What is Tracheotomy?

The trachea in your dog is an important tube that serves as an airway between your dog’s larynx, located in the back of the throat, and the lungs. The trachea is lined with fibrous muscle and its proper function is vital to your dog’s ability to breathe. A tracheotomy may be needed when the trachea has become so damaged that an appropriate airway between the mouth/larynx and lungs no longer exists. The procedure involves the creation of an opening, referred to as a tracheostomy, and the term is often used interchangeably to refer to the procedure.

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Tracheotomy Procedure in Dogs

Since your dog will need to undergo anesthesia you should ensure that no food or water is consumed prior to the surgery. This will minimize the potential for aspiration pneumonia that can occur if a dog vomits stomach contents after waking or of small particles of food being trapped in the lungs while your dog is intubated. Your veterinarian will also request a full blood panel which will check for any underlying conditions or illnesses that may make your dog a poor candidate for surgery.

On the day of the surgery, a surgical specialist will carefully prep your dog for surgery by administering anesthesia and establishing a temporary airway through a tube. In emergency cases, there may not be time for pre-surgical blood work and anesthesia may be administered quickly in order to restore breathing as fast as possible. An incision is then made in your dog’s throat and then either a temporary or permanent tracheostomy tube is placed within the trachea with an opening on your dog’s upper chest/lower throat. A small portion of muscle, trachea and skin tissue is cut away to leave room. In a permanent tracheotomy, a larger portion of tissue is cut away. The incision is then carefully closed around the edges only with the surgeon placing sutures through multiple tissue lawyers in order to create a crimped edge around the tracheostomy (or the hole created by the tracheotomy).

Efficacy of Tracheotomy in Dogs

Short term, a tracheotomy is an effective procedure for allowing your dog to breathe properly. This lifesaving procedure allows air to enter your dog’s lungs, ensuring proper respiration. In some cases, trachea tubes may need to be removed, such as in a temporary tracheotomy. Here, tubes are placed only to allow breathing until damage to airway can be repaired or a foreign object or tumor is removed.

Tracheotomy Recovery in Dogs

Depending on the underlying condition that caused the need for the tracheotomy and the speed of which medical attention was obtained, most dogs will make a good recovery after a tracheotomy. In the case of a temporary tracheotomy, the tube is removed at a later date and the incision closed up and allowed to heal. Dogs with temporary tracheotomy procedures can live a long healthy life after correction.

If your dog has a permanent tracheotomy, lifelong maintenance of the opening will be needed. The area surrounding the tracheostomy opening must be kept clean, occasionally requiring clipping of fur and hair to avoid contamination or obstruction of the hole. 

In either permanent or temporary tracheotomy, your dog should be kept calm and quiet while the incision area heals and may need to be restricted from scratching or bothering the opening by using a cone or other movement limiting apparatus. 

Cost of Tracheotomy in Dogs

Given the circumstances that typically bring about the need for a tracheotomy, it is difficult to assign a cost to the procedure alone. A tracheotomy will often be part of a lifesaving procedure after injury or other airway obstruction. The procedure will include x-rays, anesthesia, medication, the surgical procedure itself, and significant aftercare to correct the injured trachea or follow up on permanent placement. 

Given these factors, the cost of a tracheotomy in your dog can range from $2,000 to well over $5,000. Factors that will affect the cost of the treatment include whether the procedure is permanent or temporary, whether it is performed under emergency conditions, your geographic area, and the size and weight of your dog.

Dog Tracheotomy Considerations

A tracheotomy may be the only available procedure to correct trachea collapse, paralysis or other improper function. It is a lifesaving procedure, most often performed under emergency conditions. In either permanent or temporary tracheotomies, special care should be made to keep the tube area clean. Your dog should also not participate in water activities such as swimming and should be kept out of overly dusty areas or places where contaminants may clog the tube or enter directly into your dog’s lungs, causing additional illness or injury.

Tracheotomy Prevention in Dogs

Conditions that cause injury to your dog can be prevented with the proper use of fencing, collars, leashes, and other devices that secure your dog physically. You should never allow your pet to roam off leash or without supervision in areas where vehicles are present. For prevention of cancer, a high quality diet and avoiding exposure to known carcinogens is key to both your dog and your family’s health and safety.