Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, Pomeranians, and Yorkies are prone to tracheal collapse. This condition can be life-threatening, so you must know how to help dogs with collapsed trachea before it’s too late.
In this post, I will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment for tracheal collapse. Take note that this condition is often the secondary result of a bigger health problem. With this, home remedies alone are never enough or advisable.
Signs that your dog has a collapsed trachea
A dog’s trachea or windpipe is a flexible tube with cartilage that resembles C-shaped rings. However, when these cartilages weaken or collapse, it will cause the trachea to give in as well. This is because the C-shaped cartilage keeps the trachea in its right form.
Since the trachea is a major part of your dog’s airway system, its collapse can easily turn into a life-threatening condition. However, the tricky part is that the initial onset of this problem often manifests as common symptoms.
With that, it’s important that you watch out for the following signs that could point to a tracheal collapse on your canine:
- Gagging and retching
- Persistent coughing, especially when pressure is applied on the neck
- Difficulty and heavy breathing
- Episodes when the dog turns blue
- Bluish gums
- Unusual breathing sounds
If you notice any of these on your dog, I highly suggest that you call the vet. While most of these symptoms are individually harmless, it’s still best to err on the side of caution.
Take note that tracheal collapse can be partial, which means your dog may not readily show adverse symptoms. But if not treated right away, your dog’s trachea may collapse entirely over time.
Even if your dog’s symptoms are mild, you shouldn’t try to treat them at home. Tracheal collapse is an internal problem that often requires surgical intervention under the expertise of a veterinarian.
What causes collapsed trachea in dogs?
It’s not fully known what causes a tracheal collapse in canines. Still, there are a few risk factors that will impact a dog’s susceptibility, which includes the following:
Some dog breeds are more prone to tracheal collapse than others. Flat-nosed breeds are more likely to experience tracheal collapse than other canines. This is due to their narrow airways and compact heads. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that all brachycephalic dogs will ultimately suffer from this health problem.
Exposure to cigarette smoke increases a dog’s likelihood of succumbing to tracheal collapse. Aside from tracheal collapse, dogs regularly exposed to smoke can also suffer from other respiratory problems like asthma.
Dogs with lingering respiratory problems are also at risk of suffering from tracheal collapse. The same goes for canines with obesity, heart disease, and Cushing’s disease.
Lastly, your dog’s genetics might also be at play. If your dog’s parents have a history of tracheal collapse, the pup has a chance of inhering the same predisposition. This is why you should always ask the breeder for health certifications not just of the puppy, but also of both parents.
Types of tracheal collapse in dogs
Canine tracheal collapse is classified into four grades. These grades determine the extent of the collapse, with Grade 4 being the worst-case scenario.
- Grade 1 collapse. In this case, the trachea has collapsed by around 25%. Dogs can still breathe and symptoms aren’t as pronounced as succeeding grades.
- Grade 2 collapse. With the Grade 2 collapse, your dog’s trachea is already flattened halfway. At this point, your dog will start to have more serious symptoms.
- Grade 3 collapse. As the tracheal collapse progresses, it will start to flatten by up to 75%. This is where the trachea is almost flat and your dog will struggle to breathe.
- Grade 4 collapse. In this case, the dog’s trachea has fully collapsed and breathing is no longer possible. This is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate veterinary attention.
How to help dogs with collapsed trachea
Tracheal collapse is an emergency and veterinary care must be sought as soon as possible. After the treatment, the following tips will help you manage a dog with collapsed trachea:
🐶Provide vet-prescribed medications
It’s important to follow the vet’s prescription to manage your dog’s collapsed trachea. Depending on your pet’s condition, it could be a combination of bronchodilators, antibiotics, cough suppressants, and sedatives.
Take note that these medications must be taken based on the prescribed schedule. This will help prevent your dog’s collapsed trachea from weakening further.
🐶Consider implantable stents
In some cases when the tracheal collapse is categorized as Grade 1 or 2, the vet may recommend implantable stents.
An implantable stent is a woven mesh material that expands into a tube-like shape. This is inserted inside the dog’s trachea to help open up the collapsed airway.
While implantable stents can salvage a dog from the brink of death, it’s not a permanent solution. Your pet will still require medical treatment to manage the condition. Also, stents will soon fail and will have to be replaced.
Also, not all dogs are good candidates for stents. If your pooch has an uncontrolled respiratory infection, collapsed bronchi, or Grade 3 or 4 collapse, it’s no longer fit for this treatment.
🐶Consider tracheal ring implants
Another option vets may use in place of stents are tracheal ring implants. These are made of polypropylene and will be fitted outside the trachea through stitches. This way, the trachea will open up and your dog can breathe better.
However, you should know that these rings are only feasible for dogs with tracheas that only collapsed in the neck area. If the trachea collapsed within the chest, rings aren’t a suitable solution.
Like stents, tracheal rings are only temporary solutions to help manage tracheal collapse. Your dog will still need life-long medication to give it the best quality of life possible.
🐶Consult the vet regularly
Even after your dog received the necessary treatment, it’s still important to consult the vet regularly. This is part of your dog’s life-long care to ensure that it will live as comfortably as possible.
Moreover, veterinarians will recommend a course of treatment, schedule of visits, and other necessary procedures. You should follow this schedule to reduce the risk of complications on the part of your dog. This is much so if your dog has ring or stent implants.
🐶Use harnesses instead of collars
It’s also important to avoid using collars on your dog, especially if you’re going to walk it outdoors. Instead, you should invest in a comfortable harness that won’t put pressure on your dog’s neck.
Moreover, you should remove anything that could potentially choke your dog. Even if the collar is only intended for identification purposes, you should consider getting rid of it. You’ll never know when the collar will get tangled on a protruding surface, causing harm to your pet’s neck.
🐶Avoid rigorous activities
Dogs with collapsed trachea shouldn’t be subjected to intense physical activities. Anything that will strain the canine’s breathing too much should be avoided.
Nevertheless, exercise is still a crucial part of your pet’s health. You can ask the veterinarian for low-impact routines that you can do with your dog without making its condition worse.
Overall, reducing a dog’s physical activity can be challenging, especially if you have a naturally active breed. The advice of a vet or a pet trainer will be a big help here.
🐶Use an air filter at home
Another thing you can do to help your dog with collapsed trachea is to keep your indoor air clean. It’s important to keep your dog away from pollutants, especially cigarette smoke.
An air purifier will help remove pollutants in your home that could potentially irritate your pet’s respiratory system. While this isn’t a cure, an air purifier can help a lot in preventing complications.
If possible, look for an air purifier with a child lock as some dogs might get curious and fiddle with the device. You should also place the purifier in a spot your dog can’t access.
🐶Manage your dog’s weight
Lastly, you should manage your dog’s weight, so it won’t grow obese. Take note that obesity is a risk factor in the tracheal collapse. Also, the excess weight will put more strain on your dog’s trachea, making it harder to breathe than it already is.
While you need to limit your pet’s physical activities, you still need to ensure that the canine receives ample exercise. This is to avoid excess weight and other diseases related to slow metabolism.
Aside from exercise, you should also consult the vet for a potential diet change. Take note that any changes in diet should be performed gradually to avoid stomach upset.
The prognosis for dogs with collapsed trachea
Prognosis varies among dogs that suffer tracheal collapse. Still, many canines get to achieve some form of recovery from the problem, though it still requires long-term treatment.
Even if your dog responded well with the treatment, you should expect bouts of cough from time to time. Veterinarians often prescribe cough suppressants for this symptom to prevent taxing the trachea too much.
Take note that the prognosis for this condition lies heavily on the grade of collapse. Also, the level of veterinary care will impact how well your dog will fare in terms of treatment.
If your dog underwent tracheal surgery, it needs to be monitored for at least 24 hours in a pet hospital. During this period, your canine will receive medications, including antitussive to suppress coughing that could damage the surgical area.
If your dog experiences any adverse symptoms or reactions after the treatment, you should call the vet immediately. With collapsed trachea, problems and complications may occur anytime.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long do dogs live with collapsing trachea?
A: Canines with collapsed trachea can live on for two years without being diagnosed. Also, the survival of a canine with tracheal collapse depends on the extent of the condition. Most canines with Grade 1 tracheal collapse can be successfully treated with surgical procedures. Still, the prognosis is on a case-to-case basis.
Q: Do dogs with collapsed trachea suffer?
A: A collapsed trachea is a stressful condition among dogs. It makes breathing difficult, so dogs will suffer without proper treatment. Also, dogs with collapsed trachea are likely to die if they don’t receive any form of veterinary treatment.
Q: Can a collapsed trachea in dogs heal itself?
A: A collapsed trachea won’t heal on its own. In fact, it will get worse the longer you put off your dog’s treatment. Since tracheal collapse is a life-threatening condition, you should never delay veterinary treatment. In the long run, diagnosing and treating a collapsed trachea early will help you dodge bigger vet bills.
Q: What do vets prescribe for collapsed dog trachea?
A: Treatment for collapsed trachea varies per dog. Most of the time, veterinarians will prescribe bronchodilators to help open the canine’s airways. Some of these drugs are albuterol, theophylline, and terbutaline. Depending on the vet’s prescription, these drugs can either be inhaled or taken in pill form.
Q: Does a collapsing trachea in dogs happen suddenly?
A: A collapsed trachea can occur without warning in canines. You’ll notice your dog suddenly coughing and wheezing for no reason. Nevertheless, experts say that many cases of tracheal collapse will manifest early symptoms, but most pet owners fail to notice it.
Q: Why is my dog’s collapsed trachea worse at night?
A: A dog’s collapsed trachea gets worse at night due to its sleeping position. Also, humid weather at night will make the coughing worse. The vet can prescribe sedatives or cough suppressants to help your dog get a full night’s sleep.
Knowing how to help dogs with collapsed trachea is crucial to ensure that the canine will have the best possible quality of life. Remember that keeping your dog’s veterinarian involved is crucial to help manage the condition.
While there’s no cure for tracheal collapse, there’s a way to extend your dog’s life. Life-long care and proper medication are necessary to avoid complications and further damage to the canine’s trachea.