Jake is a senior Labrador Retriever, and his story starts with an emergency veterinary visit. Jake was rushed to the clinic blue and suffocating. Jake has laryngeal paralysis–these days recategorized as geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (GOLPP).
It was thought that laryngeal paralysis was just that–paralysis of the voice box (larynx).
The larynx is the organ that controls the airflow and keeps food out of the windpipe. They close the access to the windpipe when eating or drinking and open it for breathing. When the larynx fails to work properly, it obstructs breathing, partially or fully.
As it turns out, however, this problem isn’t a problem with the larynx itself but with the nerves that control it–it is a disease of the nerves. Newer research shows that this can even affect other parts of the body, not just the voice box. It gets worse over time and can result in the upper airway obstruction. Which is what happened to Jake.
Jake could not breathe.
This kind of episode can be brought on by stress or excitement. It usually happens out of the blue. One minute everything is fine and the next minute it is not.
Jake arrived to the clinic struggling to breathe and frozen in fear.
First point of care Jake received was a large dose of intravenous valium. This not only sedated Jake but also allowed him to breathe as well. He turned pink again.
The problem was that things were only bound to keep getting worse–even without any acute episodes, it will be progressively more difficult for Jake to breathe. With some dogs, this process can take a long time without life-threatening emergencies. But not all dogs are that lucky.
There is a surgery option.
What it does is surgically securing the access to the windpipe open. Which sounds fine but it also means that things other than air can make their way down there–aspiration pneumonia.
Jake’s parents to decided to hold off on the surgery. For months, Jake only had minor episodes when he had a hard time breathing but things were generally acceptable. Until the next disastrous episode.
Jake’s parents figured it might be best to set Jake free of his suffering.
They didn’t want Jake suffer and potential die in agony from suffocation.
Jake’s veterinarian suggested trying the surgery after all. She explained the surgery in detail–how it helps and what the complications might be. After some deliberation, Jake’s parents agreed to the surgery.
Jake got his life back.
He was like a new dog. Playing, barking, and happy. The surgery bought Jake 8 months of happy, full life, able to breathe normally.