Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s Blog
Penny, a 7 year old Labrador, was in deep trouble.
She couldn’t go on walks or function normally. She was suffocating because of a condition called laryngeal paralysis (aka “lar par”). This meant that her larynx (or voice box) was paralyzed and didn’t allow her to have enough oxygen on board.
Her owner wrote: “Lately, Penny has had several episodes where she had great difficulty catching her breath, especially after exercise or excitement. The last one of these episodes was severe enough to make her tongue go bluish for a short time.”
She had surgery at Brodheadsville Vet Clinic (www.brodheadsvillevet.com) in Brodheadsville, PA, in order to open up her larynx with permanent sutures (tie-back surgery).
Three days after surgery, her owner writes: “Overall Penny is doing fantastic! Her breathing is immensely improved and our hardest problem right now is keeping her calm.”
She recovered smoothly and two months after surgery, she could go on walks in the woods again.
Here is her story in video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvSMSLNeZRs&t=5s
As I always say, laryngeal paralysis is not a death sentence. With the proper care, patients can have a normal, happy life.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
They say that a journey begins with a single step, but sometimes that step is into your car so you can drive five hours for a scheduled surgery!
Hershey’s owner drove all the way from Jamestown, New York near Lake Erie so I could perform surgery at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital in Pennsylvania. It was quite the road trip.
Hershey is an eleven-year-old Lab whose laryngeal paralysis made it difficult for him to breathe. A complicating factor is that he’s diabetic. Hershey’s vet was not sure that surgery was the best bet, but his owner loves Hershey and wasn’t ready to give up on her best friend.
You can see a video of Hershey and his surgery below. He struggles to breathe before the surgery, but after we perform a “tie back” procedure there’s a nice, wide opening. This lets oxygen get in. A tie back surgery uses nylon sutures to keep one side of the larynx open. Two hours after surgery, you can hear the difference! There’s no more struggling and just nice quiet breathing.
You can also see that a small tumor on Hershey’s eyelid was removed. That is a benign tumor called a chalazion, or an adenoma of a Meibomian gland.
Hershey spent a restful night at Barton Heights, and left the hospital for a five hour drive home!
Matches is a 13 year old female Cocker Spaniel who, as you can see, rules the home from her royal couch.
She previously had to have her left eye removed because of glaucoma, but she was referred to me because she had difficulty breathing. Her family vet diagnosed her with an unusual condition in a Cocker: laryngeal paralysis, or lar par.
This was very surprising. It’s a common condition in Labradors, but rare in other breeds such as Cockers.
Lar par is a stressful ailment where the two folds of the larynx (or voice box) do not open and close as the patient breathes in and out. The folds remain closed – paralyzed – and the patient literally suffocates. This can be fixed with “tie back” surgery, which involves placing 2 strands of heavy nylon to open the left side of the larynx.
It’s a delicate surgery, but typically successful as it opens the airway so that the patient can breathe. Matches recovered very nicely and quickly from surgery at Blairstown Animal Hospital in New Jersey. So far, she is doing great.
Below, you can see a preop and postop video of the larynx.
In the “before” section, don’t be fooled by the movement at the bottom of the folds! These are the vocal cords, which do nothing for breathing. Look at the top of the folds, and you will see that they do not move, even when she tries to breathe in.
In the “after” portion, the left side of the throat (which appears on the right side of the screen!) is open to allow air from going in.
It’s very important for veterinary professionals to never assume! I was surprised to hear from my colleague that he had a Cocker with laryngeal paralysis, but sure enough, that’s what she had.