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425 East Broadway
Red Lion, PA 17356

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Posted on 01-19-2019

Does Your Dog Sound Like a Goose?  Collapsing Trachea in Dogs


                Small breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Maltese may develop a condition called “collapsing trachea.”  As they age, cartilage rings that help to hold open the trachea or windpipe start to deteriorate.  When the get excited or pant or breathe hard, they may start to cough, narrowing or closing off the trachea as the abnormal cartilage rings collapse. This in turn causes further irritation of the windpipe and more coughing.  Dogs with this condition are often described as “honking” like a goose.

                Diagnosis can be tricky as tracheal collapse is dynamic process. The gold standard used to diagnose this process is a moving x-ray picture called a fluoroscope. This allows the doctor to watch the trachea move and collapse in real time. As one can imagine, however, this test is impractical and only a few teaching hospitals or referral centers offer this type of test. More often, we base a diagnosis on the pet’s breed, history of cough that is worse when the pet is excited and by excluding other causes of cough by taking chest x-rays.  On occasion, we may see the collapsed trachea on a plain x-ray.

                Treatment usually includes reducing stress and excitement, cough suppressants such as butorphanol or hydrocodone and sometimes use of anti-inflammatories or other medications. Surgical treatment has been attempted in which plastic stents are placed within or around the trachea to keep it open. However, the complication rate with this type of surgery is very high and so it is reserved for only the most severe cases of tracheal collapse. While most cases can be managed, occasionally, pets can go into respiratory arrest if the trachea remains constricted and rare cases are fatal.

                Tracheal collapse can usually be managed, but severe cases are sometimes challenging and it is important to rule out other medical conditions before attempting treatment.

This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.