Laryngeal Paralysis

The opening to the trachea (“wind pipe”) normally is pulled open on two sides when breathing in, and relaxes when breathing out. In dogs and cats with laryngeal paralysis, the muscles that normally pull the airway open do not function properly. When an affected pet breathes in, the walls of the airway do not pull open—rather, they are sucked into the opening, or in severe cases sucked shut. Early in the condition, this creates increased noise when they breathe; later, it can completely obstruct their airway, and they can suffocate.

The early signs of laryngeal paralysis can be quite subtle. You may notice:

-harshness in their panting
-increased panting or panting when cool and calm
-a hoarse or raspy-sounding bark

Many different approaches have been used to surgically treat laryngeal paralysis. Over the years and through the monitoring of many post-operative patients, one technique has remained at the top of the list of procedures with good success and few complications, the Unilateral Arytenoid Lateralization or “Tieback”.

In the tieback procedure, a suture is used to permanently pull the wall of the airway open on one side of the larynx. To minimize the chance of fluids or food entering the airway, only one side is pulled open enough to prevent airway compromise and future breathing crises.

In the hands of an experienced ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon, this is typically a relatively straight-forward, minimally invasive surgical procedure. The incision is only 3-4 inches on one side of the neck and well-planned pain management can reduce or eliminate post-operative pain directly associated with surgery.

There are several other surgical treatment options that your veterinary surgeon may discuss with you. These options are usually considered if a tieback is not a viable option. Talk with your primary care veterinarian and pursue a consult with a veterinary surgeon to fully explore your options.

Contact us for more information about this procedure.