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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. 

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

Need pet health advice? 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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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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0 Recommendations

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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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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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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Bella

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Boxer Mix

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

My dog has had a cough for over a month and is not responding to the 3 different antibiotics they have prescribed, the vet is suggesting a tracheal wash procedure to determine the cause. X-rays were negative according to the vet. We’ve seen the vet 5 times now in the span of a month an a half, and the visit costs alone are piling up and we still haven’t gotten a definitive diagnosis. Is this vet taking us down to correct path or should we seek a second opinion? My dog is not necessarily acting like she doesn’t feel good but I want to make sure this cough isn’t something more serious.

March 27, 2018

Bella's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

A trans tracheal wash is a reasonable test to determine the cause of a cough that isn't responding to medications as expected. The cells that are retrieved from the sample can be analyzed, or cultured to see what the cause of the problem might be.

March 27, 2018

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Ruby

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French Bulldog

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2.5

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Hello looking for some help, I have a dog that has pneumonia and she’s been at Taylor vet hospital for 3 days she went in at only 15% lung infection getting close to 50% now she just went thru have puppy week ago looking for advice of what to ask or how to help our girl along we are at a loss and hard to get real good answer. We were told she has become anemic since she had her puppies. Is this something you guys at your vet have good success with or lots of knowledge. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I’ve seen the tracheal wash the vet she is at saying she maybe to weak to do this procedure when should I just say do it cause we won’t have any other choice? Trying to Look for adivce please Thank you! Please email me bgraspointner@gmail.com Or call 2095794428

Oct. 31, 2017

Ruby's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are a few different things we can look at here but most importantly if an infection isn’t responding to antibiotics then a culture and sensitivity test should be done to isolate the pathogen and to find which antibiotics it is most susceptible to. This may involve a tracheal wash or other procedure to catch a sample for culturing, but if Ruby isn’t stable enough there aren’t options left; repeated treatment with antibiotics is in vain if the bacteria are resistant to the ones being used. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 31, 2017

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Winston

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Rottweiler

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Breathing, Loss Of Appetite.

Would or should an endotracheal wash be performed on a canine (200 pound Rottweiler) that presents with difficulty breathing, constant panting/inability to catch his breath, with lung x-rays showing opacity, to prove/disprove spread of cancer - possible (Hystiocytic Sarcoma) currently showing skin lesions, spreading to lungs?

July 26, 2017

Winston's Owner


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0 Recommendations

A tracheal wash (or other similar tests) may not detect cells or pick up cancerous cells; the procedure itself may sound scary since fluid is introduced to the lungs, but it is generally a safe procedure. Normally, histiocytic sarcoma is diagnosed by taking a fine needle aspirate or biopsy of a lesion for histopathology; also chest x-rays, blood tests and bone marrow examination are part of the diagnostic process. Due to the nature of histiocytic sarcoma, it may be worth speaking with an Oncologist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

My puppy is not reposing to the antibiotics..and was told to do a tracheal wash..the vet say they won’t know till the morning."if he’ll make it..really how safe is that..is there a risk involve

Nov. 18, 2017

Patty C.

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Midnight

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Cocker Spaniel

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hacking
Persistent Coughing

I have a 5 year old cocker spaniel that has bronchitis and my regular vet referred us to a vet specialty clinic that performs the tracheal wash procedure. In the information presented above on this web site, it states that the cost of a tracheal wash procedure is roughly $250.00. Well I was quoted a price of $1,800.00 today for the tracheal wash procedure which includes using a bronchoscopy, taking specimens, pathology, culturing, & medications at this price. I about fell off my chair. I know the vet saw the expression on my face of astonishment. They did offer financing.

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charlie

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Chihuahua

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Cough , Honking Sound, Worse At
Dry Cough , Honking Sound,

We have a chihuahua suspected of having trachea collapse. I am prepared to do x-rays and blood work but not sure a trachea wash would be helpful. He has seen the vet and has been given antibiotics and a cough suppressant. It is worse at night of course. It is a dry non productive cough. He coughs less after he eats and better when he goes outside. We live in a cool wet climate.

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