A natural treatment for laryngeal paralysis in dogs is the dream of many dog owners. However, unfortunately, no miracle homoeopathic or herbal remedies can completely cure this progressive, debilitating condition.
You can do several things at home to help your dogs stay comfortable, especially when surgery is not an option due to age or financial constraints.
Before practising any alternatives to surgery for laryngeal paralysis in dogs, it’s important to have a vet diagnose this condition and rule out other medical disorders known for causing similar symptoms.
We all know that larynx(the voice box) is located in the throat. We know that laryngitis is a condition where one cannot speak, but other than that, the larynx does not get much thought.
It is one of the most under-appreciated organs. The larynx is not just where the sound comes from; more importantly, the cap of respiratory tubing.
The larynx protects the respiratory tract while we drink and eat, not to inhale our food. Each time we take a deep breath, the muscles of the larynx expand and open for us.
The larynx guides the airways, keeping whatever we want to swallow out and directing air in.
Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs
Laryngeal paralysis in dogs happens when the abductor muscles of the larynx cannot work properly. This means no expanding and opening of the larynx for a deep breath; the laryngeal folds flop weakly and flaccidly.
In simple terms, when you need a deep breath, you don’t get one. So naturally, this can cause big anxiety (imagine attempting to take a deep breath and finding that you simply cannot).
Anxiety causes more fast breathing and more distress. A respiratory crisis from the partial obstruction can surface, creating an emergency and even death.
Laryngeal paralysis does not come about suddenly. There is a fairly long history of panting for most dogs, easily tiring on walks, or loud breathing. Generally, the diagnosis can be made before the condition progresses to an emergency.
Dogs with laryngeal paralysis demonstrate some or all of the following signs:
- Excess panting
- Loud breathing sounds
- Distress or respiratory gasping
- Exercise intolerance
- Voice change
The most common patients are older, large breed dogs, and the most commonly affected breed is the Labrador retriever.
The condition affects cats, too but is rare. The Bouvier des Flandres has a hereditary form of laryngeal paralysis that can affect young dogs.
Other similarly affected breeds include Siberian Husky, bull terrier, Great Pyrenees, and Dalmatian. These dogs have congenital laryngeal paralysis, while older dogs that develop theirs in old age are said to have acquired laryngeal paralysis.
Is Laryngeal Paralysis Part of a Bigger Neurologic Problem?
Yes, Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is now considered to be the first sign of a much more pervasive neurologic weakness; this the new name of the condition, “Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneuropathy.”
With time, the leg muscles will grow weak, and the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach (oesophagus) will become flaccid and dilated in a condition called megaesophagus.
The great news is that the average patient with acquired laryngeal paralysis is at least ten years old, and the progression of the neurologic weakness is fairly slow. That means many patients will live their normal lifespan before further neurologic weakness becomes a problem. However, we can still say that dogs with laryngeal paralysis are 21 times more likely to develop a megaesophagus than are dogs without it.
It’s been suggested that hypothyroidism may be a cause of laryngeal paralysis. It is not. Hypothyroidism is a family with other neuropathies that could make polyneuropathy worse, of which laryngeal paralysis is a part.
This means hypothyroidism should be identified and treated, but while improvement in weakness etc., may be seen, the laryngeal paralysis will not reverse with thyroid hormone supplementation.
How to Diagnose Your Dogs Laryngeal Paralysis
To discover laryngeal paralysis in dogs, you must examine the larynx under sedation. The level of sedation must be heavy enough to allow the larynx to be visualized but light enough for the patient to be taking some deep breaths.
Suppose the sedation is too deep for the diagnosis to be obvious. In that case, a respiratory stimulant called Dopram® (doxapram hydrochloride) is given intravenously to stimulate several deep breaths so that the function of the larynx is clear.
For a normal larynx, the arytenoids cartilages are seen to open and close widely. However, in a paralyzed larynx, they sit there limply while the patient breathes deeply.
If the patient is experiencing a respiratory crisis when seeing the vet, this diagnostic test can easily be followed by intubation, inserting a breathing tube down the patient’s throat. This relieves the upper airway obstruction, and the patient can breathe normally; unfortunately, sedation must be maintained to keep the tube in place.
A newer technique of visualizing the larynx involves threading an endoscope down the patient’s nostril. This is tricky, but the benefit is that sedation is not required. The downside is that specialized equipment is needed, and the patient may not be cooperative.
More tests help evaluate the patient with laryngeal paralysis. For example, chest radiographs are important in ruling out aspiration pneumonia (from inhaling food material through the non-functional larynx). The megaesophagus hugely complicates a laryngeal paralysis case and obvious tumour spread.
Radiographs of the throat to rule out obvious throat tumour are also helpful. Complete blood testing, including thyroid tests, should also be included in the work-up.
Treatment of laryngeal paralysis in dogs is most likely going to need surgery, but not everyone is ready or able to provide a surgical solution for their dogs.
Here are some tips for non-surgical management:
- Change from collar to harness to avoid pressure on the larynx.
- An anti-anxiety medication called Doxepin had been used to downplay laryngeal paralysis in patients where surgery is not an option. Studies assessing whether this is a meaningful treatment are on-going, but it may be worth a try.
- Avoid heat or other situations where the dog might pant.
- Reduce activity (so panting can be reduced)
If left untreated, a respiratory crisis can emerge. When that happens, the patient attempts to breathe deeply and cannot, create a vicious cycle of anxiety and respiratory attempts.
The laryngeal folds become swollen, making the throat obstruction still worse. The patient’s gums become bluish from lack of oxygen, and the patient begins to overheat. For reasons unknown, fluid begins to flood the lungs, and the patient begins to drown (as if the laryngeal obstruction wasn’t lethal enough).
The patient should be sedated, intubated, and cooled down with water to survive. As soon as intubation is in place, the patient can breathe normally, oxygen can be given, and the crisis can be curtailed if it has not progressed too far.
Of course, eventually, the patient will have to wake up. Corticosteroids can reduce the swelling, but ideally, one of several surgical solutions is needed.
The aim of surgery, whichever technique is used, is to permanently relieve the airway obstruction while maintaining the larynx’s original function (protection of the airways).
Laryngeal Tieback (Also Called Lateralization Surgery)
This might probably be the most commonly performed surgery for laryngeal paralysis. It involves placing a couple of sutures in such a way as to pull one of the arytenoid cartilages backwards.
By repositioning one of the arytenoids, the opening of the larynx becomes larger. The chief complication stems is that only a few millimetres of position change in the arytenoids are needed.
If the cartilage is moved too much, the larynx cannot be properly closed, and aspiration pneumonia becomes a substantial risk.
Generally, patients such as this have a persistent cough after drinking or eating. This surgery has been responsible for the deaths of dogs with laryngeal paralysis. (Years ago, both arytenoids were tied back to create a still larger larynx but tying off both cartilages in this way was associated with a 67% mortality rate, so it is no longer done.)
This surgical technique involves only being out one vocal fold and biting out the arytenoid cartilage on the same side.
With this technique, there is more bleeding, and a tracheostomy becomes more desirable. Surgeries involving removing the part of the larynx have been associated with a 30% mortality rate in laryngeal paralysis patients.
De-barking surgery can be used to eradicate laryngeal paralysis in dogs. Originally, it is generally thought of as a surgical solution to a behavioural problem, but it is also a fair treatment for laryngeal paralysis.
The common method involves extending a long “biting” forced down the throat and biting out the vocal folds. Anaesthesia is needed to do this, and the fact that the surgical area is the larynx makes normal intubation for anaesthesia impossible.
This means either using injectable anaesthesia or placing a tracheostomy (cutting a hole in the throat lower down) and intubating through that.
But, removing the vocal folds also removes the patients’ voice, reducing barking to a whisper. The hole created by the absence of the vocal folds makes for a larger airway opening and is generally large enough to relieve the obstruction.
Complications of this surgery include bleeding and swelling (which can obstruct themselves, though, if a tracheostomy is placed, any such obstruction is bypassed) and regrowth of a webbing of vocal tissue.
An alternative technique involves approaching the larynx from the outside of the throat instead of down the mouth. This method is more difficult and time consuming but has less chance of developing webbing. A tracheostomy, if any, is allowed to heal closed.
To do this surgery, a square of the thyroid cartilage is cut (similar to a castle’s turret’s square behind which an archer might hide).
This square is moved forward and reattached to create a wider laryngeal opening. A tracheostomy is frequently needed to protect from swelling.
Post-Operative Considerations You Should Think Of
There are some special concerns after laryngeal surgery regardless of the procedure:
- Expect a reduced volume in the patient’s bark.
- Some coughing and gagging is normal during drinking and eating. This tends to reduce or go away with time.
- The patient must be restricted from barking for 2-3 weeks. Tranquillizers may be needed to affect this
- No swimming ever! The patient’s airway protection is compromised with laryngeal surgery, and many dogs will swim with their mouths open. The risk of water aspiration is too great.
Natural Treatment for Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs
As earlier explained, laryngeal paralysis is a serious medical condition that can have severe repercussions when left untreated.
For people who skip surgery due to financial constraints or because of the dog’s age or other health problems, all that is left to do is manage the disease as much as possible and keep the dog comfortable using alternatives to surgery for Laryngeal paralysis in dogs.
Some natural alternatives to surgery for laryngeal paralysis in dogs treatments can come in handy, but it’s important to first consult with the vet.
To best manage this condition, it may require you to acquire some medications by prescription from a vet on hand.
For early infection of larynx paralysis, a promising drug that Proves helpful is Doxepin, a human tricyclic antidepressant also known by the trade name Sinequan. More about it can be read here: Doxepin for dogs laryngeal paralysis.
Other prescription drugs that may prove helpful include sedatives like diazepam, alprazolam or acepromazine to calm dogs down and reduce the effort of breathing, cough suppressants to reduce coughing (codeine, butorphanol, hycodan) and steroids to decrease the inflammation in the throat, which may cause the laryngeal flaps to swell thus, worsening the situation.
A word of caution is needed, though with steroids as they can cause increased panting as a side effect and tend to lower the immune system, which can predispose affected dogs to the risk of lung infection, should the dog aspirate any fluid or food into the lungs. So now, let’s take a look at natural treatment for laryngeal paralysis in dogs.
Keep Your Dog Cool
When the summer month begins, things often get more critical for dogs with laryngeal paralysis with breathing problems. Panting in dogs with this condition is not an easy task considering that affected dogs cannot fully open the larynx, which seriously cuts down their ability to cool themselves.
The good news is that these dogs can be cooled down with the help of cooling maths, fans, or a central room or air conditioner.
Some dog owners have had success using cooling vets for dogs. Walks may need to be anticipated or postponed to the early morning or late evenings to avoid humid and hot weather.
Keep Your Dog Calm
It’s important to keep affected dogs comfortable and calm. Dog owners may also need to reduce their activity level and do everything possible to beat down stress.
Dogs with laryngeal paralysis tend to cope with their condition better if they are comfortable being in the house, and there is minimal exertion when sent outside to potty.
Avoid getting affected dogs overexerted and playing on hot days. Stressed dogs can be helped with natural supplements such as a DAP collar and/or a rescue remedy that releases dog appeasing pheromone.
Maintain Healthy Joints
Laryngeal paralysis may sometimes be part of a full condition that is now being known as geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy, abbreviated as GOLPP.
This severe condition begins with typical signs of laryngeal paralysis such as raspy breathing, a hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing and then progresses into hind limb weakness over time.
This is because not only are the nerves deteriorating with this condition, but the muscles are as well. Therefore, supplements containing chondroitin and glucosamine can turn helpful, points out by veterinarian Dr. Gary.
Prevent Acid Reflux
As stated earlier, sometimes laryngeal paralysis may be part of the Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy, abbreviated as GOLPP. GOLPP affects three distinct regions, the larynx, with its associated respiratory and stridor problems, the back legs, their progressive weakness, and the oesophagus, with regurgitation, which may predispose affected dogs to aspiration pneumonia.
Dogs with acid reflux and laryngeal paralysis may benefit from the medications that jumpstarts stomach to empty, such as cisapride, ranitidine, and metoclopramide. Ranitidine, on top of stimulating gastric emptying, also works fairly well as an acid reducer.
The use of omeprazole and famotidine for their acid-reducing qualities makes sense, too, as the goal is to make the reflux less acidic and, therefore, less damaging.
Although most of these medications are available over the counter, it is important to consult with a vet before administering any of them.
” I believe all patients diagnosed with/suspected of having Lar Par (surgically treated or not) should be on “promotility” medications lifelong, to prevent aspiration pneumonia and make them more comfortable without heartburn.”~Dr. Lara Marie Rasmussen, Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Some Natural Supplements
And what about holistic, natural treatment for dogs laryngeal paralysis? One good medication that may be helpful to dogs suffering from laryngeal paralysis is Easy Sure, produced by PetAlive.
According to veterinarian Dr. Loretta, this supplement helps with several neurologic malfunctions. She also suggests acupuncture to help the dog breathe easier.
Another natural treatment for laryngeal paralysis in dogs comes from homoeopathy. According to Dr. Christina Chambreau, caustic can help for paralysis, especially of a single part. The National Center for Homeopathy claims this homoeopathic remedy to be good for “Laryngitis from paralysis of laryngeal muscles, from overuse in singers, from exposure to cold, from anger or grief. One of the most commonly used remedies for laryngitis.”
Diffusers that emanate essential oils can be helpful too. AnimalEO produces some essential oils that can be helpful in calming dogs down and help ease their breathing.
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