What is Collapse of the Windpipe?
The trachea, or windpipe, extends from the neck of the dog to the chest. This important tube is how the air gets into the lungs. When this airway becomes obstructed, it is extremely serious. One cause of an obstructed airway in dogs is tracheal collapse, or collapse of the windpipe. The windpipe of dogs can collapse when the rings of cartilage that make up the trachea begin to collapse. This is very serious; as the air is trying to get through to the lungs, the collapsed cartilage makes it extremely difficult for the air to pass through.
There are several different reasons a dog’s airway can collapse; this can happen because of congenital abnormalities or from factors that have occurred in his environment.
Collapse of the windpipe in dogs is caused by the rings of the trachea becoming unsupported for a particular reason and collapsing, thus making it difficult for the dog to breathe properly.
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Symptoms of Collapse of the Windpipe in Dogs
Symptoms of this disorder can be quite alarming as the dog is suffering and needs immediate medical attention. Symptoms of collapse of the windpipe in dogs include:
- Labored breathing
- Deep, abnormal-sounding cough
- Resisting any form of exercise
- Bluish-colored gums
There are specific breeds that are much more prone to airway obstruction by a collapsed windpipe. This certainly does not mean that if you get an at-risk breed type that this condition will occur, but keeping abreast of the symptoms and the disorder itself can keep you proactive and take steps to help prevent it from occurring. This condition is congenital, and the types of breeds that can be adversely affected by this disorder include:
- Miniature Poodles
- Yorkshire Terriers, or “Yorkies”
- Other toy breeds
Causes of Collapse of the Windpipe in Dogs
Tracheal collapse has a few causes that, in some cases, can be prevented. Causes of collapse of the windpipe in dogs include:
- Chronic disease which can block the airway
- Respiratory infection
- Undernourished dogs
- Trauma to the windpipe
- Cushing’s disease
- Heart disease
Diagnosis of Collapse of the Windpipe in Dogs
At first sign of your dog in distress, you should immediately take him to a veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian. Usually, the distinct sound of abnormal coughing will clue the veterinarian towards the diagnosis of a collapsed trachea. The veterinarian will continue on with testing to prove this is the case.
The medical professional will do a radiograph of the dog’s windpipe, and if that doesn’t reveal the condition, he will continue on and do another test, called a fluoroscopy. A fluoroscopy will give the veterinarian a clearer picture of what is happening by closely showing the trachea as air is inhaled and exhaled. If a scope is used to “watch” the air entering and exhaling the airway, your dog will need to undergo anesthesia.
A more invasive technique may be used to gauge the amount in which the windpipe has collapsed, called a bronchoscopy. The bronchoscope is a tube with a camera that can be inserted into the trachea to give a detailed view of the trachea and all of the issues within. It also checks for the degree of inflammation, bleeding, growths, and foreign objects.
Treatment of Collapse of the Windpipe in Dogs
Once the diagnosis is complete and the severity of the collapsed windpipe is known, the veterinarian will outline a treatment plan for your fur baby. The veterinarian may prescribe one or more of the following:
Giving your companion cough suppressants will calm him down and reduce the coughing. This may help his windpipe be less irritated.
Steroid treatments to help control the inflammation, bronchodilators to help open the airways, and antibiotics to fight any infections will more than likely be recommended by your veterinarian.
If the medications were not successful, then surgery will be suggested. This, of course, is used as a last resort because the rates for success are only at 75% and much less for older dogs. The surgery should be performed by a surgeon who specializes in this area. The surgery entails applying prosthetic bands, or rings, to the outer part of the trachea to stabilize it.
Recovery of Collapse of the Windpipe in Dogs
The veterinarian will give you precise instructions on what to do once the dog is released. This depends on the treatment the dog received; if he had surgery then the plan of recovery and management may be more intense.
Keeping watch over your loved one is key; the veterinarian will want to know about any abnormal changes in behavior. Regular visits will need to be scheduled to be sure he is recovering successfully. The veterinarian will weigh the dog at each visit in case he is overweight. You may be encouraged to put your companion on a weight loss plan and feed him special food.
Prevention is also important for future reference. Never underestimate the value of a harness when walking your pup. It is much safer than a typical collar on a leash, as it keeps the windpipe safe from any trauma if the dog pulls when walking or running. Also, gentle exercise should be allowed rather than rough romping and jumping.