It's not just humans who sometimes lose their voice — dogs can also find themselves unable to exercise their vocal cords. This could lead to a hoarse bark or the inability to bark at all. In some cases, these symptoms could be a sign of laryngitis in dogs. When a dog's vocal abilities change, it's always a good idea to bring the dog to a veterinarian for a full examination.
Can dogs get laryngitis?
Yes, dogs can get laryngitis. Laryngitis in dogs can come from an infection or irritation from inhaling dust or foreign objects. Fortunately, pet parents can learn the signs of laryngitis and bring their dog to a veterinarian for an examination and treatment.
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What causes laryngitis in dogs?
Laryngitis in dogs is caused by inflammation of the larynx, or voice box. The inflammation can be due to:
- Excessive barking
- Upper respiratory tract infections, such as kennel cough
- Bacterial infections, including bronchitis
- Irritation after inhaling smoke, dust, or a foreign object
- Irritation from a breathing tube inserted during surgery
- Throat tumors
Some breeds are more susceptible to developing canine laryngitis than others. Brachycephalic dogs (dogs whose face and nose appear to be pushed-in or flattened, such as pugs) often have hypoplastic tracheas, meaning the trachea is more narrow than usual. These breeds are more prone to developing canine laryngitis due to the airway abnormalities that this causes. Obese dogs of any breed are also more susceptible to laryngitis.
Symptoms of laryngitis in dogs
Coughing is the most common symptom of canine laryngitis. The cough might initially be a short, dry cough, but as laryngitis progresses, it often becomes moist as small amounts of mucus are produced. Coughs can range from relatively mild to deep and hacking.
Other symptoms include:
- A weaker and/or more hoarse bark
- Raspy or noisy breathing
- Pain while swallowing
- Trouble eating
- Bad breath
- Respiratory distress, such as difficulty breathing
What is laryngeal paralysis in dogs?
Laryngeal paralysis is when the nerves that control the movement of the larynx become damaged and stop working. Laryngitis in dogs does not cause this condition, but a dog with laryngeal paralysis could develop laryngitis. As laryngeal paralysis progresses, the afflicted dog's healthy bark changes to a whimper and may stop altogether. Pet parents might also notice noisy and labored breathing as their airway becomes more blocked, leading them 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, bouvier des Flandres, and Great Pyrenees. Dogs can also acquire laryngeal paralysis, with Labrador retrievers being the most likely breed to do so. Trauma or underlying disease can also cause laryngeal paralysis.
How to treat laryngitis in dogs
If a dog is showing signs of laryngitis, they need to go to the veterinarian for an examination. The veterinarian will run lab tests, such as bloodwork and X-rays. They will also sedate the dog so they can view the larynx with either an endoscope or a laryngoscope. Treatment can include anti-inflammatory medications, cough-suppressing medications, and antibiotics. The veterinarian may also recommend keeping the dog in a humid, dust-free area and feeding them only warm soft or liquid foods.
If the dog has an upper airway obstruction due to laryngeal paralysis, a veterinarian can perform surgery to help clear the airway. The most common surgical procedure for this condition is called a "tie-back." During this surgery, the veterinarian will tie back the paralyzed piece of cartilage so that it is not getting in the way.
Dogs can get laryngitis just like humans. The best prevention is to keep dogs at a healthy weight and in a clean environment where they are unlikely to inhale anything that will irritate their respiratory system. When under the care of a DVM, most dogs with laryngitis can go on to live a happy and healthy life.