Tracheal Collapse – Airway obstruction in dogs

on June 15, 2016
Posted in General

 Collapsing Trachea—what are the options?

Collapsing trachea is a common medical problem seen mostly in small breed dogs. It is the number one cause of airway obstruction in dogs.

The trachea (windpipe) is made up of stiff cartilage rings through which the air is transported in and out of the lungs. If the rings are not as stiff as they should be, which can be related to breed, then under stress (due to smoke, excitement, obesity, exercise or hot humid weather) they collapse.

The dog then coughs with a characteristic honking sound. Severe cases have other signs such as exercise intolerance, laboured breathing and bluish gums. Signs of tracheal collapse are most common after 5 years of age.

Most cases of tracheal collapse are treated medically with things like cough suppressants, anti-histamines, bronchodilators and corticosteroids.

Throat Gold can be part of medical management for your dog and may take the place of many of these pharmaceuticals.

Medical management improves at least 3/4 of these dogs  but there are other things to consider when managing a collapsing trachea.

The first thing is to help determine the severity of the collapse (how much trachea is collapsing) and if the mainstem bronchi are collapsing. This is done with tracheoscopy and/or fluoroscopy (specialized tests that look at the trachea and determine how much collapse is present). Those patients that have failed aggressive medical and environmental management, and have had other heart issues,  or lung problems ruled out may be candidates for tracheal stenting. Tracheal stunting is a surgical procedure to stiffen the cartilage.

Medical and environmental management includes weight loss, restricted exercise, removal of second-hand smoke or respiratory irritants and treatment with anti-inflammatory doses of corticosteroids, aggressive antitussive therapy (for coughing), and the general management of underlying heart disease and other respiratory related conditions. Once the patient has failed these therapies a tracheal stent may be considered.

Clinical improvement rates are seen in 75%-90% of animals treated with tracheal stents and immediate complications are rare and minor. Late complications included stent shortening, excessive granulation tissue production at the ends of the stent, progressive tracheal collapse, and stent fracture.

Stenting does not cure tracheal collapse or slow the progression of the disease; however, when used in the appropriate patients, can significantly improve the patients’ quality of life. In many patients, medications are still required post stenting for the remainder of their life. If tracheal and bronchial collapse are present, the results following tracheal stent placement become less predictable. For these patients continued coughing will likely be present as the bronchial collapse will continue.

Intractable coughing may be one of the causes of stent cycling and failure from fracture. If a stent begins to fracture it is possible and recommended to resent within the original stent.

This reinforces the need for continued medical management with herbals like Throat Gold or pharmaceuticals  after stent placement.


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  • Throat comfort for persistent coughs
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To order and learn more visit Throat Gold product page. 

Read also: How Princess Molly overcomes canine liver disease and stomach tumor

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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