Last week, just before we closed, I saw a Leonberger (large dog) who wasn't doing so well. He had difficulty breathing, especially on inspiration. This led me to believe there was a problem either in his nasal cavities (such as a tumour) or something obstructing his larynx. I sent the dog to the local emergency clinic where he was observed until a specialist could examine him. It turns out the dog had laryngeal paralysis, a disorder where there is loss of innervation to the muscles of the larynx (the voicebox) preventing it from properly opening and closing. This condition is typically seen in older large-breed dogs and can be associated with hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone), myasthenia gravis (a relatively rare neuro-muscular disorder), and other rare diseases. Most often, however, no underlying disease is found.
It turns out that this dog also had very subtle neurological problems with his limbs. A neurologist examined him and determined that he had a polyneuropathy (nerve disease) that had already been documented in other Leonbergers. It is presumed that this is an inherited disease (carried on the X chromosome). While laryngeal paralysis is not an uncommon diagnosis, I had never seen the constellation of signs seen in Leonbergers.
I'm glad I referred this case.
A Leonberger: stunning dog.