How to Treat a Collapsing Trachea in Chihuahuas
The trachea is a flexible tube that carries air throughout the respiratory system (nose, mouth, lungs).It contains C-shaped rings of cartilage that, during tracheal collapse, become weak and flattened, and eventually collapse.Small breed dogs, including Chihuahuas, are prone to tracheal collapse.If your Chihuahua has a collapsing trachea, he will need veterinary treatment so he can live as full a life as possible.
Listen to your Chihuahua’s cough.One of the most common signs of a collapsing trachea is a ‘goose honk’ cough. The cough is dry and usually comes after a dog has been active, excited, or quickly drinking water.If your Chihuahua starts to sound like a goose on occasion, he probably has a collapsing trachea.
- Hot weather can worsen your Chihuahua’s coughing.
Observe your Chihuahua’s breathing.Difficulty breathing is another common sign of a collapsing trachea. When tracheal rings become weak and collapse down into the trachea, air either gets trappedinthe lungs or can’t gettothe lungs.Your Chihuahua may breathe more rapidly and have abnormal breathing sounds.In addition,his abdominal muscles may become tense from the extra effort he makes to breathe.
- Abnormal breathing sounds include clicking when breathing out and wheezing when breathing in.
- Difficulty breathing can lead to cyanosis, which occurs when the skin or mucus membranes don’t get enough oxygen and turn blue.
Monitor your Chihuahua’s activity.If your Chihuahua becomes less active, he may have a collapsing trachea.Without the ability to breathe very well, your Chihuahua would not be able to exercise for long periods of time, if at all. In addition, since being active and excited can worsen the signs of a collapsing trachea, your Chihuahua may simply decide to stay still instead.
Take your Chihuahua to your veterinarian.Although a goose honk cough is a clear sign of a collapsing trachea, your Chihuahua will need a thorough workup by your veterinarian. He or she will analyze your Chihuahua’s blood to assess his overall health, and take chest x-rays. Chest x-rays do not always show a collapsed trachea, but can help rule out other causes of breathing problems.
- During the physical exam, your veterinarian will probably touch your Chihuahua’s trachea to stimulate a cough.
- In addition to x-rays, your veterinarian may want to use other visual diagnostic methods (e.g., fluoroscopy, endoscopy, bronchoscopy) to get a closer look at your Chihuahua’s airways and determine if his airway is infected with bacteria.
Treating a Collapsing Trachea Without Surgery
Discuss medical treatment options with your veterinarian.Collapsing trachea treatment is either medical (non-surgical) or surgical. Generally, medical management involves weight management and using various medications to treat the airway and other related conditions. Medical management works in most dogs with a collapsing trachea; however, since a collapsing trachea usually worsens over time, surgical treatment may eventually be needed.
- It is best to start with medical management, then consider surgery if the condition worsens.
- Your veterinarian will go through each of the medications with you and indicate which ones will likely work best for your Chihuahua.
Hospitalize your Chihuahua, if necessary.Collapsing tracheas can range in severity. If your Chihuahua’s tracheal collapse is severe (trachea is 75‒100% collapsed), your veterinarian will probably want to hospitalize him and give him intensive care. Intensive care includes extra oxygen and heavy sedation. The sedation will calm your Chihuahua and keep him from fighting against his breathing troubles and other treatments.
- The length of hospitalization will depend on how long it takes your veterinarian to stabilize your Chihuahua and get him well enough for home care.
Treat your Chihuahua’s airways.If your Chihuahua’s tracheal collapse is mild to moderate, you can treat him at home. Treating his airways has several goals: reducing inflammation and bronchial spasms, relaxing the airways, suppressing coughing, and eliminating excessive secretions.Your veterinarian will prescribe the medications, describe how they work, and explain how to administer them.
- The strain of coughing could damage the sensitive lining of your Chihuahua’s airways. Anti-inflammatory medications will reduce the damage and inflammation.
- The bronchi are the two main branches of the trachea that bring air into the lungs.Bronchial spasms cause the bronchi to become narrow.
- Medications to relax the airways and relieve the spasms are called bronchodilators.They open up the bronchial airways and relax the lung muscles.
- If your veterinarian found a respiratory infection, he or she will prescribe antibiotics.
- The medications may take a few days to start working. Once they start working, you will start to see definite improvement in your Chihuahua’s breathing.
Treat other diseases your Chihuahua may have.Small dogs with a collapsing trachea often have heart disease as well. Other conditions that may be present are swollen lymph nodes around the trachea, dental disease, and liver disease. Treating the other conditions and tracheal collapse at the same time may improve your Chihuahua’s overall treatment outcome and prognosis.
Limit your Chihuahua’s activity.Since activity can worsen a collapsing trachea, you will need to limit your Chihuahua’s activity until his condition is more stable.For example, shorten his walks and walk him more slowly. Rather than playing an active game with him, consider spending quality quiet time with him. Your veterinarian will let you know when you can start increasing his activity level (if at all).
Reduce your Chihuahua’s anxiety.Your Chihuahua may feel anxious about not being able to breathe very well. To relieve this anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication.The less anxious your Chihuahua feels, the easier it will be to keep him calm during treatment.
Manage your Chihuahua’s weight.Overweight dogs are prone to collapsing tracheas.If your Chihuahua is overweight, help him lose weight by switching him to a weight loss diet (available commercially or at your veterinarian’s office), minimizing his treats, and eliminating table scraps from his diet. Ask your veterinarian what your Chihuahua’s ideal weight should be, and how long it should take to get him down to that ideal weight.
Treating a Collapsing Trachea With Surgery
Find a veterinary surgeon.When medical management of your Chihuahua’s collapsing trachea is no longer working well, he will need to have surgery. Surgical correction of a collapsing trachea is very complicated, and might be beyond the surgical abilities of your own veterinarian. Therefore, you should work with a board-certified veterinary surgeon.
- Veterinary surgeons at veterinary teaching hospitals and specialized veterinary surgery clinics are board certified. Consider asking your veterinarian for recommendations on veterinary surgeons.
Learn about surgical treatment options.Two surgical treatments are available for collapsing tracheas. The first is the surgical placement of plastic rings or spirals on theoutsideof the trachea. The second option is placing a stent (spring-like device)inthe trachea to keep it open. An advantage of stents is that their placement does not require a surgical incision.
- Not all dogs would benefit from surgery. Older dogs, dogs with other serious medical problems, and those with a large percentage of their trachea affected would not make good surgical candidates.
Discuss the risks of surgery.Surgical treatment of a collapsing trachea is not risk free. Potential complications include bleeding within the trachea and swelling around the trachea.Other complications are continued coughing (irritation from the stent) and paralysis of the larynx.
- It may be difficult for your veterinary surgeon to know how likely any of these risks will be with your Chihuahua. However, the more experienced the surgeon is with collapsing trachea treatment, the less likely your Chihuahua will have serious surgical complications.
Perform at-home care after surgery.If your Chihuahua undergoes surgery, you will need to follow the at-home care instructions provided by the veterinary surgeon. Examples of at-home care are medical management, keeping your dog away from cigarette smoke, using a body harness instead of a collar for walks, and following up with your regular veterinarian.
QuestionIs treating a collapsing trachea very expensive?Community AnswerIt is relatively expensive, but the outcome is often good.Thanks!
QuestionWhen my chihuahua gets excited, she makes a gasping sound that is hard to control. What could be causing it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's possible your dog has breathing issues. Collapsing trachea is a common problem in small dogs. Take your dog to the vet to make sure everything is okay.Thanks!
- Not all dogs respond the same to medical management of a collapsing trachea. Therefore, your Chihuahua’s treatment should be individualized and adjusted as needed.
- Tracheal collapse has a good prognosis if diagnosed early.
- Your Chihuahua may cough occasionally after treatment.
- Medical management of a collapsing trachea is usually lifelong.
- Treating your Chihuahua for a collapsing trachea may cause some financial strain.
- A severe case of tracheal collapse can lead to life threatening breathing troubles and coughing.
- Following treatment for a collapsing trachea, your Chihuahua may not be able to exercise for the rest of his life.
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