DEAR DR. FOX: A year or so ago, Marco, our 11-year-old standard poodle, began to pant a lot while walking and during other nonstressful circumstances. Sometimes he'd gag as well.
This condition, especially the panting, has gotten worse over time, and our veterinarian concluded it is due to paralysis of the larynx, or "dropped larynx," which he said sometimes occurs in large, older dogs. He told us to raise Marco's food and water dishes and take care that he doesn't get overheated, but that the condition is progressive. There's not much we can do about it except for having a "tie-back" surgery performed by an experienced, board-certified surgeon.
For about a month now we have tried working with another vet who does acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic with the hope of slowing this down, if not stopping its progress, to no avail -- it seems to be getting worse. So we are contemplating the surgery.
We would be grateful for any suggestions or comments you might have regarding this condition and how it might be treated. We'd never heard of it before and cannot find much research about it when searching the Internet. Marco is healthy otherwise. -- J.S., Ashland, Ore.
DEAR J.S.: This disorder is serious and is often accompanied by hypothyroidism in older dogs. It can have a genetic basis and occurs as a congenital disorder in some breeds, such as the Siberian husky, and as a degenerative neurological disorder in dalmatians and rottweilers.
Elevating food and water bowls is very important to help prevent inhalation of food and fluids when the larynx does not function properly and the poor dog is gasping for air, which can lead to pneumonia.
Surgical correction through suturing one side of the larynx so that some of the collapsed cartilages are pulled to one side in order to make breathing easier is the best approach. No surgical procedure is without risk, and complications can occur, but performed by an experienced surgeon, your dog could have a new lease on life. Otherwise, he might suffer partial asphyxia, which this condition causes, to the point of collapse after even mild activity. The suture-widened larynx will make breathing easier, but the risk of pneumonia will remain.
DEAR DR. FOX: I acknowledge you've written about the risks of toxic plants, but I don't remember seeing anything discussing moss. Not the shade-loving, dense form, but the kind that looks a bit like slimy snot when lifted from wet rocks or perpetually wet areas.
For several years, our backyard has had a problem from runoff coming from a neighbor's pool. To their credit, they've tried to repair the pool and berm landscape; however, the water seems to have no boundaries, and the problem has gotten worse.
My concern here is that our dog -- our third in just a few years -- is suffering identical problems that our first two went through. He's constantly licking his paws and legs to a point of hot spots, and he has foamy hacking and frequent bowel movements. How do you test for toxic organisms in moss? My vet has only been able to treat the symptoms.
Our first dog lived for two years after we moved here. Our second dog only lived to be 4 years old. Our third is 6 years old now. When he was 3, he started developing focal seizures that seem to come about only in the rainy season and summer months. This dog has had greater exposure to the slime.
We've attempted to fix the problem with landscape solutions, but the water continues to surface, killing the grass and taking over the swath of ground our dog runs on. I'm perplexed as to a solution, short of building a bridge.
Is the moss what's making our pets' health compromised? Please let me know what you make of this. -- C.B., Clayton, Mo.
DEAR C.B.: Some pool chemicals, especially chlorine compounds, could cause serious dermatitis and possibly seizures. But the "moss" that you describe is most probably a species of algae that can be toxic to dogs -- it causes liver damage, nausea, vomiting and seizures. That is why I advise people to never allow their dogs to drink from standing water in the summer months when algae bloom. Blue-green algae are especially hazardous.
You need to get to the bottom of this health hazard with your neighbor. Where there's standing water with slimy, potentially toxic algae, there can also be botulism bacteria, producing one of the most deadly poisons to humans and other animals. Our communities would be generally healthier without swimming pools, lawns and golf courses, and with more attention to creating more environmentally friendly, chemical-free environments.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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