Canine Collapsed Trachea
What is a collapsed trachea?
The trachea, more commonly known as the windpipe, connects the back of the throat to the lungs. It allows air to pass in to the lungs. The trachea is composed of rings made of cartilage. The rings are not completely formed. They are actually shaped like the letter C. Because the rings are not completely formed they can flatten out, or collapse.
What causes them to collapse?
No one knows for sure what causes this to happen. We do know the condition is more common in smaller breeds like Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus and Toy Poodles. It appears to affect animals as they get older. There is probably an underlying genetic predisposition in these breeds.
How do I know if my dog has a collapsed trachea?
Most dogs will present to the veterinarian because of a chronic cough. The dog makes a loud, dry honking sound. The most common clinical sign is a chronic cough. It is often described as dry and harsh and can become quite pronounced. Coughing is often worse during the day, or when the pet is excited, or stressed. If the dog struggles against the leash when being walked, pressure from the collar will often cause it to cough also. If your dog has any of these symptoms it should be seen by your veterinarian.
How can a Veterinarian diagnose a collapsed trachea?
First, your veterinarian will perform a thorough examination of the pet. If the examination and history indicate the problem might be in the trachea, the veterinarian may take x-rays of the chest and neck. One technique involves taking an x-ray as the dog breathes in, then another as the dog breathes out. By comparing the two films, and looking for changes in the diameter of the trachea during inspiration, and expiration your veterinarian can determine if a collapsed trachea might be the cause of the cough.
Can it be treated?
The condition usually can't be cured, but can be managed. Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflamatories and bronchodilators. Sometimes cough suppressants are also helpful. Many of these cases also need antibiotic therapy. These pets should be walked with a harness instead of a collar around their neck.