Collapsed Trachea in Dogs

Updated on August 15, 2019
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Small Dogs Are Predisposed to Collapsed Tracheas
Small Dogs Are Predisposed to Collapsed Tracheas | Source

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.

X-Ray of Collapsed Trachea in Yorkshire Terrier: The white arrows indicate the normal-sized  trachea, whereas, black arrows mark the collapsed trachea.
X-Ray of Collapsed Trachea in Yorkshire Terrier: The white arrows indicate the normal-sized trachea, whereas, black arrows mark the collapsed trachea. | Source

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:

  • Obesity
  • 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 Janet Farricelli

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    • profile image

      Lou martinez 

      7 months ago

      I have a 13 year-old multipoo who was recently diagnosed with collapsed trachea. She would cough at night and I was prescribed some pills. I didn’t want to medicate her and I had read that menthol rub would help. I rubbed a small amount right below her neck and she slept so well! No coughing-she slept through the night for the first time in months. I’ve continued this every night and she is doing great. I am so thankful that I found this simple yet effective treatment for my fur baby. She goes on daily walks and I do use a harness collar. She has an occasional cough but no longer that hacking cough that caused her so much discomfort.

    • profile image

      Sherri 

      14 months ago

      I bought a new rubber toy brought it home my dog has been coughing and gagging and throwing up since he was laying there licking on it for a good 45 minutes

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your comments. I hope they find a treatment for her so to make her more comfortable, best wishes!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I was glad to read this information because my 14-year-old Maltese "grand-doggy" has an enlarged heart that is now pressing somewhat on her trachea. In fact, she has a lot of health problems for which she's on many medications, and my daughter is very worried about her--dreading what may happen. It's good to know there are some treatments.

      Thanks for an excellent informational hub.

      Jaye

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is a very useful and interesting hub.

      our sweet dogs are like humans they can have problems too.

      thanks for writing this

      voted up

      Debbie

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