Canine Surgery for Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

Canine surgery is needed when a dog’s trachea has collapsed. When a trachea collapses, the sensation can surprise a dog and make the condition worse.

The Canine Trachea

The trachea is a dog’s windpipe. It’s a rigid tube that’s made up of cartilage rings that are held together by muscles that connect the nose, mouth and throat to the dog’s lungs. The rings are shaped like a semi-circle and the open end of the circle faces the dog’s back. When the rings in the trachea become weak, the semi-circle they form causes the tracheal membrane to become loose. The once-rigid tube balloons out as the dog breathes air into his lungs. When the dog breathes out, the trachea droops in its weakened state. The tracheal membrane then touches the lining of the tube and causes a tickle in the dog’s throat and makes him cough. This distress caused by the coughing causes the trachea to collapse upon inhalation and the following exhalation when the tube balloons.

Dogs that are more likely to have a tracheal collapse are those that are obese, have had an endotracheal tube placed during surgery, have developed an upper respiratory infection or kennel cough, or those that have an enlarged heart.

Canine Surgery for Tracheal Collapse

Surgery for a collapsed trachea is used if the collapse is severe or after other forms of treatment didn’t bring about the desired outcome. These treatments may have included medications or not being around second-hand smoke.

If this condition is treated with surgery, a stent that resembles a mesh sleeve is placed to reinforce the trachea. Prosthetic rings that look like the letter C can also be bonded to the trachea to form a tube that won’t collapse. The rings are rigid and veterinary surgeons are now using surgical techniques that involve a new technology in which stainless steel, self-expanding rings are being used. In a study, the new rings had a 96% success rate. Complications arose in the remaining 4% because the placement of stents caused some bleeding.

Surgery for tracheal collapse in dogs is more successful if the collapse was in a part of the trachea that was external to the dog’s chest. In some cases, this procedure can clear the obstructions causing irritation, but won’t cure the condition.

Complications of Canine Surgery

Surgery comes with risks of complications. One such risk is paralysis of the dog’s larynx (voice box). The dog’s airway could swell and the tissues of the trachea could die. A dog could also develop pneumonia, and there is a risk for infection. Consult with your veterinarian before any surgical procedure to learn about post-surgical care for your dog, or to learn about other treatment options that may be available.

Canine surgery for tracheal collapse in dogs is a specialized procedure that should only be performed by a trained veterinary surgeon. The best prognosis of this condition comes when early treatment is sought. Treatments that involve surgery help a dog breath with more ease, have a more active lifestyle, cough less and require less medical treatment.