Tracheal Collapse in dogs

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Collapsing Trachea

LAST UPDATED 17 January 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Samantha Wycherley BVSC

Has your dog developed a cough? Did your vet mention a collapsing trachea and you're looking to learn a little more? Or perhaps you have a breed predisposed to a collapsing trachea? The most common questions have been answered below.

What Is Tracheal Collapse In Dogs?
What Are The Signs Or Symptoms?
What Breeds Is Tracheal Collapse Most Common In?
How Is A Collapsing Trachea Diagnosed?
How Is Collapsing Trachea Treated?

What is tracheal collapse?

Tracheal collapse is a disease of the trachea (windpipe). The trachea is made up of small rings of cartilage that help to hold it open when an animal is breathing.

In some dogs the cartilage will become weak and over time this can cause the trachea to collapse.

What are the symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs?

The most common sign which owners report is a cough that sounds a little like a goose honking.

Often this cough will be elicited when a dog is pulling on their collar or when they are excited.

More serious symptoms that can be seen include fainting or difficulty breathing.

What breeds is tracheal collapse most common in?

Collapsing trachea is mainly seen in small breed dogs. The breeds that are the most commonly affected are yorkshire terriers, pomeranians, chihuahuas and poodles.

Dogs are typically middle aged or older when they start showing signs.

How is a collapsing trachea diagnosed?

Many dogs that present with coughing will have chest x rays recommended.

Chest xrays are very useful for ruling out other causes of coughing however its important to note that tracheal collapse is not always able to be diagnosed on chest xrays. As tracheal collapse is a dynamic disease (the airway narrows at certain times) the xray has to catch the exact moment the narrowing is visible.

Fluroscopy is another diagnostic imaging tool - this is a moving xray. This type of imaging is usually offered in referral practices.

Endoscopy is a great way to diagnose a collapsing trachea and often this can be done in general practice. A camera is used to view the inside of the trachea. This needs to be done under a general anaesthetic.

How is tracheal collapse treated?

Unfortunately, a collapsing trachea is an irreversible condition, however most cases of collapsing trachea are able to be managed medically.

Medical management often includes medications to help suppress coughing and to reduce inflammation in the airway.

It has been found that dogs that are overweight tend to have more severe symptoms therefore maintaining a healthy weight is imperative for dogs diagnosed with tracheal collapse.

Some weight management dog foods for small breeds are listed below.

For more severe cases there are surgical options available. Surgery involves placing a stent in the trachea to keep it held open - this surgery is performed by a specialist vet surgeon and does have risks involved.

Weight Loss Diets for Small Breed Dogs

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Kennel Cough in Dogs

Tips to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Obesity in Pets - The Facts

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