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    PeterDobias.com / Blog / Health Knowledge

    Laryngeal Paralysis in dogs

    By Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. His love of dogs and passion for natural healing and nutrition led him to writing, teaching and helping people create health naturally, without drugs, chemicals and processed food.

    Why choke collars and excessive vaccination should be avoided

    Laryngeal paralysis is an uncomfortable condition with several possible causes.

    It is preventable with some lifestyle changes. Contrary to the belief in conventional medicine that surgery is the only treatment option, there are natural treatment options that can resolve the disease.

    Laryngeal paralysis can be one of the most distressing conditions for the affected dog and his or her guardian. Common symptoms are loud and raspy breath and difficulty breathing. In more advanced cases, severe respiratory distress and coughing are also frequent. This medical condition results from an absence or lack of laryngeal muscle tone due to either the muscles’ inability to respond to nerve impulses or an absence of nerve stimulation.

    Conventional medicine usually considers laryngeal paralysis congenital or idiopathic (of unknown origin). The purpose of this article is to show you that from the holistic point of view, laryngeal paralysis is relatively easy to understand and prevent. While the treatment itself is never easy, a holistic approach can yield surprisingly positive results in many cases.

    Larynx anatomy

    The larynx is located at the top end of the trachea and the rear of the mouth. The larynx consists of the laryngeal cartilages, the vocal cords and the laryngeal muscles as per Figure 1 below. 

    The larynx has three main functions:

    1. It controls the process of swallowing and prevents aspiration of food and liquid.

    2. The laryngeal cartilages provide a framework for the attachment of laryngeal muscles and prevent the airway from collapsing.

    3. The larynx provides 'a safe haven' for the vocal cords, which have a key role in vocalization.


    I like to see the larynx as a really sophisticated, anatomically complex and neurologically intertwined system of air and water locks that are in charge of swallowing, breathing and vocalization. Voluntary and involuntary reflexes and nerves control the larynx.

    The definition of paralysis

    When paralysis is mentioned, most of us usually imagine a leg, arm or face that cannot move due to a spinal injury or degeneration, or an interruption of the nerve impulse flow.

    Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that causes the laryngeal muscles to become flaccid due to an interruption of nerve impulses from the cranial nerves originating from the brainstem. This results in a collapse of the laryngeal cartilages, which causes a mild to severe form of respiratory distress, abnormal swallowing and a change in the voice tone. Some past studies have attempted to make the connection between a systemic nervous system degeneration, or even hypothyroidism and laryngeal paralysis, but the cause in most dogs is much simpler.


    Before we dive into the most common causes of laryngeal paralysis, I would like to dedicate a few lines to the diagnosis.

    Laryngeal paralysis is usually diagnosed under light sedation, during which the larynx is evaluated for the position and movement of the laryngeal cartilages. Healthy laryngeal cartilages open and close with each breath cycle. A paralyzed larynx usually moves less or not at all.

    An intranasal endoscopic examination can be performed without sedation, but canine noses are very sensitive and dogs do not tolerate it well. Therefore, I recommend sedation and the more traditional laryngeal exam whenever possible.

    Common causes

    While I believe that hypothyroidism is not a primary cause of laryngeal paralysis, it makes complete sense that dogs suffering from hypothyroidism may be more prone to laryngeal dysfunction.

    When you a have a good understanding of the laryngeal anatomy, it should not surprise you that the use of traditional collars and leashes can cause severe laryngeal injuries. Considering the harmful effects of choke, martingale, prong and shock collars, especially with large dogs that pull on the leash, the effects on their general health can be catastrophic. This is definitely not an exaggeration. Collar injuries can cause severe disruption of energy flow in the body and lead to laryngeal paralysis, skin problems, neck joint injuries, organ and hormonal disease and even cancer.

    The use of retractable leashes with a stop mechanism can also cause repeated injury to the larynx, which can lead to paralysis. Even play can be harmful. For example, tug-of-war with a stronger human counterpart, or hanging a dog up in the air while it’s holding a toy or a stick can also cause nerve and energy flow disturbances to the larynx. Similar to humans, most holistic practitioners agree that the health of the patient depends on the health of the spine - the main energy channel in the body.

    Of course, it's logical that poor diet and high toxin levels can worsen any medical condition, however, they are not the primary factors in laryngeal paralysis. In summary, injuries, restrictions or constrictions of the upper neck region increases the risk of laryngeal paralysis. There is one more possible cause worth mentioning - rabies vaccine side effects.

    Rabies vaccine side effects

    In my other articles on vaccines and their side effects, I mention that killed vaccines such as rabies, distemper or parvovirus cannot cause the actual disease, but they appear to cause symptoms similar to the disease itself. From the homeopathic perspective, even killed vaccines carry an energy imprint of the actual disease and this disease energy 'recording' can 'replay' in the form of disease-like symptoms.

    For example, the parvovirus vaccine can ignite the symptoms of diarrhea and I have seen the rabies vaccine cause changes in behaviour and make dogs more prone to laryngeal paralysis.

    Interestingly, the actual live rabies virus affects the brain and impedes the function of cranial nerves, which also leads to larynx paralysis. Typical symptoms of rabies are the inability to swallow and gagging and choking as if there was something in the throat. Logically, it makes sense that dogs that are repeatedly and unnecessarily vaccinated against rabies may be prone to laryngeal paralysis.

    Treatment and prevention

    Laryngeal paralysis prevention is much simpler than the treatment. Here is what I suggest:

    Use a well-fitted harness where the leash is attached to the front of the chest and the back. Do not attach the leash to a collar especially if your dog pulls - even occasionally.

    Never use a martingale, prong, choke or electric collars.

    Use a shock-absorbing leash and avoid using a retractable leash because the tension of the spring can be harsh enough to cause serious damage to your dog’s larynx.

    Be very careful about playing tug of war with your dog. Let the leash or toy slide through your hand easily and never lift your dog in the air by an object held in his or her mouth.

    Have your dog checked by an experienced physical therapist, chiropractor or osteopath every three months, or monthly if your dog is eight years or older. Ask other dog lovers for references and pay attention to the treatment results. If your dog becomes increasingly worse after several treatments, find another practitioner.

    If you need to give a rabies vaccine, administer homeopathic remedy Lyssin 200 C after the vaccination as a preventive measure. Consult a holistic vet if you see any changes in your dog’s health or behaviour.

    Of course, it goes without saying that a proper natural diet, without kibble or grain, and natural, high-quality supplements are the key to any disease prevention.

    If your dog has been diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis, apply all the steps as mentioned above, but increase the frequency and intensity of physical therapy or chiropractic treatment. Be patient and do not let yourself be discouraged with slow progress. It has taken years for the symptoms of this chronic condition to appear and will take at least the same time for it to get better.

    If your dog experiences respiratory distress, make sure his or her sleeping area is cool and well-aired. If your dog pants at night, consider a fan or air-conditioner, especially if you live in a hot or humid area. I find that many older dogs have this tendency, which may be due to liver weakness and toxin build-up. Every dog with laryngeal paralysis will benefit from a semi-annual liver cleanse. I also suggest feeding in the late afternoon as opposed to the evening. The digestion process generates a lot of heat, so if you feed early, you can reduce the chances of laboured breathing at night.

    Homeopathic treatment can also reduce the symptoms of laryngeal paralysis. However, each case should be individually assessed and I recommend you consult with an experienced veterinary homeopath.

    Reactive versus proactive medicine

    If your dog has been affected by laryngeal paralysis, you now know how to address this condition. However, if he or she has been lucky enough to not be affected by this condition, I hope this information will help you prevent it. Please pass this article on to your friends and thank you for interest in keeping your dog healthy and happy naturally.

     © Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM


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    Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM has 30 years of experience as a veterinarian. He graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1988 in the Czech Republic and obtained the Canadian Certificate of Qualification in 1995. He is currently licensed in the European Union, and his unique approach to healing and nutrition helps holistically minded dog lovers worldwide.

    Dr. Dobias strongly believes that disease prevention, natural nutrition and supplements, the right exercise and a drug free approach to medicine can add years to your dog's life.

    As a formulator of his all-natural vitamin and supplement line and co-inventor of natural, chemical free flea and tick control, FleaHex® and TickHex®, his unique healing system and products currently hold the highest independent five star customer rating. For more information click here.

    Any general recommendations that Dr. Dobias makes are not a substitute for the appropriate veterinary care and are for informational and educational purposes only.

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