None of us like when our pets aren't feeling well, so it's important to have an understanding of the kinds of problems and illnesses that can occur for them, as well as how to address those issues! Illnesses and injuries aren't fun, but the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to get your pet the help they ne Collapsed trachea is the enemy of many miniature dogs and is an irreversible condition. Here are ways to prevent and natural ways to manage.
Collapsed Trachea In Dogs
None of us like when our pets aren’t feeling well, so it’s important to have an understanding of the kinds of problems and illnesses that can occur for them, as well as how to address those issues!
Illnesses and injuries aren’t fun, but the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to get your pet the help they need.
A tracheal collapse is an issue that can happen in any dog, but there are some smaller breeds that can be more susceptible. Let’s take a look into what this issue is, how it occurs and what you can do about it to help your canine companion feel better!
What Is A Tracheal collapse In Dogs?
A collapsed trachea is often the root of airway obstructions in dogs. It’s a condition that includes the progressive destruction of the trachea, typically leading to frequent coughing in dogs as well as problems with breathing.
In short, rings of cartilage make up the trachea. They typically exist in the shape of the letter “C”, where cartilage makes up most of the shape, while a smaller amount includes a thin tissue of membrane.
If either of the substances that make up the trachea loses strength, the entire system can begin to flatten. As you can imagine, breathing through a flattened windpipe can become quite difficult.
How Do Collapsed Tracheas Happen?
Most of the time, tracheal collapse in dogs is thought of as a genetic condition, as it is more likely to occur in certain breeds. However, it can also just be due to wear and tear on the windpipe building up until the area has weakened. Over time, this results in a collapse of the rings of cartilage in the trachea.
What Breeds Are More Susceptible?
There are some dogs that can be more likely to suffer from a collapsed trachea than others. Although any dog can experience this issue, a collapsed trachea in small dogs can be a problem that is more likely than with larger dogs.
Susceptible breeds for Tracheal collapse may include:
Because breeds like these are more likely to suffer from the issue, it can be thought that there is a genetic variable behind the problem. This is worth keeping in mind if you have one of these breeds, or are interested in adopting a dog that fits into any of them.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that this is a situaton that can happen in dogs of all ages, but those who are middle-aged or elderly are more prone to it. From about 5 years of age, dogs can become increasingly more likely to suffer from with issue.
Symptoms Of Tracheal Collapse In Dogs
The most obvious signs of collapsed trachea in dogs include coughing. If you notice that your dog suddenly experiencing a bout of coughing that is dry, or sounds like the honk of a goose, there’s a good chance your dog is suffering from a collapsed trachea.
You may also notice the cough getting worse in these situations:
- When your dog is excited
- In weather that is humid or hot
- When in the presence of smoke or dust
- At night
- When there is pressure on the neck
- Right after consuming water or food
In some cases, the intense cough can also be combined with gums that have a little bit of blue coloring. Furthermore, the dog may have a harder time with exercise, resulting in distress due to the inability to breathe enough. If the issues continue without treatment, it can also result in secondary heart disease. This is because of the wear and tear that can result from the dog struggling to breathe correctly. As a result, it’s a good idea to make sure that you get your dog checked out as soon as you notice a honking cough or any difficulty with breathing.
Diagnosing A Collapsed Trachea In Dogs
If you notice that your dog is having trouble breathing, or coughing in a way that sounds like a honk, make sure to get them to the vet as soon as possible. They will be able to conduct some tests and discover the source of the problem, allowing them to then find solutions for it.
The following are some tests your vet might conduct:
When the vet takes an x-ray of the area, a collapsing trachea will show up as a tracheal opening that has become more narrow. All this takes is a standard X-Ray, which can be taken rather quickly.
In some cases, the vet may only have to touch your dog’s neck to get an idea of the source of the problem. By putting a slight amount of pressure on their trachea, the vet can see if your dog begins to cough or have difficulty breathing. If they do, further tests will be done.
In this test, the vet uses a tiny camera to check out the airways in your dog’s throat. This can be a very accurate way to gather the information needed to make a tracheal collapse diagnosis. With an endoscopy, vets can also take biopsy samples for further analysis.
Unlike a standard x-ray, this is an x-ray that watches the dog’s trachea as they breathe. This can be a great way to figure out why they are having difficulty with breathing.
This test is one that your vet can use to check on your dog’s heart function. When they’ve been experiencing difficulty breathing for a while, it can start to affect the heart so it’s a good idea to check and make sure everything is in good condition, without secondary problems.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is extremely important when dealing with a collapsed trachea in a dog. There are a variety of other illnesses and conditions that can display some of the same symptoms, so the vet needs to be able to find the correct clinical signs and cause to address it thoroughly.
Treatment of Tracheal Collapse
Once your vet has determined that your dog is suffering from a collapsed trachea, they’ll get to work on deciding how to treat a tracheal collapse in your dog.
While you’re following the plan your vet creates, there are some rules that are key in aiding your pet in recovery.
One of these rules includes avoiding placing pressure on the windpipe. That means trading in any collars for harnesses, especially while you’re walking your dog. This is much safer and keeps the pressure away from their neck, allowing it to heal more efficiently.
In addition, it’s a good idea to consider the environment your dog is in. For the best possible healing, they need to avoid irritants as much as possible, like smoke and other substances that might irritate their windpipe or lungs. This irritation can result in further complications, making it harder for your pet to heal and give them a high quality of life.
If you have a dog that is overweight, it’s also worthwhile to consider a diet plan for your dog to gradually bring down their weight. The extra weight they are carrying can result in more pressure on the windpipe and other respiratory organs, which makes healing more difficult.
With all of these things in check, your dog will have an easier time in the recovery process. In addition to the above tips, your vet will guide you through the entire process for treatment for collapsed trachea in dogs, with specific regard for your dog’s case.
When your dog has just a mild case of tracheal collapse, often the treatment is based on trying to stop the coughing so that the trachea can heal properly without irritation. Coughing has a tendency to lead to more coughing, which just makes the overall situation worse.
Consequently, the vet may prescribe these kinds of medications:
On top of these, your vet may also prescribe some medications to help with keeping your dog calm, that way they can avoid irritation due to anxiety or excitement.
When the situation has become serious, your dog may need surgery for their tracheal collapse. In some cases, the vet may need to assist in supporting the trachea by inserting plastic rings into the area. This typically happens when the problem lies within the thoracic inlet.
If the problem is in the chest, then a stent inside may be required to keep the trachea open and allow for easier breathing. Often, the surgery needed for these kinds of issues can be rather serious, and may leave your dog with some serious complications.
If your dog is in need of surgery, it’s very important to make sure you find a highly capable surgeon to do the job. Before you have to actually experience the issue, you may also want to make yourself familiar with the dog collapsed trachea surgery cost.
Furthermore, dogs with tracheal collapse will also receive medication to help them with healing, which will be provided and explained by the vet.
Dog Tracheal Collapse Home Treatment
It’s also going to be likely that your pet will need some treatment at home. If the situation isn’t serious, then a holistic vet may provide you with information on some methods you can use to help your dog to heal in a more natural way.
This might include some additions to their diet that are made to strengthen their cartilage, such as:
Acupuncture can also be a method used for decreasing issues with coughing. Keep in mind that there can be many aspects to treating a collapsing trachea in dogs, so it will be up to your vet to determine what to do in each unique case.
While home methods may work in milder cases, severe cases of dogs with a collapsed trachea can’t benefit from home treatment alone, so make sure they see a vet for complete treatment.
CBD For Dogs
If you’ve yet to hear about the benefits that CBD can provide for dogs, then now is your time to find out! CBD is a wonderful, anti-inflammatory product that is helpful to just about any dog, whether they’re suffering from an illness or not.
CBD is geared towards reducing inflammation all around the body, which means that pain is decreased and the symptoms of conditions and illnesses are lessened. Furthermore, it offers a mild calming effect that can help anxious dogs to feel more at ease. For dogs that are already healthy, it’s able to help keep them feeling great!
CBD oil is great for those who want to have the most possible control over the dosage their pets get. Each container comes with a dropped that allows you to decide just how many drops to provide. This is especially great if you have smaller dogs or cats who only require very small doses. CBD oil for dogs also comes with a flavor that is pretty neutral, so if you have a pet that is extremely picky, this can be an easier option as you can easily mix it into their food. Due to the liquid form, it’s also easy to just place a couple of drops into the mouth of your pet.
Collapsed Trachea In Dogs: The Bottom Line
A collapsed trachea can be a worrisome condition, and none of us enjoy the suffering of our furry family members. Naturally, the ability to breathe is extremely important for all living beings, so it’s worthwhile to know how to handle this situation!
While it can be frustrating to know that it’s unlikely you’ll be able to prevent it or notice any symptoms prior to the actual collapse beginning to occur. However, there are a few ways in which you can help to keep the issue from becoming more serious!
Things like maintaining a home with as few irritants as possible, as well as being aware of what collapsed trachea symptoms look like. Once you notice these symptoms, getting your pet to the vet as quickly as possible can help to avoid a situation in which they may need surgery.
Armed with this knowledge, you can do everything possible to keep your pet happy and healthy!
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books and making salted caramel cookies.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. We Love You!
The Innovet Team
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How To Manage Collapsed Trachea In Dogs
A collapsed trachea is the enemy of many miniature dogs. Several small breeds are prone to this condition. If you have a small breed, here’s what you should know.
What Is Collapsed Trachea?
The trachea is your dog’s windpipe that carries air from your dog’s nose and mouth to his lungs. It’s made of cartilage that forms a tube. When those rings of cartilage get weak, heavy panting or breathing causes them to fold together (collapse). And that blocks the air from getting in. It can collapse at either end but it’s usually where the trachea enters the chest.
A bout of coughing can last several minutes until your dog calms and breathing returns to normal.
What Causes Collapsed Trachea?
This is usually a congenital condition. That means most dogs with weak cartilage in the trachea are born this way. But there are other risk factors that can lead to a collapse trachea:
- Cigarette smoke exposure
- Respiratory disease that becomes chronic
- Cushing’s disease
- Heart disease
Sadly, many dogs with tracheal collapse also suffer from other disorders … obesity, heart disease, liver enlargement, dental problems, an elongated soft palate, and conditions affecting the larynx. Some are from a lifetime of poor health and that makes this affliction even worse.
Which Dogs are Prone To Collapsed Trachea?
It usually affects small, toy and miniature dog breeds. They include:
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Toy Poodles
- Shih Tzus
- Lhasa Apsos
The condition usually appears at 6 to 8 years of age. The situation doesn’t improve, and symptoms grow worse over time.
Signs Of Collapsed Trachea In Dogs
The first sign that your dog has a collapsed trachea is a cough. Your dog will have bouts of coughing that get worse with exercise, excitement, eating or drinking. Dusty areas, fragrances, smoking around your dog, humid and hot weather can also lead to a coughing attack.
Here are other signs:
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Difficulty breathing or catching breath
- Gagging or retching
- Honking cough
- Abnormal breathing
- Low energy
- Bluish tinge to the gums from lack of oxygen
- Possible fainting from lack of oxygen
- Coughing when you pick up your dog
Is Collapsed Trachea Serious?
A collapsed trachea is an irreversible condition. With severe tracheal collapse, the condition can become a serious, life-threatening problem. Ongoing bouts of severe coughing, respiratory distress and panic can cause further damage. There isn’t a cure but you can manage it and maintain your dog’s quality of life.
If you have a small breed dog, you can start making improvements to his health and lifestyle right now..
8 Ways to Prevent Collapsed Trachea In Dogs
If you have a small breed prone to developing collapsed trachea, there are things you can do throughout his life to keep him strong and healthy. When you address these areas right from puppyhood, you’ll be setting up your dog for a lifetime of vitality.
1. Maintain Healthy Weight
Manage your dog’s weight. You want to avoid an overweight dog as this puts stress on his respiratory system. And added weight adds stress to his heart and lungs. Start by feeding your dog a whole food, raw meat diet that avoids carbs and starches. These foods can lead to weight gain and digestive issues.
In cases of collapsed trachea, oxygen deprivation can lead to liver damage. Be proactive with a whole food diet that’ll support his liver health. This is the best way to maintain your dog’s weight and manage his long-term health.
2. Keep The Air Clean
Clear your home of artificial scents, fragrances, candles and air fresheners. These things can lead to bouts of coughing and choking. Use air filters and purifiers and change filters often.
3. Don’t Smoke Around Your Dog
Don’t smoke around your dog … or even better, quit smoking (for your dog’s health and your own). It’ll reduce the stress on your dog’s respiratory system … and his trachea.
4. Detox Your Dog
Every day your dog faces toxins — in the air, on the ground, in his water and in his food. Even in his home. It’s impossible to live in a sterile environment. But what you can do is an annual or semi-annual detox of your dog and his diet. This makes it easier for his organs to function. The organs and systems that get stressed the most from toxins and poor diet are the liver, kidney, skin and gastrointestinal tract. A detox gives these systems a chance to rest and replenish for daily life and any health situation that arises … like tracheal collapse.
5. Use Safe Cleaning Products
Use environmentally friendly, non-toxic and unscented cleaning products.
6. Stick To Pesticide-Free Outdoor Areas
It’s best to keep your dog away from public areas where pesticides or herbicides are used. And avoid using them on your own yard. As well as being toxic to your dog, he’ll breathe them in and could have a coughing fit. And you want to minimize any stress to your dog’s throat throughout his life.
7. Avoid Neck Strain
You can easily damage the trachea in a small breed so learn to pick up your dog without straining his neck. Instead of a collar, use a harness to avoid pressure on your dog’s neck and windpipe. Also, avoid bandanas that can get caught and strain your dog’s throat.
8. Add Glucosamine-Rich Foods
Chondroitin and glucosamine supplements are great additives to your dog’s diet to support his cartilage. Or, even better, feed beef trachea to support your dog’s own trachea. The cartilage in beef trachea is loaded with chondroitin and glucosamine. Dogs need about 500 mg of glucosamine per day per 25 lbs of body weight. Beef trachea is mostly cartilage, and it’s about 5% glucosamine. A 1 oz piece of trachea gives your dog over 1400 mg of glucosamine. Chicken, duck or turkey feet are other great options. One chicken foot contains about 400 mg of glucosamine.
If your dog already has collapsed trachea, here are things you can do.
Ways To Manage Collapsed Trachea In Your Dog
If your dog has a diagnosis of collapsed trachea, here are some natural approaches. These solutions won’t stress your dog’s health, and may even improve it.
Holistic Therapies For Tracheal Collapse
TCVM (acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tui Na, food therapy) and homeopathy are the most promising therapies to correct an anatomical problem like tracheal collapse. Western herbs, Reiki, flower essences, aromatherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy and herbal supplements are all useful to manage this condition. You can use them to resolve or decrease cough frequency, provide calming solutions and build health over time.
Homeopathy can be especially helpful. Many small dogs with mild collapsing trachea have become asymptomatic with homeopathic treatments along with general health and diet improvements. Some homeopathic remedies used successfully include Aconite, Belladonna, Stramonium, Calcarea fluorica and Drosera. You’ll need to ask a professional homeopath to analyze your dog’s symptom picture and choose the best remedy for your dog.
Monitor Your Dog’s Liver
Research shows a high percentage of dogs with tracheal collapse develop liver problems. Ask your vet to monitor your dog’s liver function with regular blood work.
When you add natural sources to your dog’s diet, it’s the safest and best way to reduce inflammation from a collapsed trachea. Here are some foods to include:
Antioxidants slow your dog’s aging process, boost his immune system and fight free radical damage … as well as inflammation. Add these antioxidants to your dog’s diet: blueberries, leafy greens, astaxanthin, colostrum, green-lipped mussels and green tea.
Balanced omega fatty acids are an important part of your dog’s cell membranes and are vital in managing his immune, hormonal and inflammatory responses.
Boswellia, licorice, devil’s claw, ginger, alfalfa and turmeric are among many herbs that can address inflammation. It’s a good idea to work with a canine herbalist to create a combination that works for your dog.
Support your dog’s gut health with probiotics. Probiotics maintain a constant supply of beneficial bacteria to balance the bad bacteria in your dog’s gut that lead to inflammation.
Give your dog these natural remedies to soothe coughing and minimize irritation.
Plantain eases coughing and throat inflammation. Put some leaves through the blender with some bone broth. The mucilage it creates coats his throat and respiratory tract to relieve discomfort and irritation. Collect leaves during the spring, summer and fall and freeze them for the colder months.
Manuka honey contains methylglyoxal (MGO), dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and leptosperin so it’s antibiotic, antifungal and antiviral. In addition, manuka honey soothes your dog’s throat and eases coughs. In one study, researchers compared honey to common cough suppressing drugs, including dextromethorphan. Honey was more effective than these drugs.
You can give your dog Manuka honey mixed with a little warm water in a bowl. Give this up to three times a day depending on how often your dog is coughing. Honey, or honey with lemon juice or MCT oil can be soothing as needed. Give 1 tsp per 20 pounds.
In mild cases of tracheal collapse, CBD can help to soothe your dog’s cough and keep him from getting too excited.
Marshmallow root loosens mucus, inhibits bacteria and eases dry coughs. It also creates its own mucilage to coat irritated throats. You can dissolve 1 tsp in 8 ounces of warm bone broth and allow your dog to lap it up.
Your dog might be prone to respiratory infections. Rather than using system suppressing antibiotics, try natural alternatives that are even more effective and easy on your dog.
- Oil of oregano
- Manuka honey
You’ll notice many natural solutions have multiple benefits. You might use Manuka honey or plantain as cough suppressants but your dog will get their antimicrobial benefits too.
Conventional Treatments To Avoid
Worry or panic is common among dog owners when they see their dog coughing and gagging of with collapsed trachea. This often leads to a trip to the vet. She’ll confirm the diagnosis through a physical exam or x-rays. And she’ll want to prescribe medications … and you’ll want to give your dog relief. But here’s what you need to know about the conventional approach.
Vets will create a treatment protocol of prescription food, cough suppressants, bronchodilators, antispasmodics, corticosteroid, sedatives and antibiotics. Let’s look at why you should avoid these conventional approaches.
Prescription Diets For Weight Reduction
Overweight dogs with a collapsed trachea may also be put on a prescription diet but this isn’t any better than a typical commercial diet. These foods contain starches, legumes, grains and synthetic vitamins and minerals. A whole food, raw meat diet is better for reducing weight and maintaining long-term health and digestion.
With a collapsed trachea, when your dog is excited or agitated it leads to a coughing episode. Your vet may prescribe a sedative like acepromazine. This is a common tranquilizer that decreases anxiety, causes central nervous system depression, and a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. But … it can trigger seizures and can heighten the sensitivities you want to calm. It can also cause deep sedation in a tiny breed when such a low dose is required. Sedatives can also lead to low blood pressure, and in severe cases, can cause heart failure.
The best way to manage a collapsed trachea is to minimize coughing and inflammation. But unfortunately, a cough suppressant with hydrocodone, butorphanol or other harmful medications may be prescribed. Hydrocodone is an opiate used as a painkiller but it’s not approved by the FDA for use in animals. It will stop the cough temporarily. But side effects include lethargy, constipation, vomiting and digestive issues.
Veterinarians will often prescribe a course of antibiotics when an infection is diagnosed or even just suspected. A case of a collapsed trachea is no exception. So even if there is no apparent infection, your dog could be getting antibiotics which will also deplete beneficial bacteria in his gut that balances out bad bacteria that causes infections. Other side effects of antibiotics include vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to coughing from straining.
Steroids And NSAIDs
Prednisone, a steroid, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAID) like Rimadyl (carprofen), Metacam, Deramaxx, and Previcox get prescribed to reduce swelling and inflammation of the throat. Side effects include vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. That means there could be further irritation and coughing from acids vomited through an already weakened trachea … leading to more coughing and inflammation …
And dogs at an advanced age, such as those suffering a collapsed trachea, are prone to kidney and liver damage. NSAIDS can worsen these conditions.
Several studies show that NSAIDs actually damage the joints. They do the very thing you most want to avoid in a dog with chronic joint issues or issues of degenerating cartilage. So it doesn’t seem logical that a dog with a long term condition of weakened cartilage should be given NSAIDs that … weaken cartilage.
Sometimes a condition is so dire that your vet might recommend surgery.
Is There Surgery For Collapsed Trachea?
Tracheal reconstruction is available for dogs who have suffered tracheal collapse. But the dog’s condition must be very severe to warrant surgery. So that, in itself, limits its success.
With surgery, the vet inserts rings or a stent or a mesh sleeve to expand the trachea to improve breathing. But this is a risky surgery: Dr Dale Bjorling said in a 2011 WSAVA talk: “Both procedures have a relatively high rate of complications, and the owner should be made aware of these prior to performing either procedure.” One study of dogs getting these surgeries found that 47% suffered major complications.
Recovery is usually 4-8 weeks, while avoiding excitement, exercise and extreme changes in temperature. There’s also the possibility of further tracheal collapse around the surgical areas. Instead, less invasive, non-toxic methods, as already described, can bring comfort to your dog.
Living with a dog who suffers with or has the potential for a serious health problem is never easy. When you can prepare in advance with a regimen of health and natural solutions, it makes the battle a little easier to fight.
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Dale E. Bjorling, DVM, MS, DACVS. Update on Laryngeal Paralysis and Collapsing Trachea, World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2011
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