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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Collapsing Trachea




Condition Overview

The trachea is a sturdy tube of cartilage through which the dog breathes. When the cartilage weakens (as in this condition) the trachea can collapse in on itself while the dog is breathing. The harder your dog coughs, the worse it becomes.


The principal sign of collapsing trachea is a characteristic goose-honk cough. The cough is made worse by stress and exertion, including pulling against the collar. Coughing may also occur when the dog eats or drinks. Respiratory insufficiency develops as the disease progresses. Signs include shortness of breath, fatigue, and loud honking coughing fits that can lead to fainting spells.


Collapsing trachea occurs because the C-shaped tracheal rings do not possess normal rigidity. As a result, the involved wall of the trachea collapses as the dog inhales. Obesity is a predisposing factor as well as chronic bronchitis.


A veterinary examination is needed to rule out diseases of the heard and lungs before making the diagnosis.


During a coughing fit, you can help soothe your pet's distress by cupping your dogs muzzle - which acts like putting a paper bag over her head, similar to what people do to counter act hyperventilation. Stroke her throat and talk gently to calm her.

Dogs with mild to moderate symptoms respond to proper nutrition and a low-stress routine that avoids situations that may trigger episodes of coughing. Moderate exercise is beneficial. Using a harness or head halter instead of a collar is important.

Overweight dogs should be placed on a diet. Eliminate cigarette smoke and other atmospheric pollutants that can trigger coughing.

Bronchodilator drugs such as aminophylline, theophylline, or albuterol are beneficial for many small dogs. Mild low-dose sedatives during stressful times are also helpful. Cough suppressants and corticosteroids may be prescribed when the coughing is particularly severe. Respiratory infections require prompt treatment with antibiotics.

Surgery can be considered in severe cases. It involves suturing plastic rings around the trachea, which then keep the airway open. Complications are possible.


Avoid the use of neck effective collars on small breed dogs. On medium to large breed dogs, consider switching your heavy puller to a head halter style lead and train them to stop pulling.


Please contact your veterinarian if you have questions regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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