Have you ever had the horrible dream where you couldn’t breath and you woke up frantic in cold sweat only to find that the cat had been sleeping on your face? I’m sure our dogs don’t have the cat problem (or do they?) but they can have a serious genetic condition that blocks their airway. The condition is called Tracheal Collapse.
It is a genetic condition where the cartilage rings of the trachea are weak and collapse in on itself either when the dog breathes in or out. This condition can cause the dog to become frantic because it can’t get enough air and creates a vicious cycle that may lead to the pet collapsing (the anxiety of not getting enough air creates rapid breathing which exacerbates the situation.) This is a very serious condition that only gets worse without treatment.
What causes this condition?
It is a genetic condition that commonly affects many small breed dogs. The most common breeds affected are Chihuahuas, Yorkshire terriers (catch our previous blog article with a picture of the cutest Yorkie), Pugs,Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzu, Toy and Miniature Poodles, and Pomeranians. Large dogs and cats may be affected but it isn’t as common.
How can I tell if my dog’s trachea collapses?
If you have a small dog that really doesn't like to exercise or has a cough that sounds like a goose honking, then it may have a collapsing trachea. Some other signs are your dog producing a lot of mucous or your dog acting like there is something caught in his/her throat. Go visit your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs. (Also, look to see if Fido’s been sleeping with the cat.)
Tracheal collapse cannot be cured but can be medically maintained or possibly surgically corrected. Surgical correction is not common and involves many risks which are why this method is usually a last resort. If this surgery is required it should be performed by a specialist who is experienced with this type of surgical procedure.
Maintaining the condition is usually done through medicines and eliminating any factors that are contributing to your dog's collapsing trachea. Cigarette smoke, obesity (the dog, not the pet parent!), and dust may all contribute to your pets breathing problems.
If anyone has a pet that has undergone surgical correction for tracheal collapse, please let us know. We would be interested in hearing your story and finding out how much you paid.
Treating tracheal collapse in dogs - Dr Chick Weisse
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Repairing a tracheal collapse in dogs
New York Times - Cat and Dog Obesity
Dog choking on a ball
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