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Possible laryngeal paralysis.

Species: Dog
Breed: Mix - black lab/pit
Age: 11-15 years
Jet has started making sounds like he is gasping for breath and then coughs. This started out as an occasional thing but seems to be progressing. He has a healthy appetite and has no problems going to the bathroom. He is slightly over weight (about 60 - 65 lbs and he use to be around 55 lbs in his younger days). He does this about once or twice an hour. Any idea on what may be causing this or what can be done for him? He is an aggressive dog to people he does not know and has to be knocked out for the vet to examine him. At his age I hate to have him knocked out. My main concern is that he is not suffering. Any assistance you can give us would be greatly appreciated.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Jet Li is having breathing problems. This will be a tough one to figure out over the internet but I can give you a few possibilities.

My first thought, any time I hear of an older lab with breathing issues is a condition called laryngeal paralysis. This is relatively common in older labs. They get sporadic breathing issues and coughing. Many labs with this problem will pant a lot.

The only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is to have the vet administer a mild anesthetic and watch the larynx (at the back of the throat) to see if it moves properly when he is breathing.

There is a surgery to correct laryngeal paralysis but it is pricey and comes with risks. There are medications that sometimes can help but usually the disease gets worse and worse.

There are other possibilities. A heart condition can cause sporadic coughing. The way to diagnose this is via xrays and a physical exam which may be difficult for him. There are medications to help many types of heart problems.

If this was a sudden thing then I would wonder about a virus like kennel cough, but kennel cough is not a chronic and progressive condition like this.

There are other possibilities such as heartworm if that is prevalent in your area, asthma and others.

Unfortunately though the only way to know would be to have him checked out. I wish I could give you more answers!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for the information. If it is laryngeal paralysis, is he suffering. He doesn't appear to be but that is my main concern. At Jets age I'm very leary of putting him through too much stress.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

That's a tough question to answer. In the end stages of laryngeal paralysis, dogs can have attacks where they have great difficulty breathing. This is not comfortable at all. At the beginning of the disease it is probably just a little bit uncomfortable. The problem is that the progression from beginning to end happens very gradually and it is often hard to know when to draw the line.

It may be worthwhile to make some notes once a week about how you feel Jet Li is doing. For example, now it is happening once or twice an hour. Jot down information on things he can or can't do, what his appetite is like and what his energy level is like. Then, each week you can compare. This way, if the issue is happening more and more frequently this can help you with decision making.

With that being said, we don't know for sure that it is laryngeal paralysis so if it is at all possible to have a vet sedate him and examine him this may be the best option just in case he has a condition where we could be treating him.

Dr. Marie.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.