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Tracheal Collapse (Collapsing Trachea)

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Tracheal collapse is a commonly encountered cause of airway obstruction and coughing in the dog. The cause remains unknown, although there may be many factors involved. The most likely cause is abnormal synthesis of the cartilage that is part of the structure of the trachea. The disease causes dogs to cough in spasms.

Either sex may be affected, although it is almost always a disease of toy breeds. Yorkshire terriers are the most commonly affected, but Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, poodles and Maltese are also predisposed. It may affect dogs of any age, although the average age at which clinical signs first appear is six or seven years.

What to Watch For

  • A dry cough commonly described as a "goose honk"
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Gagging
  • Respiratory discomfort

    Diagnosis

  • Palpation of the trachea
  • X-rays
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Tracheobronchoscopy

    Treatment

  • Emergency care includes oxygen, rapidly acting steroids, cough suppressants and sedation.

  • Long term treatment includes airway dilators, steroids, antibiotics, cough suppressants and weight loss.

  • Tracheal reconstruction is sometimes recommended.

    Home Care and Prevention

    Administer medication as prescribed. Use a harness instead of a collar and treat any concurrent conditions that might exacerbate the tracheal collapse. Isolate or remove the dog from any potentially irritating substances such as cigarette smoke or excessive dust.

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