What is Permanent Tracheostomy?

Permanent tracheostomy in dogs is a surgical procedure performed in dogs who have an upper airway obstruction. Upper airway obstructions are often caused by conditions such as laryngeal paralysis, laryngeal collapse, and laryngeal neoplasia. 

The goal of performing a permanent tracheostomy in dogs is to improve respiratory function. Performing a permanent tracheostomy in dogs is rare. In most cases, this surgical procedure is only done in dogs who suffer from severe, chronic obstruction to their airway. The procedure is performed by a certified veterinarian surgeon. 

Book First Walk Free!

Permanent Tracheostomy Procedure in Dogs

Prior to performing a permanent tracheostomy on a dog, a veterinarian will have to complete a thorough exam. This exam may include thoracic and cervical radiographs. A veterinarian may also perform a tracheoscopy prior to the permanent tracheostomy. 

Prior to beginning the surgical procedure, permanent tracheostomy, the dog is placed under anesthesia. The dog is then placed on their back Once placed on their back, with the neck be extended. The legs are then usually placed in a forward position. 

Once in position, the hair on the ventral cervical area is clipped with surgery grade clippers. As soon as the hair is removed the area is cleaned for the surgical procedure.

The veterinarian will then begin to make their incision once the area is clipped and clean. The incision is made beginning at the larynx. Usually the incision will stop right above the upper part of the dog’s sternum. 

Once the incision is made, the veterinarian surgeon will separate the sternohyoideus muscles. Sternohyoideus muscles are the two muscles that attach the hyoid bone to the sternum. Once separated, a large suture will be placed across the muscles. This technique is used to place the muscles underneath the trachea. 

Once the sternohyoideus muscles are under the trachea, the veterinarian will create a window type opening in the trachea. Once the window is created, the skin will then be attached to the walls of the trachea. 

After these steps are completed, the surgeon will begin closing the trachea window first. The trachea window is usually closed with absorbable sutures. After the trachea window is sutured, the veterinarian will suture closed the areas that are remaining.

Efficacy of Permanent Tracheostomy in Dogs

After the surgical procedure of permanent tracheostomy, the dog will be able to breathe better right away. 

The recommendation for this surgery is usually only made in severe cases. Having the option for alternative treatments will depend on the reason for the recommendation in the first place. 

For example, before recommending surgery, a veterinarian may prescribe the dog a medication to help ease coughing. These medications may also help ease the inflammation around the trachea. In some dogs these treatments are sufficient, but in some cases the permanent tracheostomy surgical procedure may still  be necessary. 

Permanent Tracheostomy Recovery in Dogs

Routine cleaning of the surgical opening is necessary to prevent any infection. Keeping this area clean is something that has to be done the remainder of the dog’s life. You may notice a small amount of drainage for several weeks following surgery. 

After surgery, dogs who have had a permanent tracheostomy are restricted from swimming. Dog owners should take care bathing dogs after a permanent tracheostomy is performed. They should ensure that no water can get into the surgical opening. 

The incision site should also be free of any hair. It’s important to keep the area closely groomed. 

Another way to protect the dog’s opening is to avoid placing a collar around the dog’s neck. Instead it’s recommended that dogs who have this procedure done wear a body harness instead. 

Dogs who have a permanent tracheostomy procedure done will notice a relief in breathing right away. But, their bark may be permanently changed. Dog owners may notice their dog’s bark is much softer after surgery. 

In most cases, pain relief medications are provided after surgery. Veterinarians do not usually prescribe antibiotics after this type of procedure. 

Permanent tracheostomy is a permanent surgical treatment. Simply put, the opening will remain for the remainder of the dog’s life. In fact, it’s recommended that a veterinarian is contacted if the hole begins to close. If the surgical opening begins to close, the dog may have trouble breathing again. 

Cost of Permanent Tracheostomy in Dogs

When considering the total cost of a permanent tracheostomy, the cost of pre-procedure visits and visits after surgery should be considered as well as the permanent tracheostomy procedure itself. 

The cost of visiting a veterinarian for the initial exam may cost $100 or more. Radiographs and other tests may run well over $300. The same goes for care after the surgery. 

The procedures itself may run as high as $6,500. Of course, all costs are dependent on your location, where the surgery is performed, and who performs it. 

Dog Permanent Tracheostomy Considerations

Permanent tracheostomy is a life saving procedure for dogs. This is why it is usually done on an emergency basis. It’s important to know that the procedure doesn’t cure what is causing breathing problems. Instead, the permanent tracheostomy procedure is used to help relieve the stress of breathing from the condition causing the issue. 

Like with any surgical procedures, there are risks. One risk of this surgery is the dog having throat irritation from the trach tube that is in place during surgery. The biggest risk is the skin fold near the surgical opening may begin to close. If this happens, a second surgery to correct the problem may be necessary. 

In the weeks following the permanent tracheostomy, the open area may have some discharge. Since the opening is permanent, it’s important to keep it clean. 

Permanent Tracheostomy Prevention in Dogs

Preventing the need for a permanent tracheostomy in a dog is dependent on why the dog needs the procedure. This is especially true since this surgery isn’t done to cure one specific illness. Instead, it’s performed to ease the difficulty of breathing from other causes. 

Unfortunately, most of the complications that are associated with a dog needing a permanent tracheostomy are inherited. This makes preventing the need for a permanent tracheostomy quite difficult.