When Brenda Cutting was teaching her dog Scottie to lie down and ‘take a nap’, she had no idea how beneficial it would be to his future health, she was just training him to dazzle an audience.
Scottie is a twelve-year-old border collie with a whole slew of doggie titles under his collar. He is a Canine Music Freestyle Champion, a Heelwork Music Champion, and has received 2nd and 3rd place awards at the national Agility Dog Championships. Scottie came to Cutting as a youngster from Border Collie Rescue and the pair have spent thousands of hours together in training and performances.
Last year, Cutting noticed Scottie was breathing heavily during practice and his bark sounded funny. She took him to Ash Creek Animal Hospital where Dr. Bob Archer diagnosed laryngeal paralysis (larpar).
Larpar is a condition where muscles that control the larynx cease to function. It is fairly common in older, large-breed dogs, especially retrievers. Because dogs with larpar can’t breathe effectively, it deprives them of oxygen in their blood and impacts their quality of life. In some situations it can even be life-threatening. “They can get into a crisis situation, especially with heat or excitement” says OSU veterinary surgeon, Milan Milovancev. “A lot of people don’t pick up on the fact that their dog has larpar, they just notice a bark change or raspy sound in their breathing and think their dog is getting older and slowing down. They don’t realize their dog is suffocating.”
The good news is that veterinary surgeons can perform a procedure called ‘tie-back surgery’ through a small incision. “The incision is about an inch wide and the amount of tissue trauma is minimal,” says Milovancev. “For vets who do the procedure a lot, like we do here, it’s a pretty quick procedure.” Historically, eighty percent of dogs undergoing tie-back surgery recover quickly. But of the remaining twenty percent, the most serious complication is aspiration pneumonia. Just like people, dogs under anesthesia will experience some stomach reflux; in dogs with larpar, reflux can enter their lungs and cause pneumonia.
Currently the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital is enrolling dogs in a clinical study to evaluate a drug that may reduce the risk of pneumonia in dogs who receive tie-back surgery. ”We designed this study to determine if it is worth giving this drug to dogs or not,” says Milovancev. “It’s a very safe drug, it’s fairly inexpensive, and its readily available to us so it’s a good candidate for a clinical trial.”
All dogs enrolled in the trial get the same surgical procedure and the best care possible. Just like in human clinical trials, some dogs will receive the drug while others receive a placebo. The biggest benefit for the dog’s owner is a twenty percent discount on the surgery fee. They also get twenty-five percent off laboratory fees for blood work. “And they are helping us figure out how better to treat this condition in the future,” says Milovancev. “When the trial is finished we’ll know whether we should be using this drug or whether to focus on a different drug that may help.”
With about 50 dogs enrolled so far and an end goal of 500, investigators are actively recruiting dogs with larpar to participate in the clinical trials. If you suspect your dog may have larpar, check with your local veterinarian and ask them about getting your dog enrolled in the clinical trial at OSU.
Scottie received tie-back surgery at the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital last winter. The doctors and technicians remember him for his impressive ability to lie still for x-rays without sedation. “This is the first time I have seen a dog specifically trained by his owner to remain unmoving, in the position we placed him, for the explicit purpose of obtaining radiographs,” says Milovancev. Scottie had three x-rays for his larpar surgery and every x-ray was successful on the first attempt, a tribute to Cutting’s training skills and Scottie’s winning personality. “It was great to not have to give him drugs,” says Cutting.
Scottie’s larpar surgery was a success and he’s doing great. “I set up crates around my doggie daycare gym,” says Cutting, “and Scottie is back to running a half mile or more on most days.” The talented pair are back on the showbiz circuit competing for new titles to add to their collection.
If you have questions about tie-back surgery or Larpar clinical trials, call the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 541-737-4812 or email Dr. Milovancev at email@example.com.