Animal Care Clinic

Jul 11, 2012 4:15 PM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM

When your dog gets winded and has difficulty breathing

Q: Pat wrote in to our Central Coast Expert Animal Care Clinic about Zeke, her Brittany who has recently developed a wheezing and has difficulty breathing at times. He has gone from running in the dog park to walking around a bit, and when he does that he is completely winded and it takes him a long time to settle his breathing. Pat Googled the symptoms and suspects esophageal paralysis.

A: Dear Pat, I think your intuitions are correct. Rather than esophageal paralysis, I am worried about laryngeal paralysis. We don't see this a lot in Brittney's, but it sure could happen. Other concerns would include heart disease, lung problems, or really any systemic (body-wide) disease that could cause some weakness.

My own dog (a 15 year old Border Collie) has laryngeal paralysis. He was plugging along with symptoms a lot like Zeke's and doing okay. While I was away on vacation, he had a pretty sudden escalation of symptoms. Luckily he was hanging out with my staff at the hospital when his larynx became so swollen that he could no longer breathe. They did an emergency tracheotomy and saved his life. He has since had surgery and is totally fine now - acting like a puppy again. Unfortunately, most dogs are not hanging out in a vet clinic when things escalate like this and we see many dogs arrive here already dead.

I strongly recommend an examination before you head back to Oregon. The trip could be pretty tough on him. It would be great to find out something else is wrong and be able to remedy things quickly and easily. Any of our doctors can help you.

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