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What is Tracheal Perforation?

A tear or hole in the trachea is known more commonly as tracheal perforation or tracheal tear. This condition, at its worst, allows for air to get trapped in pockets under the skin, in the chest cavity and abdominal cavity, between the lungs, and in the sac around the heart. In those instances, surgery is more likely to occur. In more benign cases, small punctures and tears require very little attention from your dog’s medical staff, though it’s always a good idea to have your animal companion checked by a medical profession.

A hole in the trachea in dogs is a condition caused by trauma or injury. It is, in some cases, self-healing. More serious cases may require surgical intervention.

Tracheal Perforation Average Cost

From 5 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

Symptoms of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

Since tracheal perforation is caused by injury, any of the following symptoms may become apparent immediately following trauma and up to 14 days later:

  • Pockets of palpable air under the skin
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Signs of external trauma or holes in the neck region
  • Malaise
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia (lack of appetite)
  • Gagging
  • Unusual salivation
  • Coughing
  • Shock
Types
  • Penetration or puncture wound
  • Perforation
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Causes of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

There are a number of things that can cause a hole in the trachea in dogs, including:

  • Punctures from bite wounds, hunting accidents, sticks, etc. These type of punctures will appear as small or medium-sized holes in the neck of the dog.
  • Accidental perforation can occur during medical procedures. The most common causes include perforation during intubation, transtracheal saline washes, during the administration of anesthesia, and during dental procedures. In these cases, you will not notice any physical signs of damage to your dog’s neck, though you may see small pockets of air forming in your dogs skin.
  • Blunt trauma, such as being struck by a car or object., falling down the stairs or from a point of high elevation. There are obvious signs of injury and distress here, and this is considered a medical emergency.
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Diagnosis of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

The path to diagnosis begins with a physical examination during which your veterinarian will look for tenderness in the neck region of your dog and any visible wounds. Your doctor will also listen to your dog’s lungs and heart, and check for air pockets under your dog’s coat if a hole in the trachea is suspected.

A variety of medical tests are used to confirm diagnosis, such as:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) to rule out inflammation and infection
  • Biochemistry profile to check kidney, liver and pancreas function
  • Urinalysis to gauge kidney function and look for signs of dehydration
  • Arterial blood gas analysis to measure blood oxygenation
  • Pulse oximetry to check for low oxygen saturation
  • X-rays of neck and chest to confirm air pockets under the skin, free air in the chest cavity and/or air in the area around the heart
  • Abdominal X-rays may be used to see air that has been trapped in the abdominal cavity
  • Tracheoscopy, a procedure that allows doctors to view the inside of the trachea and lower airways, may be performed to confirm tracheal tears, rips or holes.

A positive diagnosis is generally confirmed with a combination of X-rays and, if needed, tracheoscopy, though the latter is less common as it can cause further injury and inflammation to the trachea.

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Treatment of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

Treatment varies widely, of course, depending on the extent of the injury and general health of the dog. Possible treatments include:

  • Tracheal perforation with signs of oxygen deficiency generally requires hospitalization, during which your dog may receive oxygen therapy and rest.
  • Small tears and perforations caused by medical procedures usually heal on their own and rarely require hospitalization or treatment, with the exception of mild painkillers.
  • Blunt force trauma injuries will need to be evaluated extensively. Dogs that are physically unstable, have difficulty breathing, or are leaking large amounts of air under their skin rapidly will require immediate surgery to close deep wounds, repair tracheal damage, and remove air pockets.

Most dogs will be given a prescription strength pain medication and, if an infection is present, a course of antibiotics. Most trapped air under the skin will be reabsorbed without intervention though large pockets of air or those that do not heal on their own may require a tubal drain system to be implanted under the skin.

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Recovery of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

Follow-up appointments are a requirement for this type of injury if your dog has had a surgical procedure performed. Your doctor will want to see your dog several times post-surgery to watch for signs of infection and monitor healing.

Dogs with minor injuries that heal on their own may require one follow-up visit though your veterinarian will decide that your dog’s course of treatment.

Dogs should be prohibited from exercising for at least 7 to 10 days following treatment.

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Cost of Tracheal Perforation in Dogs

Since the severity of this condition varies widely and, in many cases, spontaneously heals on its own, the costs associated with treatment vary widely. Average costs run from $78 to $3,880, including office visits, medications, and surgery.

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Tracheal Perforation Average Cost

From 5 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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Tracheal Perforation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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German Shepard Rott mix

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

My dog is coughing and hacking like she has a fur ball in her throat but nothing comes up , when she eats it sounds like she’s straining to breathe and chokes constantly . This started about 2 days ago .

Aug. 28, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. It would be best to have her evaluated by your veterinarian if she is coughing frequently. It could be something very simple such as an upper respiratory tract infection, but there are more serious causes of coughing including heart disease, heartworms, pneumonia, or foreign bodies in the respiratory tract. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate her and decide if x-rays are needed to rule out a more serious cause. Your veterinarian can then provide appropriate treatment. I hope she recovers quickly.

Aug. 28, 2020

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Chihuahua

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1 1/2

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Has Always Coughed After Drinking, From 7 Weeks Old. Now Acts Like Something Is Caught In His Throat And Was Gagging At First. Now Just Bobs His Head Constantly As If Throat Is Irritated. Periodically Acts As If He Has Hair Balls Out Of Nowhere.

See above

Aug. 8, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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So sorry to hear about your dog. This can be many different things. Without being able to examine your dog it is very hard to tell. There are many respiratory and neurological issues that chihuahuas can have that would cause these issues. Your vet would be able to examine your dog and figure out exactly what is causing her issues. I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

Aug. 11, 2020

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miniature collie

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6 months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Inactive

My dog was chewing on a stick and got it stuck in his throat a second and my vet said he thinks it could be a trachea tear and to continue to monitor him and it should heal on its own but he coughs and spits up phlegm when he tries to drink and won’t eat all of which I told my vet does this sound like a trachea issue? how long will it take to heal?

July 8, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I'm sorry that happened to your dog. It is possible that there was a tear in the trachea or the esophagus. It can take some time for those tissues to heal. It may help in the meantime to feed soft food, and if he actually isn't on any medications, pain medications and antibiotics might help. Those are things that you can talk to your veterinarian about. They also can give you a better idea of the time frame to expect for healing, as they are able to see your dog. I hope that all goes well.

July 9, 2020

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teacup collie

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5 months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating, Laying Down

My puppy got ahold of a stick and lodged it in his throat my vet said it may be a tracheal problem and to just monitor him he doesn’t eat and barely drinks because he spits up phlegm and coughs when he tries and lays around and isn’t active all of which i told my vet is it likely he damaged his trachea? How long does a trachea wound take to heal?

July 8, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I'm sorry that happened to your dog. It is possible that there was a tear in the trachea or the esophagus. It can take some time for those tissues to heal. It may help in the meantime to feed soft food, and if he actually isn't on any medications, pain medications and antibiotics might help. Those are things that you can talk to your veterinarian about. They also can give you a better idea of the time frame to expect for healing, as they are able to see your dog. I hope that all goes well.

July 9, 2020

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Roo

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Chihuahua Terrier mix

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15 Weeks

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Air Under Skin

My 7lb puppy was bitten by our old grumpy dog and now she is quite literally "full of air" from her head to the middle of her torso. The vet sent her home with some antibiotics and said that the air under her skin will go away, but, since we saw him, its gotten a lot worse. I don't know what to do😭

Aug. 1, 2018

Roo's Owner

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Air will keep accumulating under the skin whilst the defect in the trachea is present, small injuries may be left to heal on their own; larger injuries may require surgical intervention. It can looks scary but with time the air under the skin will disappear but you should return to your Veterinarian if the swelling from the air is causing an issue especially with breathing. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Panda

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Pit bull

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3 Months

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty
Breathing Difficulties

My three month puppy took a spill down the steps of my apartment. I didn’t see how it happen but I think she took a blow to her throat. She was walking with a limp for a couple of days. Now she’s fine doing everything a puppy her age does. She’s a quiet dog so I didn’t know if something was off with her voice box. This is my first dog. That was I think four weeks ago. She doesn’t seem to be in any kind of pain but sometimes she breathes more heavily and kind of pause when chewing on her toys. Plus before that happened she pulls a lot on her leash.

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Orson

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Border Collie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling
Coughing
Gurgling
Huffing

My 3 year old border collie had tplo surgery 3 days ago and since the surgery he’s been huffing, swallowing a lot, having a hard time drinking water with out coughing, there’s a gurgling in his throat area that sounds like gas, he’s drooling and can’t get comfortable. I suspect a tracheal perforation from the intubation during the surgery. Does this sound accurate? And if so, what is the best course of action going forward. He’s still eating and going to the bathroom normally but I’m still worried. How long does a perforation mormally take to heal?

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Nella

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Dachshund

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting Hours After Eatin

My 3 yr old dachshund was frightened by a bigger dog and pulled so hard on her lead running away that she broke it. Since then she has been gagging often and regurgitating her food hours after eating. Could she have damaged her trachea?

Tracheal Perforation Average Cost

From 5 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$3,500

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