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Tracheal collapse in dogs is a chronic, progressive condition. It can happen to any dog, but small breeds including Yorkshire terriers, toy poodles, and the Shih Tzu may be more prone.
Make no mistake, this is a serious condition that requires medical and at-home management..
This post introduces you to 5 easy things you can do at home, a brief overview of what tracheal collapse in dogs is, and some of the medical interventions available.
What You Need to Know About Tracheal Collapse in Dogs
The trachea is like a flexible straw with an accordion middle. It extends from the dog’s nose into the small airways known as the bronchi. It’s the windpipe that allows your dog to breath adequate oxygen into the body.
Will A Dog Choke With a Collapsed Trachea?
In a trachea, the flexible middle part is actually a rigid, c-shaped piece of cartilage that holds the airway open. When a dog develops trachea collapse, that c-shaped cartilage begins to relax and stretch out. As that happens, it gradually closes the windpipe making it more difficult for your dog to breath.
A collapsed trachea can happen in the cervical trachea (in the neck) or lower down into the intrathoracic trachea.
Though tracheal collapse can occur in dogs of any age or breed, it appears to be more common in middle-aged to senior toy breeds including Miniature poodles, Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pugs and Pomeranians.
What Age Do Dogs Develop Collapsed Tracheas?
The average age of onset is around 7 years of age. As the trachea collapse worsens, your dog is left with less space for the trachea to bring air into the lungs.
Once tracheal collapse in dogs has been diagnosed, the veterinarian or veterinary surgeon will assess the grade classification.
Grade 1 is assigned when the trachea has collapsed by 25%. On the other end of the spectrum, Grade IV is diagnosed when the cartilage in the trachea has flattened.
Unfortunately, this condition can leave to the development of hypertrophy, which is an enlargement of the right side of the heart.
5 Easy Things You Can Do At Home to Help Your Dog
Dogs with tracheal collapse cough a lot, and this coughing further irritates the trachea lining. The more your dog coughs, the worse it gets making it harder for your dog to breathe comfortably.
One of the first things to be prescribed will be a cough medicine. Cough medicine breaks the coughing cycle and eases the symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs. The veterinarian will talk to you about some things that might help improve your dog’s quality of life in the early stages of the disease.
These things include the following:
-Reduce Your Dog’s Weight (if he/she is overweight)
-Feed top quality food with less likelihood of causing allergies
-Try to keep the air in your home, car, cottage, etc., as clean as possible.
-Keep moisture in the air as much as possible
-Protect your dog’s neck by using a harness. Pulling on a lead can further damage your dog’s already sensitive throat.
#1 Reduce Your Dog’s Weight the Easy Way
The best way to use a pet stroller is to allow your dog short walks along the route, then let your dog relax the rest of the way. Short walks are a great way to keep your dog’s health in check. Remember to check with your veterinarian before engaging your dog in exercise.
#2 Use an Air Purifier to Keep Your Dog’s Air Clean
Any irritant in your air is going to cause your dog to cough, and that’s the last thing you want to happen for a dog with a collapsed trachea. Managing a collapsed trachea in dogs requires a variety of interventions, including clean air.
Using a purifier will benefit you, your family, and your dog. Air purifiers like the ones lined up below are designed to get rid of pollutants with a 5 star Inofia Hepa Air Filter. Dust, pollen, smoke, mold spores and pet dander from other animals can cause a dog’s cough spasms to continue.
Stop the cough by keeping your air clean. There are air purifiers for every budget.
#3 Reduce Your Dog’s Anxiety and Help Calm the Cough
The worst thing for a collapsed trachea in dogs is a honking cough. The more a dog coughs the more irritated and inflamed the airway gets.
In order to stop the coughing cycle, the veterinarian may prescribe a variety of medications including cough suppressants (known as antitussives).
#4 Keep Moisture in the Air All Day Long
If you haven’t ordered a top notch air purifier yet, now is the time. In addition to clearing the air your dog breaths from dust, mold, and other allergens, humidifiers also keep the air moist.
Still on the fence? Humidifiers are reasonably priced, cover a large area of the house, and are top-rated sellers in the marketplace right now. The best part is the ability to help keep your dog’s cough to a minimum!
#5 Protect Your Dog’s Neck
An adjustable dog harness will prevent excessive tugging on your dog’s sensitive neck area. Harnesses make it easier to control your dog’s activity, protect them while on walks, and avoids the neck area entirely.
A collapsed trachea in dogs means that your dog’s neck is going to be extra sensitive. You might not plan to pull on your dog’s lead, but your dog might have another idea in mind.
Don’t let a sudden lunge worsen your dog’s condition. Instead, use a body harness that has a lead attachment like the PoyPet No Pull Dog Harness.
Signs and Symptoms of Tracheal Collapse in Dogs
Symptoms of tracheal abnormalities seem to be aggravated by heat, excitement, exercise or obesity. The following symptoms are commonly observed in affected animals:
- Dry honking cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Unproductive efforts to vomit (retching)
- Abnormally rapid breathing
- Abnormal breathing sounds
- Inability to perform routine exercises
- Bluish colored membranes
- Spontaneous loss of consciousness
Airway obstruction is the result of a flattened trachea. Eventually, medical intervention (including surgery) will be required but in the early stages there are things that can be done at home to improve your dog’s quality of life.
Toy Breeds at Risk
Toy breeds tend to be most vulnerable to tracheal collapse. Clinical signs tend to begin in middle aged dogs. Not all toy breeds develop this condition; however, overweight dogs or dogs subject to second-hand smoke seem to be at higher risk.
Advanced Tracheal Collapse in Dogs
In the early stages of the condition, there are a variety of things that can be done at home to help your dog breath easier.
However, the advice of a veterinarian is always recommended, especially before treating your dog with over-the-counter remedies.
As the trachea flattens, your dog’s quality of life will diminish. Lack of oxygen in the blood can cause your dog to faint.
He/she will experience exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and continuous coughing which only makes the condition worse.
Medical Management for Tracheal Collapse in Dogs
Some cases of tracheal collapse may require tracheal stents. If tracheal stenting is not an option, tracheal rings may be used instead.
Tracheal Stenting (non-surgical)
Tracheal stenting is minimally invasive and non-surgical. It’s important to note that dogs are often placed under general anesthesia so that the device can be safely inserted.
Generally, the best candidates for this procedure are dogs who don’t respond well to other medical interventions. The procedure is also used for dogs with severe airway obstruction.
Stents are made of medical grade, flexible mesh and are used to keep the airway open. The long-term complications of tracheal stenting include:
-Displacement of the stent
-Stent fracture (breakage)
Tracheal rings involves replacing the c-shaped cartilage with rings. These rings provide the same airway opening as a stent. The possibility of complications is similar to using stents.
Neither treatment is designed to last forever. Ongoing medical checkups and medications will be required for the rest of your dog’s life.
The High Cost of Surgical Intervention
Veterinarian’s don’t use the stenting or tracheal ring procedures unless the dog has reached a critical point.
It costs thousands of dollars to have one implanted. In some cases, a veterinarian may prefer to manage tracheal collapse in dogs through the methods mentioned above.
Clean air, cough medicine, anti-inflammatories, and regular veterinarian check-ups are the top priorities for collapsed trachea in dogs.
Medication Used for Dogs with Tracheal Collapse
The first thing the veterinarian may prescribe are cough suppressants, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, sedatives, and possibly antibiotics.
There’s So Much You Can Do At Home
Once you have your veterinarian’s approval, you’re free to try all of the tricks mentioned above. They work best when used together.
Limit too much exertion by using a pet stroller. When it’s time to walk the dog, make sure he/she is wearing a harness and not a collar. And finally, keep the air in your home as clean as possible.
Don’t forget top notch nutrition and soft, easy-to-swallow foods.
It takes a lot of love and patience to manage a collapsed trachea, but it’s not impossible.
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