What is a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs?

More than likely most dog owners have never given on thought to “what is a trachea?” However, those of us who are parents of toy and miniature breeds should become aware of what a trachea is and what the symptoms of a collapsed trachea are. I have a Boston Terrier that has a collapsed trachea and before I knew what she had, I was certain she was either choking to death and/or dying.

More than likely most dog owners have never given on thought to “what is a trachea?” However, those of us who are parents of toy and miniature breeds should become aware of what a trachea is and what the symptoms of a collapsed trachea are. I have a Boston Terrier that has a collapsed trachea and before I knew what she had, I was certain she was either choking to death and/or dying.

What is the trachea?

Tracheal collapse can occur in the throat or in the trachea inside the chest. The collapse within the neck causes problems with the breathing in of air and the collapse within the chest with the letting out of the air. Most cases of collapse are in the neck and may or may not have a collapse in the chest.

What are the symptoms of trachea collapse?

The coughing can occur during and after exercise, during times of stress and/or excitement and during high heat and humidity. Coughing can also occur when the dog’s neck is touched. Breathing difficulties, reluctance to exercise and fainting due to the lack of oxygen can also occur.

What breeds are generally affected?

What can you do to help ease the condition?

In extreme cases what are the alternatives?

Surgery consists of placing plastic rings around the outside of the trachea that are sutured to the trachea. This surgery keeps the trachea open and has been around for many years. Most dogs are helped significantly by this procedure and complications are relatively few. It takes about 2 weeks for complete healing.

The stent procedure is relatively new and involves placing a stent (a mesh like sleeve) inside the trachea. It is inserted through the mouth, while the dog is under anesthesia and holds the trachea open from the inside, as opposed to the rings holding it open from the outside. The stents have to be custom-made for each dog and cost about $1,000 – not including the cost of the implantation. The advantage of the stent is quicker recovery time, faster procedure and high success.

The cost for either procedure varies from $3,000 to $5,000.

Hopefully, Tater will not have to face those options in the future.

When limiting exercise, watching weight and medical management does not work there are two alternatives, surgery and the placement of a stent. Since Tater at the present time has a mild case, we are doing nothing special except making certain she is wearing a harness and not a collar. A collar puts too much pressure on the throat because pulling on it can cause problems. Keeping the dog at a healthy weight can help. Obesity can aggravate the symptoms. In Tater’s case we do not have to eliminate her exercise, so her walks, runs and playing fetch are not a concern. However, in extreme cases exercise may have to be limited.These are the breeds that are most prone to tracheal collapse; Chihuahua, toy and miniature poodles, Boston terriers, Pomeranians, Maltese, Lhasa apso, Shitzu and Yorkshire terriers. The first and sure most signs are a cough that sounds like a goose honking. It is loud and horrible. Our Tater, also vomited, huffed and puffed a bit and had a fever, all of which were treated with medication.The trachea is a type of windpipe that carries air from the nose and mouth down to the lungs. In a tracheal collapse, the cartilage rings that make up the trachea are congenitally weak. It is a genetic problem that occurs most often in toy and miniature breeds. It is a condition that can be mild or severe, and usually progresses with age. My dog has at present a very mild case and does not require treatment at this time. She did require medication and x-rays when we discovered the problem at the onset.

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