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Doc Evan
Doc Evan, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 1066
Experience:  Vet since 1985. Board-Certified in Vet Cancer Medicine. Private and University Practice
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Our 10 year old Saint Bernard has had problems breathing when

Customer Question

Our 10 year old Saint Bernard has had problems breathing when he gets excited. It can be "triggered" when he is going for a ride, he starts to play or run etc.

This weekend, being a holiday, has us out of town with our dog and he has had a rough night Friday and a good part of Saturday.

He spent so much time gasping for air and when he clears his throat, like he is going to throw up, a white foam is expelled and then he seems better. We have found giving him ice seems to help as he does not want water when this initially starts. He gasp for air until we get him to lay down and rest.

This has happened in the past to a lessor degree and our vet has checked him when the events are ongoing. The vet says his heart is strong and his lungs don't seem to be the problem. He is working with us and thinks it may be an issue with his throat.

We keep him indoors and in the cool except when it's under 80 degrees outside and he is healthy for his age. Just feel so helpless when he is gasp and know it confuses him.

ANY IDEAS at all. We are keeping him from exerting himself. He is eating well and resting now that he has had time to recover. He gets so worked up when we are going out of town with him, however he is calm on the way home so hope he does well later this week.
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Evan replied 7 years ago.
This could be a problem with the larynx (the door way to the windpipe) that is in the throat area. Dogs can get a problem called laryngeal paralysis or laryngeal collapse. This may not show any signs until he becomes active or excited. At this stage, your dog should be examined for upper airway problems. This will include xrays of the throat area and also an exam may need to be done under light anesthesia and the vet can then examine the airways to see if they are working properly. If there is a problem here, then surgery may be eventually needed to help correct the problem.
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Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I know this is an issue with very small dogs, IF this is the issue is surgery a viable option for a dog this age? Is there a procedure that commonly corrects this issue?

Expert:  Doc Evan replied 7 years ago.
In small dogs, they commonly get more of what we call tracheal collapse; the windpipe itself gets pinched off. In big breed dogs, laryngeal paralysis or laryngeal collapse is more common, so it is a bit different from the small breed dogs. For the paralysis, one of the cartilages in the larynx is tied back to open it up; it is highly succesful procedure and is usully done in elderly dogs as this is when we often see this problem. The laryngeal collapse is more of a problem, depending how bad it is,we may need to actually create a permanent tracheostomy. This is a whole in the neck that opens right up to the windpipe. They do very well with these, but your dog does not sound like they are anywhere near that bad off.
Doc Evan