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What are the signs and symptoms of a collapsing trachea in a dog?

May 08, 2023

Duncan Houston

A collapsing trachea is a condition in which the tracheal rings (cartilage) that support the windpipe become weakened, causing the trachea to narrow or collapse during breathing. This condition is more common in small breed dogs such as Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire Terriers.

Signs and symptoms of a collapsing trachea in a dog may include:

1. A harsh, dry cough that can sound like a honking goose, often exacerbated by excitement, exercise, or pressure on the trachea (e.g., when the dog is wearing a collar)
2. Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, particularly during exercise or warm weather
3. Wheezing or noisy breathing
4. Gagging or retching, particularly after coughing
5. Exercise intolerance or fatigue
6. Bluish or pale gum color, which can indicate a lack of oxygen (cyanosis)
7. Syncope (fainting)

If you suspect your dog has a collapsing trachea, consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination and diagnosis. Your vet may use various diagnostic tools such as radiographs (X-rays), fluoroscopy, or tracheoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for a collapsing trachea can be conservative (non-surgical) or surgical, depending on the severity of the condition:

1. Conservative treatment: This may include weight management, cough suppressants, bronchodilators (to open up the airways), and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation in the trachea. Using a harness instead of a collar can help reduce pressure on the trachea and alleviate symptoms. In some cases, your vet may also recommend a nebulizer with saline or medications to help keep the airways clear.

2. Surgical treatment: In more severe cases or when conservative treatment is not effective, surgery may be recommended to provide additional support to the collapsing trachea. There are various surgical techniques, such as placement of prosthetic rings or stents. The choice of surgical approach will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the experience of the surgeon.

It is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your dog based on their specific condition and needs.