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Breathing Easy: Managing Tracheal Collapse in Small Breed Dogs

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

As pet owners, we want our dogs to be healthy and happy. Thus, when we hear that our furry friends have a medical condition, we often feel stressed and worried.

One condition that some small dogs are prone to is tracheal collapse. In this article, we will be discussing what tracheal collapse is, the breeds that are susceptible to it, as well as the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Tracheal collapse is a condition that affects the trachea, commonly known as the windpipe. The trachea carries air between the mouth and the lungs.

In dogs with tracheal collapse, the trachea narrows, which makes it more difficult for them to breathe. Tracheal collapse can happen in different parts of the trachea and can have different levels of severity.

Causes of Tracheal Collapse

The primary reason for tracheal collapse in dogs is the weakening of the cartilage rings that hold the trachea open. These rings can lose their strength due to a genetic predisposition in some small breeds.

Dogs with thin or sagging membranes in the trachea are also more susceptible to tracheal collapse.

In addition, environmental factors can cause or worsen tracheal collapse in some cases.

Collars or harnesses that put pressure on the neck can irritate the windpipe and cause inflammation. Cigarette smoke and air pollution can also make the trachea inflamed and more prone to collapse.

Breeds Prone to Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse happens more frequently in small breed dogs, especially the following breeds:

– Yorkshire Terriers

– Pomeranians

– Shih Tzus

– Chihuahuas

– Lhasa Apsos

– Toy Poodles

These breeds have a genetic predisposition to tracheal collapse. The condition can happen at any age, but it is most common in middle-aged dogs and seniors.

Symptoms and Stages of Tracheal Collapse

The most common symptom of tracheal collapse is a cough. Dogs cough when they try to clear their airways of debris or when they experience difficulty breathing.

In the early stages of tracheal collapse, dogs may have a honking cough, which sounds like a goose honking.

As the condition progresses, the cough can become more frequent and severe.

Dogs may also have difficulty breathing, especially during exercise or in hot weather. They may also develop blue gums, which is a sign of oxygen deprivation.

Tracheal collapse has four different stages. In the early stages, dogs may only have occasional coughing fits.

In the second stage, the cough becomes more frequent, and dogs may also experience mild respiratory distress.

In the third stage, dogs cough more frequently, and their respiratory distress becomes more severe.

They may pant and struggle to breathe even when they are at rest. In the fourth stage, dogs have constant respiratory distress, and their condition may be life-threatening.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Tracheal Collapse

If you suspect that your dog has tracheal collapse, you should take them to the veterinarian for an examination. The vet will examine your dog and ask about their symptoms.

They may also order X-rays to check the condition of the trachea.

Once diagnosed, tracheal collapse can be treated through a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

Mild cases can be managed with cough suppressants, bronchodilators, and corticosteroids.

Lifestyle changes can also help, such as avoiding collars and switching to a harness that does not constrict the trachea.

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can also reduce stress on the trachea.

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to restore the rigidity of the trachea.

Surgeries include tracheal stenting, where a stent is placed in the trachea to keep it open, or tracheal ring placement, where a new ring is surgically implanted. These surgeries can be expensive and may require hospitalization for a few days.


Tracheal collapse is a condition that can be challenging to watch your furry friend suffer from. Dogs can have frequent coughing fits and experience respiratory distress.

However, early diagnosis and proper treatment can help manage and sometimes cure the condition. If you think your dog may have tracheal collapse, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary care.

Catching the condition early can help improve your dog’s quality of life for years to come. Managing Tracheal Collapse in Dogs: Lifestyle Changes, Prognosis, and


Tracheal collapse is a condition that affects the trachea of small breed dogs, causing the collapse of its cartilage rings.

Dogs with tracheal collapse experience respiratory distress and coughing. While there is no cure for this condition, some lifestyle changes can help manage it, improve the dogs quality of life, and extend their life expectancy.

This article delves deeper into the lifestyle changes and preventive measures that can help your dog manage tracheal collapse.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are crucial in managing tracheal collapse in dogs. In some cases, these simple modifications can prevent the condition from worsening.

Here are several changes to consider:

1. Healthy Weight

Obesity is a significant contributing factor to tracheal collapse.

As dogs gain weight, the extra fat and pressure can further collapse the trachea, making it more challenging for the dog to breathe. Thus, maintaining your dogs weight at a healthy level is critical in managing tracheal collapse.

If your pet is overweight, discuss a weight loss plan with your veterinarian. They may recommend dietary adjustments, physical activity, or a combination of both.

Once your pet reaches a healthy weight, continued monitoring and lifestyle adjustments are necessary to maintain the results. 2.

Harness Instead of Collar

Collars can put pressure on a dog’s throat, which may irritate or worsen the tracheal collapse. Thus, using a harness instead of a collar can help alleviate the pressure on your dog’s trachea.

Harnesses come in different sizes, styles, and materials, so ensure your choice fits your dog properly and does not cause discomfort in other areas. 3.

Avoiding Airborne Irritants

Airborne irritants like smoke, dust, and fumes can cause irritation to your dog’s respiratory system and increase the severity of tracheal collapse. Consider staying indoors on polluted or hot days, avoiding cigarette smoke, using air purifiers, and avoiding chemicals that could trigger respiratory distress.

Prognosis and Life Expectancy

The prognosis and life expectancy of dogs with tracheal collapse depend on several factors like the severity of the tracheal collapse, the age of diagnosis, and the dog’s underlying health. Mild tracheal collapse may not affect a dog’s overall life expectancy, and early diagnosis and management can help extend the dog’s normal lifespan.

However, in severe cases, where surgery is required, the dog may have a decreased life expectancy, as surgery can be risky and require a prolonged recovery period. Additionally, if tracheal collapse occurs together with other underlying health conditions, it can significantly impact a dog’s life expectancy.

It is worth noting that although tracheal collapse can cause serious respiratory distress, it is not a death sentence. With proper lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery, dogs with tracheal collapse can live for years with a good quality of life.


While tracheal collapse is a genetic and hereditary condition and can’t be prevented entirely, some measures can help prevent the condition from worsening. Here are some preventive measures to consider:


Keeping Your Dog at a Lean Weight

Obesity can contribute to the severity of tracheal collapse. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can lessen the strain on their respiratory system and the severity of the condition.

Consider regular exercise and a balanced diet to maintain your dog’s weight at an optimal level.


Avoiding Neck Collars

As earlier discussed, neck collars can worsen tracheal collapse. Experts recommend using a harness instead of a collar to avoid putting pressure on your dog’s neck.

3. Breeding Practices

Breeders can help prevent tracheal collapse by ensuring they do not breed dogs with a history of tracheal collapse.

It is essential to purchase puppies from reputable breeders who can show proof of health screening and responsible breeding practices.


Regular Checkups

Routine checkups with your veterinarian can help detect and diagnose tracheal collapse early, allowing for timely and better management. During checkups, the veterinarian may recommend X-rays or other diagnostic tests to examine your dog’s trachea and diagnose the condition, even before symptoms are present.


Tracheal collapse can affect the quality of life of small breed dogs. While there is no cure for the condition, early diagnosis and management, along with lifestyle changes, can extend their life expectancy and improve their quality of life.

This article discussed the lifestyle changes, prognosis, and preventive measures that can help your dog manage tracheal collapse. If you suspect that your dog has tracheal collapse, speak to your veterinarian and together, take the necessary steps to manage the condition and improve your pets overall wellbeing.

Tracheal collapse is a condition that affects the respiratory system of small breed dogs. While there is no cure for the condition, it can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery.

Obesity, the use of collars, and exposure to airborne pollutants can exacerbate tracheal collapse, while weight control, the use of harnesses, and avoiding irritants can alleviate its symptoms. Early diagnosis and proper management can prevent the condition from worsening and prolong the dog’s life.

With proper care, dogs with tracheal collapse can live long and healthy lives.

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