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.
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.
- The patient will be anesthetized using an IV (intravenous) sedative, which will allow the canine to continue intubation.
- The technician will be wearing sterile gloves to intubate the patient using a sterile endotracheal tube and avoid contamination of the oropharyngeal.
- 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
- Oxygen therapy will be discontinued and the patient will be disconnected from the breathing circuit.
- A flexible, rubber catheter will be passed through the endotracheal tube.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.