A Primer On Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing trachea is seen mostly in small breeds of dogs, such as Toy Poodles, Yorkies, and Pomeranians.

It often shows up in puppies or young dogs but worsens with age. That is because secondary inflammation narrows the trachea, making it even more challenging to breathe in air.

A Primer On Collapsing Trachea: Collapsing trachea is seen mostly in small breeds of dogs, such as Toy Poodles, Yorkies, and Pomeranians.


The trachea—windpipe—carries the air that your dog breathes from its nose (or mouth) through the airways into the lungs. 

A Primer On Collapsing Trachea: Canine Lungs
Canine trachea and lungs

It is made up of rings of cartilage connected by fibrous tissue. The cartilage rings give the trachea its round, tube shape. In some dogs, the cartilage rings are weaker than normal. When the dog breathes in, the pressure inside the trachea increases causing the rings to collapse, and the trachea flattens.

1. Normal Tracheal Ring
2. Collapsed Tracheal Ring
3. Collapsed Trachea
Image Camboro Veterinary Hospital

Symptoms of collapsing trachea

The collapsed rings make it more difficult to breathe, resulting in a honking cough, especially during excitement or exercise.

Mildly affected dogs have the characteristic honking cough, and they may tire more easily during play or exercise. Severely affected dogs can collapse and even pass out because of breathing problems, which is an emergency situation.

Collapsing trachea diagnosis

In most cases, diagnosis is based on physical examination and your description of the problem.

However, your veterinarian may need to take an x-ray or to examine the inside of the trachea with an endoscope, which is a long, lighted flexible tube that can be passed inside the body for viewing internal structures.

Treatment of collapsing trachea

All dogs with collapsing trachea should be kept fit and trim because obesity makes it more difficult to breathe.

Mildly affected dogs often do fine with very little therapy, so long as they are at a healthy weight. However, severely affected dogs may need specialized surgery to reinforce the cartilage rings. This procedure is technically difficult so your vet may refer you to a specialist or veterinary teaching hospital.

Related articles:
Coughing in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Coughing and Should I Worry?
Collapsing Trachea in Dogs: The Kennel Cough Cock Up – Kupo’s Story

Further reading:
Collapsing Trachea in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Share your thoughts