What You Should Know About Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

Is your dog in danger of suffering from a collapsed trachea?

Tracheal collapse is a condition which makes your dog produce sounds like he’s trying to hack up a hairball. Dogs who suffer from tracheal collapse let out a honking cough that can scare and confuse you. It can be mistaken for a reverse sneeze, but unlike a sneeze, this condition won’t go away on its own. Tracheal Collapse results when a dog’s airway is obstructed, and there are many things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Here’s what you should know, and what your options are.

What is Tracheal Collapse in Dogs?

Made up of hard rings of cartilage, the trachea (windpipe) carries air from the nose and throat to small airways (bronchi) that go to the lungs. When the rings of cartilage collapse, it causes an airway obstruction—this is what’s referred to as a collapsed trachea. Because air only has a narrow passage to squeeze through, the result is a honking cough.

What Causes Collapsed Trachea?

We still don’t know why this happens, but researchers believe that weak cartilage of the tracheal rings is to blame. Dogs are usually born with this condition (known as a congenital abnormality); however, tracheal collapse can also be the result of a chronic respiratory disease, Cushing’s Disease, and heart disease.

Breeds Affected by Tracheal Collapse

Toy breeds are most susceptible to tracheal collapse, and it occurs in both males and females equally. These breeds include Pugs, Shih Tzus, Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians, and Maltese. Although the onset of tracheal collapse can occur at any age, signs and symptoms frequently appear around the age of six or seven.

Symptoms of Tracheal Collapse

  • These are the common symptoms of a collapsed trachea, which can be exacerbated by weight, excitement, heat, and exercise.
  • Honking cough
  • Rapid breathing and abnormal breathing sounds
  • Labored breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Retching
  • Bluish tinge to the gums

Treatment of Tracheal Collapse

Depending on the severity of your dog’s tracheal collapse, there are a few courses of treatment that your veterinarian will be able to go over with you. For mild to moderate cases, your vet will most likely prescribe a treatment of cough suppressants, bronchodilators, antispasmodics, corticosteroid, sedatives, or antibiotics. If obesity is suspected to be the cause of tracheal collapse, weight loss (exercise and change of diet) will be the first course of action to take.

To help ease your dog’s symptoms at home, you should use air filters and purifiers to help get rid of environmental pollutants. Are you a smoker? Now’s the time to quit—smoking will only add to the problem, and your dog needs all the help he can get. And while walking your dog, use a harness instead of a collar, as they tend to constrict the airway when you apply pressure.

Severe cases of tracheal collapse may require surgical intervention. There are various options, but the most common involves attaching prosthetic polypropylene rings to the outside of the trachea. It is a complicated surgery, but the overall success rates are high and encouraging.

If you think that your dog suffers from a collapsed trachea, please see your veterinarian immediately. You should never treat your dog with medications without talking to your vet first.

Meet the Author: Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.

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