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A very common presenting complaint in large breed, older dogs is to start the old man throat clear.  It is a sudden hoick and retch that disturbs the whole family.

There are many reasons for coughing in an older dog. Diagnostics include a thorough examination and chest xrays. One cause of coughing is laryngeal paralysis.

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis lose nerve control and function of the larynx which is a bony structure which marks the opening of the airway at the back of the mouth. The larynx gradually loses its function and breathing becomes more and more noisy. Often mucous and saliva will accumulate around this disfunctioning larynx further blocking the airway. Hence the old man retch/hoick/cough.

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis often progress to have significant airway blockage. Hot weather, exercise or excitement can bring on a sudden and acute breathing problem.

In mild cases it is good to maintain your dogs general fitness by short walks in cool weather. This means means they are less likely to puff and pant doing routine things. 

There is a specialist surgical operation called a laryngeal tie back procedure that can significantly assist these dogs and return them to an almost normal life. After the operation, your dog will be at greater risk of food or water going down the airway causing aspiration pneumonia. This is something that can be monitored and managed. Most dogs are significantly better off after the surgery. 

If you are worried about your old friend, come and get some advice from the Vets at Pittwater Animal Hospital.

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More in depth article on laryngeal paralysis

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