When Monty's owners noticed a change in the sound of his bark, they brought the 11-year-old Labrador in to see us again. Monty has only been coming to see us for a couple of months, but being an older dog, he has had a few issues that have needed treatment at the vet clinic. We had recently started him on some treatment for arthritis and he had responded to this very well. His legs seemed to be doing better, but now his breathing seemed to be letting him down.
Monty was also getting out of breath more quickly than usual on his walks, and because of the sound change in his bark, we suspected a problem with his larynx (voice box). We organised for him to come in for the day to investigate his airways and lungs under sedation and anaesthetic. Under very light sedation, we could see that his larynx was not opening as well as it should have been. This was interfering with the flow of air into and out of his lungs, making it harder for him to get air into his chest on his walks.
This problem can affect dogs of any age, but is much more common with older dogs, and is often associated with damage or loss of function to the nerve attached to the larynx which controls its opening and closing. The same movement is needed when dogs growl, bark or snore, so often it's the first thing owners notice.
Interestingly, this problem is also seen in racehorses, who suffer from the compromise the half-open larynx puts on their airflow, obviously impacting on their performance during races. These horses are often called "roarers" because they make a roaring sound from their airways when they are running hard.
With a clear result on Monty's chest x-rays, we determined that the best treatment plan would be surgery to place a stitch to hold his larynx open just a little more. The surgery was performed and all went according to plan.
Monty is recovering well, breathing much more comfortably and has more energy in general. We won't suggest that Monty now considers entering competitions against racehorses, but he is certainly much happier now that he can breathe better!