How to comfort a dog with collapsed trachea

Coughing is commonly caused by a collapsing trachea in tiny and toy breed dogs, particularly the Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodle, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, and Shih Tzu varieties. When dogs are diagnosed, they are usually in their middle to late twenties to thirties, although it can happen at any age. Continue reading to find out more about this ailment and how you can assist your dog!

What is the trachea?

The trachea, sometimes known as the “windpipe,” is the tube that transports air from the mouth and nose to the lungs, where it divides into smaller tubes that enter the lungs.

The trachea is made up of cartilage rings in the form of a C. The dorsal tracheal membrane is the upper section of the trachea that lacks the cartilage ring. This tube should normally stay firm and open throughout inspiration and expiration.

What is a collapsing trachea?

Tracheal collapse can affect either the section of the trachea in the neck or the portion in the chest, or both. The tracheal region in the neck is more likely to collapse during inspiration. The tracheal part in the chest is more likely to collapse during exhale.

This collapse results in a “goose honk” sounding cough, which may be followed by hacking or the production of white foam, which can be mistaken for vomiting. Because your dog may not have an episode during their session, try to obtain a few recordings of what your dog is doing to show the vet.

The pressure in the airway fluctuates during normal breathing. This pressure change causes the upper half of the trachea to collapse down, limiting the airway in dogs with a collapsing trachea.

In dogs, there are four categories of tracheal collapse: Grade 1 is a 25% reduction in tracheal lumen size, Grade 2 is a 50% reduction, Grade 3 is a 75% reduction, and Grade 4 is the most severe, with the top of the trachea practically sitting on the bottom half, blocking the airway.

Clinical Symptoms of Tracheal Collapse

Depending on the severity of the collapse, symptoms may differ. Among the symptoms are:

Cough with a goose honk sound that is frequently induced by excitement, eating or drinking, barking aggressively, or pulling on the leash. Allergies and inhalation irritants such as smoke can also cause tracheal collapse cough.

  1. Intolerance to exercise
  2. Collapse
  3. Rapid pace of breathing
  4. Syncope (fainting)

Obesity, heart disease, dental disease, brachycephalic airway syndrome, and laryngeal paralysis are all prevalent concomitant conditions in dogs suffering from tracheal collapse. Many dogs also have some form of liver illness or malfunction, and the link between liver problems and tracheal collapse is unknown.

How can my vet diagnose a collapsing trachea?

Your dog will be subjected to a complete physical examination by your veterinarian. Try to obtain a few videos of your dog coughing at home to show the doctor if you can.

The next step is likely to be radiographs (x-rays) of the chest and neck. This might be challenging since your dog must cough at the same time as the radiograph is being taken. Normal radiographs do not rule out tracheal collapse as a possible cause of coughing.

Fluoroscopy may necessitate a referral to a specialized practice. Consider this to be real-time radiography, resulting in a moving picture. This allows the veterinarian to examine exactly what the trachea is doing for a minute or more. Fluoroscopy is more accurate than a static picture, such as a radiograph, which only captures a single second of movement.

Bronchoscopy is thought to be the best test for identifying tracheal collapse, however it does need general anesthesia. This technique entails inserting a camera into the trachea to see the collapse and collect samples for infection testing. This is frequently a test performed in a specialized practice.

A collapsed trachea has been identified in my dog. What are our options now?

In dogs with Grade 1 or 2 tracheal collapse, medical management is typically the first step in therapy. Smoking and other irritants to the lungs should be avoided.

If your dog or cat is overweight, work with them to reach their ideal weight. Before beginning any diet or fitness program, ask your veterinarian. Instead of a collar, walk your dog on a harness to avoid tracheal constriction. Finally, your veterinarian may prescribe steroids, bronchodilators, or cough suppressants to treat your cough.

Read also: How to comfort a dog with congestive heart failure

Can a Dog Live With a Collapsed Trachea for a Long Time?

The life expectancy of dogs with collapsed tracheas is unknown. “It varies a lot depending on the severity of the trachea collapse, the disposition of the pet, and how it progresses over time. A tracheal stent, on the other hand, keeps the airway open and prevents respiratory arrest, perhaps extending the pet’s life.”


Tracheal collapse is a treatable disease. Most dogs may have a very normal life after being diagnosed, which means you and your four-legged pal will have plenty of wonderful times ahead of you.

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