can still jump up in his favorite chair on the back porch. He’s also had several “gagging” episodes – those in the middle of the night are the scariest. I don’t need to share with you all about love and heartache – lots of tears already thinking about what lies ahead, but we are doing our best to make his life comfortable and joy-filled. They, as you know, don’t seem to ponder the future or the fears – they simply love the sunshine and new spring smells and watching, watching, watching the glories of the backyard – we’ve so much to learn from these deep-heart friends of ours! Laurie, you mentioned the raised feeding bowl. I just purchased one and Howie seems to do well (after only 2 days) but have also read articles about the danger of bloating. Was this a concern for you with Webster? Ours is medium sized mixed breed, and the dire warnings about raised bowls reference large/giant breeds most often, but I’m wondering if that’s a concern for all dogs. Again, thanks to all for your candid sharing about this beautiful, though difficult, sunset journey with our best pals.

    1. First off, I want to say hi to Rumpy and Jen – hope you’re doing well! I replied to Ann privately via email but wanted to be sure to close the loop here as well so that any others who visit Rumpy’s blog looking for info on Laryngeal Paralysis (aka GOLPP) can have my response to her question about the elevated feeder. As I told Ann, I appreciate her concern about the elevated feeder since there is controversy about them. All of our dogs (past and present) had/have elevated feeders and we’ve never had a problem. Our dogs have all been larger dogs ranging from 60-80 pounds in size, although Webster was down to about 45 pounds his final year due to the atrophy caused by GOLPP. The elevated feeder was a post-surgery requirement from the vet who performed the surgery, but in our case, Webster was already eating from an elevated feeder so this wasn’t a change. One suggestion I gave to Ann about the elevated feeder was to supervise Howie while he ate to be sure he wasn’t eating too quickly as this is also a risk factor for bloat. This might even include putting food in the dog’s bowl gradually so it can’t be wolfed down. I hope this helps. Jen – thanks for this forum to discuss this difficult disease. I’d love to hear how Rumpy is doing – hope all is well.

  20. Our vet suspects that Max may have it. I have refused any further tests to confirm as Max is 12.5 years old which, for a Golden, is quite old. I monitor him. We also have a air conditioner for summer (I have to put an extra blanket on my side of the bed as I freeze) and this year I am trimming his fur right down. He has arthritis in his back legs. However, he is eating like a horse. We take him for gentle walks – no more long walks for him. He only showed signs of distress last night, for the very first time. Today, he’s full of beans. Like you Jen, we’re taking one day at a time and enjoying his company.

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