Collapsed trachea is a condition that causes a dog’s windpipe, or trachea to collapse. This condition is usually caused by their cartilage rings in their throat weakening. These cartilage rings normally help keep their trachea open. This weakening can be due to genetics, obesity or other medical conditions such as heart disease or respiratory infections. Signs of collapsed trachea include a dry, “honking” cough, breathing difficulty, and exercise intolerance. If you think your dog has a collapsed trachea, contact your veterinarian to have your dog evaluated and treated.
Symptoms of Canine Collapsed Trachea
The most common symptom of collapsed trachea is a dry, honking cough. This type of cough is typically worse after exercise or excitement and can be heard from a distance. Other signs include:
- Difficulty breathing especially during exercise
- Intolerance to physical activity
Diagnosing Canine Collapsed Trachea
Diagnosing collapsed trachea is based on a review of their medical history, physical examination and radiographic evaluation. During the physical examination, your veterinarian will evaluate your dog for signs of respiratory distress such as rapid breathing or difficulty breathing, a dry honking cough, and exercise intolerance.
They can also listen to their lungs or trachea with a stethoscope for any abnormal sounds. Radiographs might be taken to look for a collapsed trachea, as well as to look for any other abnormalities in their chest. In some cases, more advanced imaging such as CT scans or MRI will be necessary.
Stages of Canine Collapsed Trachea
The canine collapsed trachea is split into four stages.
Mild Tracheal Collapse:
In this stage, the tracheal walls are weakened but still remain open during breathing. Symptoms will be intermittent and mild.
Moderate Tracheal Collapse:
In this stage, the tracheal walls have been weakened further and collapse more often. Symptoms tend to be more frequent and severe.
Severe Tracheal Collapse:
In this stage, the tracheal walls are severely weakened and collapse frequently. Symptoms tend to be very severe with difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, and coughing.
Complete Tracheal Collapse:
This is the most serious stage of canine collapsed trachea.
Treating Canine Collapsed Trachea
Treating collapsed trachea depends on the stage and severity of the condition. Treatment typically includes lifestyle changes, medication to help reduce inflammation and coughing, and in some cases surgery can be recommended. Lifestyle changes can include maintaining a healthy weight, using a harness instead of a collar when walking your dog, avoiding overexertion during exercise, and managing any underlying conditions such as heart disease or respiratory infections.
Medication can include bronchodilators, corticosteroids and antibiotics. Surgery is typically reserved for the most severe cases of collapsed trachea that don’t respond to other medical management. The goal of surgery is to reduce their tracheal diameter and improve their air flow.
Collapsed trachea is a serious condition that can cause significant distress for your dog. It’s important to contact your veterinarian if you think that your dog has this condition so that it can be properly diagnosed and treated.
Preventing Canine Collapsed Trachea
The best way to prevent collapsed trachea is to maintain a healthy weight for your dog. Obesity increases their risk of developing this condition, and it’s important to feed them a well-balanced diet and give them plenty of exercise. It’s important to keep up with regular veterinary check ups to detect any symptoms of collapsed trachea early on and begin treatment as soon as possible.