Hypoplastic trachea

What is ... ?: 

 In this congenital condition (ie dogs are born with it), there is abnormal growth of the rings of cartilage that make up the trachea, resulting in a narrowed airway. Hypoplastic trachea is seen most often in young brachycephalic dogs, and can occur as one component of brachycephalic syndrome. The condition may also occur at the same time as heart abnormalities. Brachycephalics are those breeds which have a comparatively short head.

The degree of tracheal narrowing ranges from mild to severe, as does the severity of clinical signs. Some dogs with this condition appear to outgrow it.

How is ... inherited?: 


What does ... mean to your dog & you?: 

 Since this is a congenital condition (ie dogs are born with it), problems are usually noticed by 5 or 6 months of age. The kinds of signs you will see include noisy or laboured breathing, and coughing. Your pup may become ill with bronchopneumonia (moist cough, lethargy, fever).

Dogs with no abnormality other than a mild to moderately narrowed trachea may have no clinical problems; however hypoplastic trachea is frequently seen as one element of brachycephalic syndrome. Affected dogs have varying degrees of obstruction to their airways, which causes signs ranging from noisy breathing to collapse.

How is ... diagnosed?: 

 Your veterinarian may find this problem on routine physical examination, or because your dog has respiratory difficulties. S/he will take x-rays to determine the extent of the narrowing, taking into consideration that all bulldogs have relatively small tracheas.

How is ... treated?: 

 There is no specific treatment to correct the tracheal malformation. If your dog does not have heart disease or brachycephalic syndrome, the condition may never cause any clinical problems.

It is wise to maintain your dog at a healthy weight, as being overweight will worsen any respiratory difficulties. There may be occasional need for broncho-dilator therapy and antibiotics to treat an infection.

For the veterinarian: 

 On x-ray, the size of the tracheal lumen does not vary with the stage of the respiratory cycle as is seen with tracheal collapse. 

Breeding advice: 

 Dogs with this condition should not be used for breeding.



 Brayley, KA, Ettinger, SJ. 1995. Disorders of the trachea. In EJ Ettinger and EC Feldman(eds.) Texbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, p. 754-766. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

What breeds are affected by ... ?