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Collapsing Trachea in Dogs

Collapsing trachea affects small breed dogs.

Collapsing trachea is a fairly common condition in toy and small breed dogs. It can result in coughing, difficulty breathing, susceptibility to upper respiratory infections, and sometimes it can be an emergency situation.

What Is the Trachea?

The trachea is also known as the windpipe. It is a tube made of muscle cartilage that extends from the nose, throat, and mouth to the lungs. It should be a rigid tube that maintains its shape and allows free flow of air to and from the lungs.

What Is Collapsing Trachea?

Collapsing trachea is a condition in which the cartilage that forms its rings becomes weak. The result of this is that the cartilage can't hold the thin muscle, known as the tracheal membrane, up as well, and it collapses onto itself either when air is breathed in or out.

Collapsing trachea triggers a cough. If it is severe, it can impede breathing.

Signs of Collapsing Trachea in Dogs

Dogs with collapsing trachea usually have a cough that is worse during excitement or exercise. The cough can cause distress, which results in faster breathing and even more tracheal collapse and coughing.

Collapsing trachea almost always occurs in small or toy breed dogs, including Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers, and Pomeranians.

Obesity usually exacerbates collapsing trachea.

Dogs with collapsing trachea may be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses like kennel cough because they are less able to clear pathogens from their airways than normal dogs.

Diagnosis of Canine Collapsing Trachea

Your veterinarian will take a complete history from you and thoroughly examine your dog. X-rays may also be taken. Collapsing trachea can be visualized on an x-ray if the conditions are right, and the picture is snapped at just the right time during respiration.

Treatment of Collapsing Trachea in Dogs

Dogs with collapsing trachea may not need treatment if their signs are mild. Some dogs may do well on medications such as airway dilators, steroids, and cough suppressants. A weight loss program may be required; your veterinarian will advise you on the safest way to approach weight loss if your dog has collapsing trachea.

Surgery can be performed to help reinforce a collapsing trachea, but this is only done in severe cases and will probably require a referral to a specialty hospital.

When Is Collapsing Trachea an Emergency?

If your dog begins coughing and doesn't stop after a few moments, appears distressed, collapses, or develops a blue tinge to his gums or tongue, you should get him to the veterinarian immediately.

Try to speak as calmly as you can, and gently massage his throat in the meantime.

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