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Tracheal Collapse

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The trachea, or windpipe, is composed of 35 to 45 C-shaped rings joined by muscles and tendons. Its purpose is to carry air from the mouth to the lungs. In some dogs, the trachea will fold on itself along its length, otherwise known as tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse most commonly occurs in older toy breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Poodles. Occasionally it is seen in younger dogs, genetically predisposed to the disease. Smaller breeds are more commonly affected because the trachea is slightly flattened, and is mechanically more likely to collapse with the pressure of breathing. In older dogs, the degeneration of cartilage contributes to the weakening of the trachea. Other factors which may initiate tracheal collapse are trauma to the trachea, over excitement and obesity.

Clinical Signs:
The most common clinical sign is a "goose honking" cough, which may occur more with stress or exercise. The cough may also be heard during feeding or drinking. In very severe attacks, lack of oxygen and respiratory distress may lead to collapse.

Collapsing trachea may be a tricky diagnosis for veterinarians to make with certainty. The first clue is a history of coughing and the age and breed of dog. X-rays may reveal a narrowed trachea. However, the actual collapse of the trachea can not be seen in still pictures. Therefore, many veterinarians proceed to endoscopy, in which a camera is introduced into the trachea to view the motion, or fluoroscopy, which are moving x-rays. Because tracheal collapse is often accompanied by irritation and infection, a tracheal sample may be cultured to determine the best antibacterial treatment.

Many pets respond well to home rest, weight reduction and avoidance of strenuous activities. Antitussives, sedatives and bronchodilators may be prescribed to reduce the severity and frequency of coughing attacks. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat secondary bronchitis. In very severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to attempt to reinforce the trachea and prevent full collapse.


  • You should not rely, on the veterinary advice or any other information provided on this site for the diagnosis or treatment of any specific condition. You should always consult your own veterinarian for specific advice concerning the medical condition or general treatment of your pet. accepts no liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.

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