GOLPP, or geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy, is a neurological condition that affects older dogs. A dog will start to have difficulty breathing and progressive weakness starting in the hind legs, then progressing to the front legs.

Dog with GOLPP

Geriatric Onset – occurs in older dogs, usually between the ages of 8 and 13.

Laryngeal Paralysis – the nerves of the larynx stop working. The larynx cartilages protect the lungs by closing when the dog is eating or drinking and opening for breathing. With laryngeal paralysis, the larynx cartilages become floppy and don’t open and shut properly making it difficult for a dog to breath and increases the risk of food or drink entering the lungs.

Polyneuropathy – loss of function of the peripheral nerves (not the spinal cord) that control the limb muscles. Owners will notice the hind legs affected first – weakness, stumbling, dragging toes. It is not painful.

GOLPP used to be called laryngeal paralysis, but as veterinary research has shown, many of these dogs are older and also have peripheral neuropathy as well. Breeds commonly affected by GOLPP are usually medium to large in size with Labrador Retrievers being the most commonly affected. Other breeds affected include Newfoundlands, Borzois, Golden Retrievers, Greyhounds, German Shepherd Dogs and Brittany Spaniels.

What are the signs and symptoms of a GOLPP?
  • Loud breathing, which can sometimes sound like roaring. Worse when the dog is panting.
  • Throat clearing (like when you have a tickle in your throat)
  • Coughing
  • Distressed breathing when hot, excited or stressed
  • Change in bark
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Back leg weakness and unsteady gait
  • Muscle loss
Dog with potential GOLPP
I think my dog has GOLPP/Laryngeal Paralysis…now what?

GOLPP/Laryngeal Paralysis should be diagnosed by a veterinarian. It may require a trip to a specialty vet so that the throat can be examined internally. Other things your primary vet may do include an airway exam, bloodwork, x-rays of the neck and chest and a neurological exam.

What are the treatment options for GOLPP?

Like many conditions, there are surgical and non-surgical options. Surgery for laryngeal paralysis involves opening up the larynx by “tying back” the cartilage on one side to allow for air flow. This immediately helps the dog breath easier. However, because the airway is now always open, the risk of aspiration pneumonia is increased. Signs of aspiration pneumonia include fever, inapethy (lack of appetite) and lethargy. This is a medical emergency and vet care should be sought immediately. The surgery, however, does not address the progressive polyneuropathy.

Whether a dog has had surgery for GOLPP or not, rehabilitation can help. The focus is on strength training, balance and body awareness. Often part of the program is treating pain as many older dogs of arthritis as well.

What else can I do for my dog with GOLPP?

Other things to consider if your dog has GOLPP include:

  • Keeping your dog cool. Dogs with GOLPP have a harder time with cooling themselves and an increase in body temperature makes it more difficult to breath
  • Be careful if swimming. Dogs can breath water into their lungs causing aspiration. If you take your dog swimming, consider an inflatable neck collar to keep their mouth out of the water
  • Feed soft foods in larger bites to limit the risk of food going into the lungs
  • Speak with your vet about what other medications might help your dog (e.g. anti-inflammatories, medications to help acid reflux)
  • Adapting your home to make it easier for your dog (we created a FREE guide you can find here)

Shauna did a Facebook Live interview with Stella Barnett of Paws in Motion Canine Rehabilitation in her Facebook group Our Healthy Senior Dogs. You can join the group here.

Sadie is a 14 year old black lab who had tie-back surgery in early 2021. She was having a lot of trouble breathing and her owner is so pleased with the outcome of surgery. Pawsitively Fit has been working with Sadie on hind end strength, balance and pain control for her arthritis. We are doing this through manual therapy, exercise and laser acupuncture.

Resources:

  1. Michigan State University – College of Veterinary Medicine https://cvm.msu.edu/scs/research-initiatives/golpp/living-with-golpp
  2. Laryngeal Paralysis (LP) GOLPP Support Group (Dogs) https://www.facebook.com/groups/813747918695610/