Seasonal Respiratory Disease in Dogs


Seasonal Respiratory Disease In Dogs

More dogs present to vets with respiratory distress as the weather warms up. The two most common groups of dogs that we see this time of year are the “brachycephalic dogs“ and the “laryngeal paralysis” dogs.

Breeds Commonly Presenting With Seasonal Respiratory Disease

Brachycephalic breeds include the English and French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers. Many dogs with overlong soft palates and narrowed (stenotic) nostrils etc will have major problems in regulating their body temperature due to an inability to pant efficiently. Many of these dogs will start showing signs of exercise intolerance, retching and even gastrointestinal disturbances all because of their breed-associated conformation. Symptoms often start at a very young age but progress due to secondary changes and further deformation of their respiratory tracts i.e laryngeal collapse. These dogs can appear stable but can rapidly decompensate if they exercise or even just sunbathe on a hot day. Prompt treatment is essential and normally comprises oxygen therapy, rapid cooling, sedation and anti-inflammatories. Once stable, we would ideally operate on these dogs (i.e shorten the soft palate etc) to decrease the likelihood of another acute crisis.

The second group of dogs is less obvious and often overlooked. Laryngeal paralysis in dogs is very common in certain breeds especially Labradors and Golden Retrievers but any breed can be affected (including brachcephalics!). These dogs often present as older dogs with a history of panting, exercise intolerance and a change of bark (dysphonia). We now believe that the majority of affected dogs suffer a generalised polyneuropathy and many dogs will go on to develop subtle proprioceptive deficits, recurrent regurgitation and generalised muscle wastage as they get older. Many people attribute the slowing up to concurrent osteoarthritis or “old age” and it can be very difficult to differentiate symptoms between the two syndromes. 

Laryngeal Paralysis In Dogs & Tie Back Surgery

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis can also decompensate in the heat. Their increased breathing effort sucks in the flaccid arytenoids occluding the laryngeal opening leading to cyanosis and potentially syncope and asphyxiation. Affected dogs are managed with a “tieback” procedure and usually have a vastly improved quality of life following the surgery with many dogs going home the same day as surgery is performed.

At the time of writing, we have only had one week of warm(ish) weather and yet we have already seen one decompensated English Bulldog, and two Labradors and a Welsh Springer Spaniel each with laryngeal paralysis.


Referring Dogs With Respiratory Disease and Laryngeal Paralysis

We are more than happy to see and assess any dogs that you think may be affected with any form of respiratory disease. It is often difficult and even dangerous to induce these dogs for anaesthesia and so we do not mind inducing and inspecting cases for you as we can proceed straight to surgery if needed once the diagnosis is confirmed. As always, all referred cases are admitted, assessed and operated on by our soft tissue surgical specialist Tim Charlesworth.

Retriever in position ready for        

 Retriever in position ready for "tieback" procedure for laryngeal paralysis

 Brachycephalic dog with overlong soft palate undergoing soft palate shortening

Brachycephalic dog with overlong soft palate undergoing soft palate shortening


If you would like to refer a case or speak discuss a case you have please phone 01793 528341 or email Eastcott Veterinary Referrals

Other Soft Tissue Cases Seen


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Eastcott Veterinary Clinic & Hospital
Edison Business Park
Hindle Way, Off Dorcan Way

Telephone: 01793 528341 - select option 2