The large tube that carries air from the nose and throat to the respiratory system is called the trachea, and this tube can collapse due to narrowing along any section. It's not always possible to determine why a dog develops this condition, but it can be caused by being overweight, which can put pressure on the windpipe, or as a complication of a respiratory infection or chronic respiratory disease. Tracheal collapse can develop in any dog, but certain breeds, particularly toy breeds, seem to be at an increased risk of developing this condition. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for a tracheal collapse in dogs:
Common symptoms of tracheal collapse include retching, rapid breathing and abnormal breathing sounds. A dry, persistent cough is also common and your dog will struggle to keep up with their normal levels of play and exercise. They may also lose their appetite and become dehydrated. Some dogs will also lose consciousness suddenly. Symptoms can appear even when your dog is at rest, but heat and exercise seem to aggravate the condition.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
Your vet will make their diagnosis by taking details of your dog's symptoms and carrying out a thorough examination. They will take blood and urine samples to check for signs of inflammation and infection and to check organ function. Your dog will need to have a chest X-ray to allow the vet to view the trachea and lungs and determine the extent of the collapse and exact location along the trachea. In some cases, a bronchoscopy will be necessary. This can be carried out with sedation or general anaesthetic and involves having a thin tube with a camera on the end of it passed along the trachea. This allows the vet to determine if there are any cellular or structural abnormalities, such as a tumour, and tissue samples can be taken to be analysed for the presence of abnormal cells or bacteria.
Treatment for a tracheal collapse will be carried out on an inpatient basis, and your dog will likely need supplemental oxygen. Medications commonly used to treat this condition and allow the inflammation to resolve include cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories and drugs that dilate the airways, which can help restore your dog's breathing capacity to normal levels. If a physical obstruction, such as a tumour, has caused the collapse, your dog will require surgery to remove the obstruction and possibly widen the damaged section of the trachea.
If your dog has symptoms associated with tracheal collapse, or if you have any concerns about their breathing, have them examined at a local vet clinic right away.