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What is Tracheal Wash?

A tracheal wash is a procedure that involves inserting a sterile, flexible tube down the patient’s mouth and upper airways. A second tube is passed through the primary tube and down into the lung’s airways, where a small portion of saline solution will be admitted. The saline solution will mix with microscopic material found in the trachea and so, when the fluid is aspirated with a syringe, any infectious material will be brought up with the administered fluids. The samples are submitted for microscopic pathological review in a laboratory setting where a laboratory technician will be able find the presence of mycoplasma, fungi or bacteria. In order to perform the tracheal wash procedure, the canine will be required to undergo a brief period of anesthesia. The procedure may pose a risk for those with known respiratory conditions. Canine tracheal wash procedures are commonly performed in clinic by a licensed veterinarian. 

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Tracheal Wash Procedure in Dogs

The veterinarian will first perform a routine diagnostic examination of the canine. Routine testing will include a physical exam, blood work, a urinalysis and possibly a fecal examination. Radiographs of the chest will likely be taken prior to the tracheal wash procedure. If the canine is suffering from respiratory distress and is not receiving enough oxygen, oxygen will be provided. 

Inducing Anesthesia 

  1. The patient will be anesthetized using an IV (intravenous) sedative, which will allow the canine to continue intubation. 
  2. The technician will be wearing sterile gloves to intubate the patient using a sterile endotracheal tube and avoid contamination of the oropharyngeal.
  3. The endotracheal tube will be secured and the cuff of the endoscope will be inflated. Oxygen will be checked and connected.  

Performing the Tracheal Wash 

  1. Oxygen therapy will be discontinued and the patient will be disconnected from the breathing circuit. 
  2. A flexible, rubber catheter will be passed through the endotracheal tube. 
  3. Saline will be infused through said catheter in small aliquots, then aspirated in order to collect the sample. The dog may be rotated or coupaged (an alternate movement, creating force upon the pet’s sides) in order loosen respiratory secretions and increase yield.  
  4. The wash sample will be placed in a culturette, in a sample tube, or be saved for cytology slides. 

After the sample has been successfully collected, the canine will be connected to oxygen therapy once again and allowed to recover in the hospital’s designated patient recovery area. 

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Efficacy of Tracheal Wash in Dogs

A tracheal wash is a highly effective procedure for collecting samples for microscopic review. Improper collection technique or an insufficient amount of admitted saline solution can result than a less than perfect outcome.

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Tracheal Wash Recovery in Dogs

After the tracheal wash procedure is complete, the dog will be connected to oxygen therapy if needed and allowed to wake up from the anesthetic in a recovery room. The patient may cough in response to having fluid introduced into the lungs and his/her throat may be irritated from the endotracheal tubes. Slight irritation is to be expected and will resolve on its own within a few minutes to an hour. 

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Cost of Tracheal Wash in Dogs

The cost to have a tracheal wash procedure performed will include routine diagnostic tests including blood work, a urinalysis and x-rays. The use of an anesthetic and oxygen therapy should also be included into the total price, plus the examination of the collected sample. Dog owners should expect to pay roughly $250 with or without drug prescriptions included. 

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Dog Tracheal Wash Considerations

The tracheal wash procedure does require the patient to undergo a brief period of anesthesia and may pose a risk for those with known respiratory conditions. Brachycephalic dogs and canines with asthma or other respiratory health conditions may need special care during the procedure. 

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Tracheal Wash Prevention in Dogs

Bacteria and fungus enter the lungs when the dog breathes in, which makes prevention difficult in some circumstances. Keeping the dog’s living area sanitary and limiting contact with stray or unknown dogs will aid in the prevention of a needed tracheal wash procedure. 

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Tracheal Wash Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Lhasa Apso

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Deep Gasping Breaths

My dog has had periods of deep gasping breaths. I took her to the vet a year ago. She said he might have a collapsed trachea but since it was sporadic, we didn't need to do anything. 6 months ago, it was worse. I took her back in and same thing. Now it's really bad. If she moves at all, she is doing these deep deep breaths. I took her to the vet and they were going to observe her and do an x-ray. She didn't have the gasping except a few here and there while she was at the vet and they said her x-ray was good. She was on a cough suppresant, a steroid and an antibiotic and nothing has helped.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Since she doesn't seem to have the problem when she is at the veterinary clinic, it may help quite a bit for you to video the episodes so that they can see what she is doing. lot of times, that helps us figure out what is actually going on, so that we can get the right treatment. Letting them know that she is not improving with the medications will help, as well. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Oct. 5, 2020

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Dasha

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Wheaton terrrier mix

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Cough,
Dry Cough, Fast Breathing

My 3 year-old Wheaton terrier mix who I rescued was initially diagnosed with kennel cough at beginning of April 2018 & put on dicicyclin-2 days later her breathing became labored so took her back for thoracic x-rays-looked like build up starting in lungs so changed to clavamox for 14 days & a fungal serology panel 2 & heartworm antigen were done & both labs came back negative.Still not improving after finishing clavamox so put on ciproflaxicin but breathing still labored so back for more x-rays. Still inconclusive other than pneumonia. Put on steriod Prednisone now - did improve breathing. Recommended for a bronchoscopy & airway sampling to find out what is going on in lungs but I can't afford $4,000.00. Is there an alternative test I can do to see what is going on in her lungs to find the right medication to put her on to try to save my dog? A chest x-ray done in July 2017 because hit by car (not serious) and her chest x-rays showed it was clear with no build up what-so-ever. Want to find out what she has to get her on the right medication.

April 26, 2018

Dasha's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Unfortunately, without testing to find out why the fluid is building up in her lungs, your veterinarian can only try different medications and hope for the best. I'm sorry that that is happening to her, that sounds very perplexing. One thing that you can do is discuss the cost with your veterinarian, let them know that that amount of money is a problem, and see if there are any other treatment or diagnostic options. I hope that she is okay.

April 26, 2018

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