Collapsed Trachea in Dogs
What Is a Collapsed Trachea?
As a dog trainer, I am well aware of collapsed tracheas, and I know I can play a role in helping dog owners prevent them by recommending the right training tools. But what exactly is a collapsed trachea and why do the wrong training tools play such an important role in its development? Obviously, this article is not meant to replace the advice of a veterinarian—if your dog has symptoms of tracheal collapse, please consult with your veterinarian.
What Is the Trachea?
The trachea is basically the dog's windpipe—a rigid tube made of muscles and cartilage rings meant to connect the dog's mouth to the lungs. It is located in the dog's throat but also extends to the dog's chest. Its main function is to transport air to the lungs and protect the airway. As much as the dog's trachea is fairly rigid, it may, however, weaken over time, causing it to collapse.
What Are the Symptoms?
When the trachea collapses, air has difficulty passing through, which causes the typical honking cough to take place. This honking cough should not be confused with bordetella, also known as kennel cough.
The collapsed trachea cough is often triggered by excitement, exercise, eating and drinking, and irritants. Second-hand smoking has proven harmful to dogs in many ways, and it may aggravate coughing in dogs affected by collapsed trachea.
This condition, however, may cause more than just coughing. Trouble breathing, panting, exercise intolerance, bluish gums are all worrisome signs that may also develop.
Causes of a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs
The most common candidate for this condition is the breed type (toy breeds). Poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and Pomeranians are breeds commonly affected. The predisposition for tracheal collapse appears to be hereditary. Other potential predisposing/aggravating factors may be the following:
- The use of an endotracheal tube during anesthesia
- Exposure to irritants
- Respiratory infections
- An enlarged heart that presses against the trachea
- Being a middle-aged dog (6-7 years old, but may affect dogs of any age)
- The use of collars
How Is It Treated?
Once x-rays confirm tracheal collapse, dogs are treated with the use of medications such as cough suppressants, airway dilators, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and antibiotics. Obese dogs may need to be put on a weight-loss program.
The use of a harness versus a collar may help considerably. While medications will not completely cure a dog of this condition, according to Veterinary Partner 71% of dogs responded to medication treatment and medical management with a good long-term response, while 16% required surgery. Surgery encompasses the use of a rigid prosthesis which is bonded around the collapsed trachea as to effectively create a non-collapsible tube.
While a collapsed trachea is a chronic and potentially progressive condition, it rarely causes a significant reduction in quality of life. It helps to try to keep the dog calm. A good product to calm dogs down is an anti-anxiety mixture known as Composure Liquid from Vetri Science or Rescue Remedy"
Dog Coughing From a Collapsed Trachea
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli