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.
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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
- Illness (bronchopneumonia)
- Aspiration pneumonia
Should your dog’s trachea be mildly or moderately narrowed, you may not see any signs of the condition.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hypoplastic Trachea Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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.
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I have a 16 year old shih-Tzu that has been diagnosed with narrowing of the trachea about a year ago through ex-rays. He has been on and off different meds and has been doing fine until a few days ago when he started coughing excessively. I took him to the Vet and they prescribed predisone and a steroid, but he continues to cough excessively. He has taken these medications before and the cough abated. I am getting worried about him. I don't think the local Vets are recommending any further treatments because of his age. I have read a lot of information on-line and the different treatments available. I would like for you to suggest what you would recommend if he were your dog.
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My 11 weeks english bulldog diagnosed with severe hypoplastic trachea, my heart is breaking everytime I see her. Is there a chance of surviving to this case? We just spent 700 from vet for oxygen and anti biotics. She is still not feeling well. We just got her from a breeder and she was fine when we first got her. She looks like she just wanna rest. This makes me go sad.
Tracheal hypoplasia in some brachycephalic dogs might partially or completely resolve with growth to mature body size (Journal of American Animal Hospital Association 2011); this is not a guarantee. Long term management consists of keeping body weight low, activity restriction and correcting any other conditions caused by brachycephalic syndrome; your Veterinarian would be able to give you more information based specifically on Khloe’s condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
I have an Australian Bulldog who was 10 week when he was diagnosed with hypoplastic trachea and collapsed larynx. 5 vets told us to PTS but we monitored him closely changed him to a raw diet and he is a happy healthy 2yo dog. I hope my words of enthusiasm are not too late!!!
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My Alaskan Klee Kai, Tikaani, was diagnosed with a collapsed trachea 4 years ago or so. The main symptom was her difficulty clearing the trachea after drinking water---she coughs and then she seems fine.
I've noticed for months now that she seems to pant during the night regardless of the rooms temp and my other dog always appears to be comfortable. She breathes with her mouth open, taking around 200 breathes a minute. Her breathing is shallow, rapid and is audible similar to the sound of a locomotive in the distance. She does not appear to be in any distress or anxiety.
I've never worried about it since she has a severe joint disorder requiring daily meds for pain---carprophen, tramadol and gabapenten. I've assumed the pain was the issue. I spent nearly $5000 on stem cell surgery and treatments hoping the cartilage and bone irregularities would heal but the condition has only progressed. She is now being treated for canine lupus which requires another pill twice a day.
She's family. She cannot walk but I do take her out in her doggy buggy daily, I play with her on the bed and she does sleep with me and gets massages twice daily, which she loves.
Thank you for any suggestions you might give. No doubt you will suggest we go back to the Vet for more tests. I understand you must do so here. I'm just so spent at this point. I'm certain our Vet has noticed the rapid short breathing over the months but it has never been commented on.
The rapid breathing / panting would most likely be attributable to pain; but if Tikanni is not in distress, behaviour is normal and is on a pain management plan, I would keep an eye on her. Noisy breathing may be caused by tracheal disorders, soft palate disorders, laryngeal disorders or narrowed airways; these are all conditions which would need to be checked (among others) by your Veterinarian. You know that further testing is required to determine the cause and I am unable to shed little light as I cannot examine Tikanni; but ensure that she is comfortable and is not in distress, however if the breathing becomes laboured or difficult visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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