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Collapse of the Wind Pipe in Dogs

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

Tracheal collapse in dogs pertains to a condition where the trachea, the large tube responsible for transporting air from the nose and throat to the lungs’ small airways (bronchi), experiences a narrowing of its cavity (lumen) during breathing. This narrowing can affect either the cervical trachea, situated in the neck, or the intrathoracic trachea, located in the chest.

While tracheal collapse can manifest in dogs of any age or breed, it appears to be more prevalent among Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and other small and toy breeds.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of tracheal abnormalities appear to worsen with heat, excitement, exercise, or obesity. The following symptoms are frequently noticed in affected animals:

  • Dry honking cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unproductive efforts to vomit (retching)
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Unusual breathing sounds
  • Inability to perform routine exercises
  • Bluish colored membranes
  • Spontaneous loss of consciousness

Causes

Causes of tracheal collapse include:

  • Congenital (existing at birth)
  • Nutritional factors
  • Chronic diseases involving the airways
  • More prevalent in obese animals or those experiencing respiratory infections or airway obstructions

Diagnosis

Diagnosing your dog’s condition involves several steps:

Firstly, you’ll need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health, including any symptoms they’ve been experiencing. After this, your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination.

Routine laboratory tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, will be performed. Elevated levels of white blood cells (WBCs) in the complete blood count may suggest an infection.

Diagnostic imaging is crucial to examine the lungs and trachea thoroughly. Chest X-rays are valuable for identifying a collapsed trachea and determining its location. In some instances, enlargement of the right side of the heart may also be detected.

Fluoroscopy is an advanced diagnostic technique that provides real-time, dynamic images of the internal body. It utilizes an X-ray device positioned in front of a fluorescent screen to visualize internal structures in motion, leading to more precise assessment and diagnosis. Your veterinarian might also extract a tissue sample from the inner lining of the trachea for laboratory analysis. This sample will be cultured to detect the presence of harmful bacteria in the tracheal tube and to conduct cell type testing.

To assess the severity of the collapse, bronchoscopy can be employed. In this procedure, a bronchoscope—a tubular instrument equipped with a camera—is inserted into the trachea. The captured images are then relayed onto video equipment for review and diagnosis. Although more invasive than standard X-rays, bronchoscopy provides a detailed view of various abnormalities within the tracheal tube, including foreign bodies, bleeding, inflammation, or tumors in the airways. It also enables estimation of the degree of tracheal narrowing, graded from 1 to 6 based on increasing severity. Moreover, the bronchoscope can be used to gather tissue and fluid samples from deeper within the tracheal canal for further laboratory analysis.

Treatment

Treatment for a collapsed trachea may necessitate hospitalization if your dog exhibits severe symptoms and struggles to breathe properly. Oxygen therapy is typically administered to address respiratory issues. Dogs with a collapsed trachea are often heavily sedated to alleviate suffering and prevent resistance against the physical constraints caused by the condition and the treatments administered. Physical activity should be minimized until the dog’s condition stabilizes.

Various medications are available for treating tracheal collapse. Cough suppressants can help alleviate the stress associated with continuous coughing. Your veterinarian may also prescribe medication to dilate the small airways, facilitating normal breathing. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be initiated to reduce tracheal inflammation and associated symptoms. In certain cases, surgery might be necessary, especially if obstruction poses a problem. However, post-surgical complications are common in these patients.

Living and Management

Living and managing a dog with a collapsed trachea involves prioritizing complete rest during recovery while incorporating gentle exercise and a balanced diet for long-term weight management. Weight reduction significantly alleviates symptoms, and most dogs respond positively to a well-structured weight loss regimen. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist for guidance on a weight-loss program tailored to your dog’s weight, age, health status, and breed.

It’s important to discourage overexcitement in these animals, as it can exacerbate their compromised lung function and trigger crises. Opt for gentle exercise and use a harness instead of a collar and leash, which can exert unnecessary pressure on the throat area and worsen breathing difficulties. With proper treatment and weight management, the prognosis for disease remission is favorable.

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