Summer is the season of fun in the sun, but it can also be hot, and even too hot for some. Medical conditions affecting specific breeds can cause dogs to be intolerant to heat and lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Below, we discuss how laryngeal paralysis and Brachycephalic syndrome can increase the risk of heatstroke in dogs.
Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs
Laryngeal paralysis is a disease usually affecting older, large breed dogs, namely Labrador Retrievers. Anatomically, a single nerve causes one muscle to open the voice-box (larynx), allowing air into the lungs. With advanced age, this nerve fails and the larynx remains closed, making it difficult for the dog to pant to cool themselves.
Common signs of laryngeal paralysis include a hoarse or raspy bark, increased panting, “clearing” the throat, tiring easily, and noisy breathing. This is usually a slowly progressive disease, but if dogs are exercising excessively, left in the heat, or become very excited, they can have sudden collapse and heatstroke.
Brachycephalic Syndrome in Dogs
Brachycephalic syndrome is a disease affecting brachycephalic (“short-nosed”) breeds such as Bulldogs, Boston terriers, and Pugs. In brachycephalic dogs, the normal structures of a long nosed dog are compacted into a shorter space. The main components of this disease are stenotic (small) nostrils and a long soft palate (the soft part of the roof of the mouth). A long palate can actually be pulled into the larynx and windpipe while breathing. The most common signs of brachycephalic syndrome include snoring, decreased ability to exercise, and coughing or vomiting foam.
Many people think it is normal for these breeds to snore. While it may appear commonplace, it is unhealthy or physiologically unnatural. The extra work it takes to breath can cause permanent, and potentially life-threatening, long-term consequences.
In the early stages, these diseases can be managed by restricting exercise and avoiding heat and stress. Over time, these conditions often worsen; panting is more constant, dogs cannot catch their breath, and they may collapse or be unable to walk.
Surgical treatment is indicated in clinically-affected laryngeal paralysis and brachycephalic syndrome. The surgery for laryngeal paralysis involves permanently opening half of the larynx while the surgery for brachycephalic syndrome involves opening the nares and shortening the soft palate. Post operatively, most dogs recover well, are very comfortable, and eat soon after surgery. They can instantly breathe well and the panting decreases, continuing to improve as swelling decreases. However, surgery is not completely without risk. The most common complications include pneumonia and swelling of the soft palate.
If you are concerned your pet may be affected, please seek the care of your veterinarian. In the case of an emergency, your nearest MedVet can help.