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What is Collapse of the Windpipe?

A collapsed windpipe can cause severe discomfort in cats. Owners who suspect that their cat may be suffering from this condition should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

The windpipe, or trachea, is a stiff tube-like structure in the neck that transports air from the mouth and nose to the small airways and lungs. Windpipe collapse occurs when the trachea loses its structure or narrows, making breathing difficult for the animal. The condition is rare in cats and may not arise until they reach six or seven years of age.

Collapse of the Windpipe Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Collapse of the Windpipe in Cats

Symptoms are commonly aggravated by outside forces including excitement, exercise, obesity, exposure to heat, and the inhalation of irritants such as smoke or dust. Affected animals often display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Hacking cough that sounds like honking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Retching or dry-heaving
  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing when inhaling
  • Blue-colored membranes
  • Loss of consciousness
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Causes of Collapse of the Windpipe in Cats

Males and females are equally likely to be affected by collapsed windpipe. The condition is most commonly caused by an inherited congenital defect. Other causes include:

  • Sudden change in nutrition
  • Chronic disease of the airway
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory infection
  • Airway obstruction
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Diagnosis of Collapse of the Windpipe in Cats

A thorough review of the cat’s medical history and discussion of past symptoms is the first step in the diagnostic process. Lab tests will likely be ordered including a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile. Chest x-rays will help to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms and will allow the vet to examine the condition of the heart. A fluoroscopy or “moving x-ray” can help the vet to better observe the trachea. An echocardiogram may also be ordered to check for an enlargement of the right side of the heart.

Although it is a more invasive procedure, a bronchoscopy can give the vet a detailed view of the airway. He or she will examine the trachea for bleeding and inflammation and will check for obstructions like foreign objects or tumors. The procedure can also be used to extract a tissue sample from deeper within the trachea to be used for lab testing.

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Treatment of Collapse of the Windpipe in Cats

The treatment recommended will vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the level of discomfort that the animal is presenting.

Emergency Treatment

In severe cases, cats may need to be hospitalized to address immediate symptoms. Oxygen is often administered to aid in breathing. The cat is usually heavily sedated to reduce discomfort and assist in the administration of necessary treatments.

Addressing Triggers

Symptoms can be greatly reduced by addressing the common triggers that cause them. Pets with the condition should be kept calm whenever possible. An air conditioner can be used in the summer months to keep cats cool, and a humidifier is recommended in the winter to combat dry heat. Smoking near affected cats should be avoided. A regimented weight loss program can be helpful for obese cats.

Prescription Medication

The veterinarian may prescribe a cough suppressant and bronchodilators to open up the airway. Corticosteroids like Prednisone may be used for the reduction of mucus and inflammation. This should only be used for a short period of time as long-term use has actually been shown to worsen the condition. If a secondary infection is present, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed.

Surgical Correction

In some cases, surgery will be recommended. The most common surgical procedure is the placement of prosthetic rings on the outside of the trachea. It should only be performed by an experienced surgical specialist. The surgery has a fairly high success rate, particularly in animals that are under six years old. It’s possible that coughing will continue after surgery, but it is likely to be less severe. When the rings are placed in the lower area near the chest, there is a chance that regular movement can cause them to break.

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Recovery of Collapse of the Windpipe in Cats

When surgery is performed, it is likely that the cat will need to remain at the veterinary hospital for one to two days after. Medication will be prescribed to control pain and reduce swelling and coughing. The cat should be kept calm and activity should be minimized for at least two weeks. A sedative may be prescribed to avoid over-exercise. The cat will need to return to the vet to have staples or sutures removed, and follow-up visits are recommended to ensure proper healing.

Once the cat has fully recovered, gentle exercise and a healthy diet may be recommended to reduce weight problems. Cats should be kept indoors as much as possible to avoid overstimulation. With proper treatment and weight management, prognosis is generally positive. Affected cats will need regular veterinary follow-up visits to monitor their health.

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Collapse of the Windpipe Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Collapse of the Windpipe Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Sylvestor

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short hair

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3 Weeks

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Harsh Breathing

I just got a new kitten about two days ago and I already notice harsh breathing that is causing him to cough and sometimes he has to breath with his mouth open I'm not sure what it can be but it's constant all day so I was hoping for your opinion

Aug. 2, 2018

Sylvestor's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Sylvestor is coughing and breathing with his mouth open, he may have a serious problem with his lungs, and he should be seen by a veterinarian so that they can evaluate him and see what treatment he may need.

Aug. 2, 2018

Thank you I'll look into that very soon

Aug. 2, 2018

Sylvestor's Owner

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Elke

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tabby

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing

Elke wheezes when walking and when she's nervous. She's a rescue cat and I was told she was mistreated by her previous owner and has a collapsed windpipe from being kicked in the neck. Would it cause her pain?

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Kiki

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short hair, grey

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing
Wheezing, Heavy Breathing

My cat is about 1 year and 4 months, and the x-ray the vet just took showed no lung problems, and most likely a collapsed trachea. I can't afford surgery right now or a more detailed x-ray. What can I do to help her at home?

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Arlo

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Orange tabby

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8 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

I have an 8 month kitten. He started coughing, then rattling and in obvious distress. I noticed he had had a lot of water. The X-ray showed a collapsed trachea. They gave him steroids and watched him all night. The morning X-ray showed a re-expanded trachea. He was put on prednisone for four weeks. We are in his third week of tapering. He had a coughing spell just now. I believe he also had been drinking water. He is not rattling yet— and of course it’s Friday night.

Collapse of the Windpipe Average Cost

From 464 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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