DEAR DR. KAY: My almost 10-year-old mixed-breed dog has been panting out of the blue occasionally, without exertion. His chest X-ray, blood test and exam show he is fine. One of the vets thinks he may have laryngeal paralysis that may need surgery. His bark has changed a little bit, not as forceful, but I think it is due to old age. The vet says if we don't fix it, we may have to do emergency surgery when he can't breathe. Our family does not want to do expensive surgery, but what’s the alternative? — Mike
DEAR MIKE: The larynx is the opening to the windpipe where the voice box lives. It consists of cartilages that open and close like little saloon doors, timed with breathing. When the larynx becomes paralyzed (laryngeal paralysis), the saloon doors no longer move, resulting in noisier breathing that is most evident when panting occurs. Laryngeal paralysis is best diagnosed by having a careful look in the throat (anesthesia is required for this even with the most cooperative of dogs). If your dog does in fact have this disorder, talk with your vet about the pros and cons of surgery. If you opt against surgery, be sure to avoid exposing your dog to situations that would cause increased panting as this can cause the laryngeal cartilages to swell and create obstruction to normal airflow.