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.
The trachea—windpipe—carries the air that your dog breathes from its nose (or mouth) through the airways into the 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.
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.
Collapsing Trachea in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know