Tracheal collapse in dogs

Tracheal collapse is a degenerative pathology

This disease has no cure and mainly affects small breed dogs (Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Pomeranian…), being more common from 6-7 years of age. It is a fairly common disease and little known to owners, which is why we want to inform you about it, how it is detected and diagnosed.

The trachea is a flexible tubular structure that runs from the larynx to the main bronchi. Its function is to allow the flow of air from the outside to the lungs and vice versa. The trachea is made up of muscle, a dorsal membrane, and some C-shaped cartilages. If all the structures are correct, it prevents the trachea from collapsing, that is, closing, during inspiration and expiration movements. In animals with tracheal collapse, there is a deformity in one of these structures, causing the trachea to close when air enters or leaves.

The origin

Today, the origin of tracheal collapse in dogs is still unknown, since it is a complex and multifactorial disease. It is believed that there may be some relationship with obesity, exposure to allergens and irritating substances.

Patients with tracheal collapse usually present with the following symptoms:

  • Dry cough
  • Dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
  • Coughing with squawking noises
  • gasps
  • Drowning
  • Fever

In the most severe cases, exercise intolerance, cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin due to lack of oxygen), altered mental status or even syncope are observed. Coughing episodes are more pronounced in moments of excitement or if some type of pressure is exerted on the neck, such as when wearing a necklace. Coughing may also increase while eating or drinking water.

types of tracheal collapse
types of tracheal collapse

Normally the veterinarian will have a clinical suspicion of the disease taking into account the symptoms, although it is always necessary to perform a physical examination and imaging and laboratory tests to reach a definitive diagnosis. This is necessary to rule out other diseases that present with similar symptoms (brachycephalic syndrome, collapsed larynx, chronic bronchitis, infectious diseases, neoplasms, presence of a foreign body, etc.) and whose treatment is totally different. Normally a blood test and chest X-rays will be performed.

After having evaluated the results, if there is still suspicion of this pathology, it will be necessary to perform fluoroscopy and endoscopy to reach a definitive diagnosis and see the degree of involvement of the trachea. There are different degrees of tracheal collapse: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe.

Treatment of tracheal collapse is not curative. What we are looking for is to improve our dog’s symptoms so that he can breathe better. If our pet is overweight, a weight loss diet will be recommended. Stress or excessive exercise can make your symptoms worse, so it’s best to stay as calm as possible.

In the most serious cases, it will be necessary to perform a surgical procedure to improve the quality of life of our pet, placing a tracheal ring prosthesis or a stent.

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