Tracheal collapse

What is ... ?: 

 Tracheal collapse is a narrowing of the inner diameter of the trachea, that fluctuates with the stage of the respiratory cycle. The rings of the trachea (made of cartilage) lose their ability to maintain their shape, and collapse when the dog breathes, causing a harsh cough. Most often this disorder is seen in middle-aged toy and miniature breeds. Chronic respiratory infection, obesity, and heart disease can all contribute to the development of the condition, but it appears that there is also a congenital deficiency (ie. a dog is born with it) in the make-up of the trachea itself.

How is ... inherited?: 


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

 Affected dogs typically have a harsh, dry "honking" cough,   that is paroxysmal in nature and gradually becomes worse over time. The cough may be brought on by excitement, exercise, pressure on the trachea (such as is caused by pulling on a leash, or an enlarged heart), or drinking or eating. 

How is ... diagnosed?: 

 Your veterinarian will suspect this problem if your small breed dog has a history of coughing "fits" that have gradually become worse, and if your dog responds to gentle pressure on his/her trachea with the typical "goose honk" cough. Your vet will do a thorough exam of the respiratory system and also the heart, because underlying heart disease is not uncommon in these dogs. Diagnosis and the degree of collapse are confirmed by comparing x-rays taken at the maximum inhalation and exhalation phases of the respiratory cycle. The trachea can also be examined during breathing by use of a scope, to determine the severity of the problem.

How is ... treated?: 

 Your veterinarian will discuss with you ways to manage this condition in your dog. Most cases can be treated successfully medically, with the use of bronchodilators, nebulizers or vaporizers, and occasional use of corticosteroids or sedatives as necessary to treat inflammation of the trachea. Your dog should be walked on a halter, rather than a collar.

For the veterinarian: 

 Either the cervical, or both cervical and thoracic trachea may be involved. If both, then inspiratory radiographs usually show collapse of the cervical and dilation of the thoracic segments, and essentially the reverse on expiration. Fluoroscopy may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, as sometimes collapse is only evident during forced expiration of coughing.  

Breeding advice: 

 Ideally, affected dogs should not be used for breeding. This is difficult in practice however, because many affected dogs do not develop signs of this condition until middle age, when they have already been bred. It is preferable not to use lines of dogs for breeding in which collapsing trachea is a problem.



 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 ... ?