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What is Hypoplastic Trachea?

A congenital condition, hypoplastic trachea occurs when there is a growth abnormality of the cartilage rings that make up the trachea (windpipe), causing the dog’s airway to be narrowed. The trachea is the tube that runs from just under your dog’s larynx to the bronchi and lets air into and out of his lungs. In hypoplastic trachea, the cartilaginous rings that make up the structure of the trachea fuse or overlap which lead to its narrowing. This is more commonly seen in dogs with a broad, short skull (brachycephalic) and may be present as part of brachycephalic syndrome. Hypoplastic trachea can be present in conjunction with heart anomalies.

How narrow the airway is as a result of this condition can vary; some dogs will experience severe symptoms while others will not. Some dogs will outgrow the condition. Hypoplastic trachea occurs most often in English Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers.

Abnormal growth of the trachea’s cartilage rings leads to its narrowing, causing minimal symptoms in some dogs through more severe problems in others, to include respiratory difficulty.

Symptoms of Hypoplastic Trachea in Dogs

Symptoms will typically be seen at five or six months of age and include:

  • Noisy breathing
  • Breathing appearing labored
  • Coughing
  • Illness (bronchopneumonia)
  • Collapse
  • Aspiration pneumonia

Should your dog’s trachea be mildly or moderately narrowed, you may not see any signs of the condition.

Types 

Other upper airway anomalies in brachycephalic dogs include:

  • Stenotic nares - Unusually narrow or small nostrils which will limit the amount of air that can flow into the nose
  • Elongated soft palate -The dog’s soft palate is too long for the length of his mouth. The extra length will block, in part, the entrance to the trachea at the back of his throat
  • Everted laryngeal saccules - These are small sacs or pouches just within the larynx; the saccules will turn outward or can be sucked into your dog’s airway due to the pressure caused increased effort of his respiratory system as a result of stenotic nares or elongated soft palate (these will obstruct the flow of air)
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Causes of Hypoplastic Trachea in Dogs

How the condition is inherited is not clear. It is most often seen in English Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers and in most cases other upper airway diseases are involved (stenotic nares, elongated soft palate and everted laryngeal saccules). 

In the condition, the rings that make up the trachea are fused or overlap, which causes the trachea to be unusually narrow. This will lead to air flow being more limited than usual and can lead to trouble breathing. Should a dog with this condition develop an illness, it can be more difficult for them to breathe.

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Diagnosis of Hypoplastic Trachea in Dogs

When there are no (or minimal) symptoms, the condition may only be found during a routine exam with your veterinarian. Should your dog be displaying respiratory difficulty, it may be discovered upon your bringing your dog to the veterinarian to investigate the cause of his symptoms. After conducting a physical examination and asking you about the symptoms you have noticed, when you first noticed them and any changes you have observed, your veterinarian will take x-rays in order to see whether there is a narrowing in his trachea and how significant the narrowing is.

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Treatment of Hypoplastic Trachea in Dogs

There is no set treatment for hypoplastic trachea. In dogs that do not have heart disease or brachycephalic syndrome, there may be no clinical signs of the condition present. It is a good idea to help your dog remain at a healthy weight as excess weight will lead to respiratory challenges. 

Treatment will be individualized based on the specific condition of your dog. If your dog has an additional health condition like heart or lung disease, this will be factored into his treatment plan. Some dogs may need bronchodilator therapy on occasion or steroids, which will help to lessen the inflammation experienced. Should an infection develop, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic. In some dogs, the condition will resolve itself in part or completely, once his body matures. Some dogs will require surgery, should their condition be life-threatening or they have a poor quality of life. Surgery can be conducted to expand segments or the trachea in its entirety. In cases that are especially severe, euthanasia may be recommended.

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Recovery of Hypoplastic Trachea in Dogs

Management of hypoplastic trachea will be dependent upon the severity of the condition in your dog. While some dogs will show minimal or no symptoms, others will require lifestyle changes to promote their physical health. You will want to keep a close eye on your dog to notice any breathing changes or difficulties. Should you notice a possible infection in your dog, or frequent vomiting and changes in his behavior, you will want to immediately contact your veterinarian, as an illness will often increase the respiratory difficulty that your dog experiences and dogs with this condition are more prone to developing an infection. 

Ideally, you will want to provide a cool, comfortable environment for your dog with minimal or no stress. In addition, it is important that you administer the medication that your veterinarian has recommended. Follow up care is important so that your veterinarian can monitor his condition and make sure the current treatment is effective. Should the current treatment not be, your veterinarian will make a recommendation of how to best move forward to help your dog.

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Hypoplastic Trachea Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Harley Quinn

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English Bulldog

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11 Weeks

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Mild severity

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5 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Choke

It possible for registered English Bulldog breeder to “not know what Hypoplastic Trachea is”? I have an 11 week old English Bulldog recently diagnosed and when I contacted her breeder she told me, “I have never heard of that. I do not know what it is.” She is energetic, loving, and has a great appetite. However, she snores like an old man, has trouble breathing and always has “wet” lung sounds. Vet said no pneumonia yet but put her on Doxycycline and a cough suppressant. Also showed my wife and films and showed us the Hypoplastic Trachea......

July 30, 2018

Harley Quinn's Owner

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5 Recommendations

I will not comment on the knowledge of a breeder since Veterinarians and breeders very rarely agree on anything and I don’t want to open Pandora’s box on this one; but English Bulldogs are the poster pup for hypoplastic trachea among Brachycephalic breeds. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Bane

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pitbull

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Gagging
Breathing Difficulties
Hacking

My dog hasnt been diagnosed with anything but I'm very concerned his symptoms have gotten worse. He's always had loud breathing, snoring. But recently on top of that he's been hacking and gagging everytime after drinking water and shows very little interest in eating. He just seems to lay around most of the day and is up pacing around the bed at night. I know I need to take him to the vet and have him properly looked at but I'm starting a new job tomorrow and didnt know if theres something I can do to help him in the meantime.

March 29, 2018

Bane's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

I wish there were something that I could tell you that you could do in the meantime, but there really isn't. Bane should be examined, and probably have some x-rays to see what is going on with him. Until you can get him in, you can try offering him boiled chicken and rice, to see if that increases his interest in food.

March 29, 2018

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