Be careful what you wish for. You hoped Fido would stop his incessant barking, but now you're more worried about his unusual silence. It's not just humans who sometimes lose their voices -- your pup can also suffer from laryngitis and lose his robust bark. Canine laryngitis is typically caused by swelling, irritation and inflammation of the vocal cords. The most common signs are hoarseness and an inability to bark. Learning about canine laryngitis can help you identify and successfully treat it.
The most common causes of canine laryngitis are excessive barking and coughing. The coughing may be the result of an upper respiratory tract infection, tonsillitis, throat infection, throat tumor or irritation after inhaling smoke, dust or a foreign object. If your pooch recently went under the knife, his laryngitis might be due to the resulting trauma from a breathing tube in his throat during the surgery. Certain breeds are more susceptible to developing canine laryngitis than others. For example, brachycephalic dogs (dogs with flattened faces with short larynx and nasal passages, such as pugs) and obese dogs can develop canine laryngitis through heavy breathing or panting when they become overheated or overly excited.
Coughing is the most common symptom of canine laryngitis. The cough might initially sound harsh, dry and short, but as the laryngitis progresses, it often becomes moist as small amounts of saliva are produced. Coughs can range from relatively mild to deep and hacking. If your furry friend develops laryngitis, you'll also notice a change in the usual tone of his bark -- it'll sound weaker and much hoarser. He might also find swallowing painful and have difficulty consuming food. Other symptoms include bad breath and trouble breathing, leading him to stand with lowered head and his mouth open.
In severe cases of canine laryngitis, the nerves that control the movement of the larynx become damaged and stop working, which is called laryngeal paralysis. As laryngeal paralysis progresses, the afflicted dog’s healthy bark changes to a whimper and may stop altogether. You'll also notice noisy and labored breathing as his airway becomes more blocked, leading him to become progressively weaker. Laryngeal paralysis is typically an inherited disease that occurs in geriatric dogs of large breeds, such as golden retrievers, Dalmatians, Irish setters, St. Bernards and Great Pyrenees. Surgery can help clear the airway and, in extreme cases, the damaged vocal cords and surrounding cartilage are removed.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you suspect your dog has canine laryngitis, take him to a vet for a complete checkup and to rule out a more serious illness. He'll run lab tests, such as blood work and X-rays. He might prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and obstruction; cough-suppresing medications and antibiotics. If your pup's larynx is obstructed, an opening will be made in his neck to allow a tracheotomy tube to be inserted, allowing him to breathe comfortably during the treatment. The vet may also recommend soft or liquid foods until the laryngitis clears up, a humidifier in your dog's sleeping area to moisten the air, and that his living area be kept clean, warm and dust-free.
By Liza Blau
About the Author
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.