Diagnosing a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs

A collapsed trachea will not necessarily prevent your dog from functioning as usual, but it will limit his or her quality of life and their ability to perform tasks that require deeper breathing. Therefore, it is important to know if your dog is suffering from a collapsed trachea and what you can do about it.

What Is a Collapsed Trachea

A trachea is the tube that connects the larynx to the lungs; it acts as a sort of cooling system (when a dog pants), and to exchange carbon dioxide with fresh oxygen. It is supported by cartilage that helps to keep it open, so that more air can pass into the lungs. Sometimes, this cartilage can become weakened, which means that the trachea is not being properly supported. Without the proper support, the trachea will collapse upon itself.

Causes of a Collapsed Trachea

It is not yet known what precisely causes the tough rings of cartilage to weaken and thus the trachea to collapse. What is known is that this is something that is most commonly found in smaller breeds such as Chihuahuas, Toy Poodles and Pomeranians over the age of five. Between 20% to 40% of toy breeds suffer from this condition, so it is wise to be prepared should you notice the symptoms in your dog.

Symptoms of a Collapsed Trachea

The most common symptom of a collapsed trachea is a dry, hard cough, most persistent and present during the day time hours. This is a result of your dog trying to clear his constricted airway.

Another symptom along the same line is excessive panting. If your dog appears to be constantly out of breath, it could be because he is unable to get enough air. This could also cause your dog to appear more tired and less willing to do normal activities, as it does not have the proper oxygen necessary to perform these things. In some cases, your dog might pass out from lack of air while engaging in strenuous activities he would otherwise not have difficulties with.

In more serious cases, a symptom can be gums and a tongue that has turned blue. This is a result of serious oxygen deprivation. Thankfully, only about 1% of fatalities occur from collapsed tracheas.

Collapsed Trachea Treatment

If your dog has a collapsed trachea, it can be treated with medicine or with surgery. Medicine will not fix the problem, but it does ease the symptoms and sometimes allows for the problem to fix itself. Medication can help to ease the symptoms and discomfort of your dog. Because the lack of oxygen adds significant stress to the heart and lungs, limited exercise is also recommended. Surgery is also an option. Such a procedure is costly and risky.

How to Prevent a Collapsed Trachea

Keep your dog's vaccinations up to date to avoid dangerous respiratory problems. Refrain from exposing your dog to smoke (such as from cigarettes), and do not use choke collars or anything restraining around the neck/throat when walking your dog; a harness around the chest is a much safer alternative. Obese dogs are also at higher risk; ensure you help your dog maintain a healthy weight.