Treating laryngeal paralysis in dogs

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Open Access
Raised of $2,000 Goal
Ended on 12/20/14
Campaign Ended
  • $20
  • 1%
  • Finished
    on 12/20/14

About This Project

We are examining the effect of a drug called doxepin in Labradors with laryngeal paralysis - a condition that paralyzes their vocal chords, and prevents these dogs from breathing, and often results in a need for surgery. Doxepin, a tri-cyclic anti-depressant, has been suggested to improve laryngeal function, thereby delaying surgery. We intend to compare the effect of doxepin in a clinical trial by comparing it to a placebo drug.

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What is the context of this research?

Laryngeal paralysis is a common condition that mostly afflicts older Labrador Retrievers. The paralysis of the vocal chords results in breathing difficulties, often leading to heat stroke in summer. Currently, the only treatment is a "tie-back" surgery, where the vocal chords are retracted permanently. However, this results in the dog not being able to close the airways when swallowing food or water. Consequently, they have a high risk of aspirating food or water when eating, and developing life-threatening pneumonia.

Doxepin has been anecdotally suggested to improve laryngeal function in these dogs sufficient to delay or remove the need for surgery. However, no studies have examined this effect in a rigorous scientific manner.

What is the significance of this project?

If doxepin is shown to be effective in a controlled clinical trial, its use in laryngeal paralysis could save clients thousands of dollars in surgery and emergency costs, and allow Labradors afflicted with this condition to breathe easier and lead happier lives.

What are the goals of the project?

We will recruit dogs with laryngeal paralysis and after diagnosis, we will provide the clients with a bottle of pills - either the active drug, or a placebo. This will be administered for 4 weeks. We will assess laryngeal movement after the 4 week period, as well as having clients assess any changes in breathing difficulty in their dogs using a series of questionnaires. Neither the client nor the primary clinicians will know what treatment the dog is receiving.


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The research team is covering the costs of the evaluations, re-check examinations, and placebo medication. The only thing we require funding for is the active drug - doxepin. Each dog will receive 60 capsules over the month. We need approximately 1800 capsules to provide sufficient medication for all the dogs in the "drug" part of the study.
Your contribution will help offset the cost of the medication so that we can complete the study.

Meet the Team

Mark Rishniw
Mark Rishniw

Team Bio

I am a clinical researcher and a veterinary cardiologist. I have been involved in numerous clinical veterinary studies, mostly dealing with heart disease in dogs and cats. However, cardiologists see a lot of dogs with respiratory distress, some of which turn out to be dogs with laryngeal paralysis. I have heard of doxepin being used to treat this condition from colleagues around the country, but want to examine more carefully if these stories are true. I have a Labrador and hope that if she ever develops laryngeal paralysis, this research will allow me to know exactly what drug to reach for (or not).

In my spare time, I like bicycling and restoring wooden boats.

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  • $20Total Donations
  • $20.00Average Donation
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