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Tracheal Collapse

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Small Canine

Collapsing trachea is a progressive, incurable condition in which the supportive cartilage of the trachea (windpipe) and smaller airways (e.g., bronchi) start to degenerate and soften. With mild tracheal collapse, the membrane on the topside of the trachea starts to billow inward, partially blocking the airway. As the condition progresses, the C shaped rings that keep the trachea round begin to flatten out, allowing greater airway compromise. During coughing, the weakened walls of the airway slam together, causing inflammation and trauma, which stimulates more coughing. If the cycle of coughing is not broken, the airway can become temporarily obstructed, leading to respiratory distress and even death. Collapsing trachea is usually diagnosed in toy breed dogs and is particularly common in Yorkshire and Maltese terriers, poodles, and Pomeranians. Initially, the primary clinical sign is coughing, but signs can progress to exercise intolerance, wheezy breath sounds, cyanosis (blue gums), and collapse. Treatment of tracheal collapse includes weight loss, cough suppressants, sedatives, and possibly anti-inflammatory steroids. In severe cases, placement of a tracheal stent may be necessary, Stents do not stop coughing, but they do make it easier for the dogs to breathe. For more information, please see our brochure about tracheal collapse​.