Wilbur’s Voicebox Paralysis

Lucy Smith one of DWR’s dedicated Theatre Registered Veterinary Nurses rescued the gorgeous Wilbur from Serbia when he was just 15 months old after he had been dumped with his 2 sisters in a carrier bag of broken glass!

Wilbur was referred to DWR in August 2022 at around 6 years old, as he was wheezing and had a change in the pitch of his bark. Rachel Hattersley, our Head of Theatre and a specialist in small animal surgery examined the movement of Wilbur’s larynx (voicebox) under anaesthesia which confirmed the front part of his larynx was not opening and closing normally which can obstruct the flow of air down into the windpipe. In a dog of Wilbur’s age, this is usually associated with nerve degeneration affecting the muscles which open and close the voicebox. However, it can be associated with a number of other different conditions.  

In February 2023 Wilbur’s symptoms worsened with a reduction in his willingness to exercise, coughing, retching, gagging and increased snoring. Wilbur was re-assessed by Rachel who repeated a visual assessment of his larynx as well as chest x-rays. This again confirmed paralysis of his larynx.  She also used a camera to examine the back of his nasal cavity to rule out problems leading to the snoring.  This didn’t show anything.

The nerve issues which cause laryngeal paralysis are usually progressive over time and unfortunately the changes cannot be reversed. As the paralysis progresses, there can be increased issues with moving air through the larynx and down into the windpipe as the opening for air to flow becomes smaller. This can be managed with surgery; however, surgery is reserved for patients where the paralysis is causing more significant breathing issues which at the time of writing, was not the case for Wilbur.

Lucy said “We are managing his condition by keeping his weight down, being mindful of exercise and heat, and not having anything around his neck – so only walking on a harness. He is likely to eventually need surgery as this is a progressive condition, but we hope to postpone that for as long as possible, meanwhile he is enjoying the most pampered, happy life on the farm with us!”