Orso will be twelve years old in August, a true senior citizen in dog years. Not only is he old by dog standards, (seven people years for each dog year), but he also weighs ninety-nine pounds, making him ancient, almost a living fossil. He has started to slow down; his hips are weaker, and he often has a sway to them. He also has a mystery limp in his right front leg. We’ll be walking along, then all of a sudden, he stumbles and limps for a few steps. I’ve checked his paw for any cuts or foreign object, I’ve felt his bones and soft tissue up and down, massaging his leg up to the shoulder and nothing. No cuts, no injury to his leg or paw. Then almost as if it’s a miracle, he takes off trotting along without a care and no limp.
We noticed that this winter, he started breathing heavier and louder on our walks. There was no sneaking up on anyone with him around. He sounded like a little old man with emphysema. As winter became spring, the wheezing got louder and longer. At times there was a bit of a whistle to the wheeze, making me wonder if he had something stuck in his throat. His annual check-up came and as soon as the vet walked in the room, she commented on the wheezing and said she suspected he had laryngeal paralysis. Of course, the only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is with throat surgery.
The surgeon goes in and checks the larynx for paralysis. If the dog had laryngeal paralysis, then there are two options, one is to cut one side off which is also called de-barking and hope that allows enough air flow for the dog to breathe and to keep cool. The other option, which is very expensive and done by a specialist, is to go in and tie back one or both sides of the larynx to open the airway. One of the biggest concerns with laryngeal paralysis is heat stroke, because the dog is basically breathing through a straw and cannot get enough air in and out to cool off.
With summer almost here and the days getting warmer, we made an appointment for Orso to undergo the surgery, after talking to the vet, decided the best option was option one, but we would combine the diagnosis and surgery in one. The vet would check and if he had laryngeal paralysis, the vet would cut one side off.
The day of the surgery Orso was definitely not happy with me, nothing to eat, he stood there and watched Royal chow down, looked at me, then back at Royal, and back at me. Definitely not happy. And he had to suffer through a walk, on an empty stomach, life was not fair.
The vet called me after the surgery and said Orso had laryngeal paralysis on both sides, he wasn’t getting much air at all, so he cut off one side as a start. He didn’t want to cut both sides, for fear of too much scar tissue forming causing as bad a problem as before the surgery. So we’re trying one side and seeing how well Orso can breathe and get through the summer.
Orso still pants heavily, but the little old man wheeze is gone at least for the time being and we’ll almost silent.