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Managing collapsed Trachea in dogs

by Craig Fields 03 Jul 2024
Managing collapsed Trachea in dogs

Is your dog showing signs of a persistent cough and struggling to breathe? It could be the signs of a collapsed Trachea in your dog, a common issue among smaller breeds. We've compiled a detailed guide to help you understand and address this condition effectively. We'll cover everything from what causes the collapse Trachea in dogs to recognizing its symptoms and exploring treatment options. Stay tuned to learn how to support your furry friend through this health challenge.

What is a Collapsed Trachea?

Collapsed Trachea in a dog is a degenerative respiratory condition characterized by a goose-like honking cough. Small breed dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Mini-Schnauzers, and small terrier breeds are most commonly affected, though dogs of any size can suffer.

Dog Tracheal Collapse refers to the gradual weakening of the Trachea, or windpipe which connects the nasal passages to the lungs. The Trachea is a tube supported by cartilage rings that maintain its shape and allow air to flow freely between the mouth and lungs. These rings are shaped like a C, not perfect circles. When they weaken, the Trachea loses support, leading to the collapse of its soft tissue. This obstruction hinders the passage of air.

Symptoms of a dog with tracheal collapse

Symptoms of collapsed Trachea in dogs include:

  • A distinctive honking cough resembling a goose.
  • Labored or rapid breathing.
  • Blue or purple gums due to lack of oxygen.
  • Occasionally fainting.

These symptoms can worsen with stress, excitement, exercise, allergies, obesity, heat, smoke, eating or drinking, or any pressure on the throat.

During episodes, dogs experience significant stress and anxiety, which exacerbates their symptoms and accelerates the condition's progression. Therefore, effectively managing and reducing a dog's anxiety and stress is crucial for alleviating the impact of a collapsed Trachea.

Causes of Collapse Trachea in dogs

Collapsed Trachea in dog does not have a single, definitive cause. It often stems from a congenital weakness in the tracheal cartilage, present since birth, which environmental factors and concurrent illnesses may exacerbate. Risk factors include:

  • Obesity, which can compress the Trachea.
  • Exposure to air pollutants like smoke or air fresheners, recent anesthesia involving an endotracheal tube.
  • Upper respiratory infections such as kennel cough.
  • Heart enlargement is associated with conditions like heart murmurs or congestive heart failure, where the enlarged heart can exert pressure on the Trachea.

These factors can trigger or worsen symptoms in affected dogs.

A dog with collapsed Trachea can be of any breed or size, but it's particularly common among smaller breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, and Toy Poodles. While this condition is often diagnosed in middle-aged and senior dogs, it can also occur in younger dogs.

How Veterinarians Diagnose a Dog's Collapse Trachea

When your dog shows signs of coughing or other risk factors, your veterinarian will begin with a detailed history. If you can capture a coughing episode on video at home, it can aid in the examination. Sometimes, gentle pressure on the throat during the exam can trigger the cough, providing valuable diagnostic clues.

Based on breed, symptoms, and physical exam findings, your vet may suspect a collapsing Trachea. If your dog exhibits the classic "goose honking" cough or similar symptoms, your vet might perform chest and neck x-rays to check for signs of tracheal collapse. However, this condition can vary in visibility on regular X-rays. For a more precise diagnosis, your vet may refer you to a specialist for fluoroscopy (moving x-ray) or bronchoscopy (using a small camera inserted into the airways under anesthesia).

Additionally, your veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count, serum blood chemistry, and urinalysis for a comprehensive health assessment. An echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) might also be advised to rule out any underlying heart issues.

Conventional collapsing trachea dog treatment

Traditional treatments for dogs and collapsed Trachea involve various medications to manage symptoms. These include cough suppressants, bronchodilators, sedatives, opioids, antibiotics, and anabolic steroids. However, these medications come with potential side effects and risks of interactions with each other or with any other medications your pet may be taking.

Natural Remedies for Collapsed Trachea in Dogs Treatment

While collapsed Trachea in dogs currently lacks a cure, managing the condition focuses on slowing its progression and ensuring our dogs' comfort. This includes minimizing stress and anxiety, avoiding pollen exposure during allergy seasons, moderating exercise, staying indoors during hot and humid weather, and maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity can worsen breathing difficulties so dietary adjustments may be necessary for overweight dogs. Additionally, incorporating bone broth to strengthen tracheal cartilage and natural sources like glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid from deer antler velvet and green-lipped mussels can be beneficial. Honey is a natural cough suppressant, and locally sourced varieties may aid in managing allergies.

CBD for collapsed Trachea in dog treatment

CBD oil derived from full-spectrum hemp extract has demonstrated effectiveness in managing symptoms associated with collapsed Trachea in dogs, such as arthritis, inflammation, joint pain, and back pain. CBD offers these benefits, unlike pharmaceuticals, without the risk of adverse side effects or dangerous interactions. It reduces irritation and pressure in the pulmonary system, preventing further degeneration of the Trachea and supporting cartilage through its anti-inflammatory properties. CBD also helps in managing stress and anxiety, which can be beneficial during episodes of tracheal collapse. Studies suggest that CBD may have bronchodilator effects on the airway smooth muscle, potentially aiding in airway hyperreactivity.


Collapsed Trachea in dog is a common respiratory issue. Although it can't be cured, you can ease your pet's symptoms with lifestyle adjustments and natural supplements that reduce anxiety and inflammation.

If your dog shows symptoms, consult a holistic vet. They may need tests like X-rays, echocardiograms, or fluoroscopy for a conclusive diagnosis.

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