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What to feed a dog with laryngeal paralysis?

Published on August 14, 2023
Written by Nade

It is a condition that not many people have heard or read about, but it can be quite serious as it can seriously affect the dog’s quality of life. In this article, we will talk a little bit about laryngeal paralysis in dogs and how you can provide the best nutritional care for your dog.

So, what is laryngeal paralysis, and what causes it?

Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that affects a dog’s ability to control the muscles in its larynx (voice box) and can lead to breathing difficulties.

The larynx plays a crucial role in allowing dogs to breathe properly, vocalize, and protect their airway during swallowing.

When this function is compromised, it can lead to a range of symptoms and potential complications. Laryngeal paralysis can lead to difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity or in stressful situations.

Laryngeal paralysis is often seen in older dogs, typically large and giant breeds, but it can occur in any breed. The exact cause of laryngeal paralysis is not always clear, but it is believed to be a result of the degeneration of the nerves that control the muscles of the larynx.

Some factors that may contribute to laryngeal paralysis include:

  • Genetics: Certain breeds are predisposed to laryngeal paralysis, including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Saint Bernards, and Great Pyrenees.

  • Neuromuscular disorders: Laryngeal paralysis can be associated with other neuromuscular disorders in some cases.

  • Underlying medical conditions: Some conditions, such as hypothyroidism, can be associated with laryngeal paralysis.

Signs of laryngeal paralysis in dogs and treatment options

Common signs of laryngeal paralysis in dogs reported to vets include:

  • Noisy Breathing: Dogs with laryngeal paralysis often exhibit loud and raspy breathing, especially during exercise, excitement, or heat.

  • Change in Bark: Their bark may become hoarse or weak.

  • Exercise Intolerance: Affected dogs may have difficulty exercising and may tire easily due to restricted airflow.

  • Coughing or Gagging: Some dogs may cough or gag, particularly after eating or drinking.

  • Increased Respiratory Effort: Dogs might breathe with increased effort, and their belly may move visibly with each breath.

  • Panting: Panting can become less effective in regulating body temperature due to the compromised airway.

  • Collapse or Fainting: In severe cases, dogs can collapse or faint due to inadequate oxygen intake.

What do you do when faced with laryngeal paralysis in your furry friend? There are indeed several diverse strategies to combat this condition, with surgery often being the primary route. But what if surgery isn’t viable for your dog?

Your vet may have a slew of other medical management strategies at their disposal. From weight management to controlling excessive exercise, and even the use of specific medications designed to improve breathing quality.

Advice on Nourishing Your Dog with Laryngeal Paralysis

Feeding a dog with laryngeal paralysis requires special consideration to ensure it can eat comfortably and safely. Since laryngeal paralysis can lead to breathing difficulties, it’s important to choose the right type of food and feeding methods.

  1. Soft, Moist Food: Opt for soft, moist dog food that is easy to swallow and doesn’t require excessive chewing. Wet or canned dog food is a good option, as it can be easily mashed and has a higher moisture content.

  2. Avoid Dry Kibble: Dry kibble may be more challenging for dogs with laryngeal paralysis to consume due to its texture and the effort required for chewing. If your dog is used to dry kibble, you can try soaking it in warm water or low-sodium broth to soften it before feeding.

  3. Small, Frequent Meals: Offer smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This can help prevent overexertion during eating and reduce the risk of aspiration (inhaling food or liquid into the airway).

  4. Elevated Feeding: Elevate your dog’s food and water bowls to a comfortable height. This can help promote better swallowing and reduce the effort required for eating.

  5. Hand-Feeding: If your dog struggles to eat from a bowl, consider hand-feeding small amounts of food. This allows you to control the pace of eating and ensure that your dog doesn’t eat too quickly.

  6. Soft Treats: Choose soft, easy-to-chew treats that your dog can safely consume without the risk of choking. Avoid hard or crunchy treats that may be difficult to swallow.

  7. Moistening Dry Food: If you prefer to feed dry kibble, you can moisten it with water or low-sodium broth to soften it and make it easier to swallow.

  8. Monitor During Eating: Keep a close eye on your dog while they’re eating to ensure they’re not showing signs of distress or struggling to breathe. If you notice any difficulties, consult your veterinarian.

I am Nade and I am a vet with five years of experience working with small animals. I come from North Macedonia where I graduated and went on to finish postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I am currently owned by a one-year-old naughty black Labrador Retriever named Fred and enjoy spending my spare time with him.

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