This condition is commonly seen by owners of small and toy breeds such as Yorkies, Pomerians, or Toy Poodles. It is a progressive disease that causes the trachea or windpipe to collapse leading to chronic cough. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this pathology, but vets are quite good at managing it and allowing your dog to have a good quality of life.
In this article, we will talk more about tracheal collapse and finally learn how much the owner may end up paying for the treatment.
What is the cause of the tracheal collapse in dogs?
The windpipe is a flexible tube that is made of cartilage in the cape of C, which holds the trachea open during inspiration and expiration, allowing air from and to the lungs. When these rings are weakened, they tend to collapse which causes narrowing of the windpipe and the animal starts to show some respiratory symptoms like cough. Small breeds of dogs are more commonly affected and it is considered that it can be genetically related.
Usually, the collapse can happen on one or more spots and in some more severe cases, it can extend further down to the bronchi. Stressful situations, exercise, excitement, heat, and humidity could all lead to cough in this situation. These dogs are also more prone to lung infection and they often have chronic inflammation in the trachea.
What are the clinical signs of tracheal collapse in dogs?
Owners usually describe their dogs coughing constantly and it is a dry and harsh cough that simply doesn’t go away. As the disease progresses, dogs may make funny sounds when they are breathing in. In severe cases, owners notice their dog’s gums and tongue turning blue or they can see that the dog is panting, as they are struggling to get some air in their lungs.
Animals that have difficulty breathing will also be reluctant to move a lot, they may prefer to stay at home and are not happy to run in the park as they used to. Sometimes they may even be not happy to eat.
How can vets diagnose tracheal collapse in my dog?
Once you tell your vet what you have noticed, they will continue to give your dog a full physical examination. The vet will listen to your dog’s health and chests because oftentimes there may be an underlying health issue that could lead to respiratory distress and problems breathing.
For them to confirm the diagnosis, there are several advanced imaging that they need to do.
X-ray is a good tool to start with, however, it does not always show the tracheal collapse. The reason for this is that the particular snap may not show the problem, which can be pronounced either during inspiration or expiration.
Fluoroscopy is the tool that will certainly help because, unlike the X-ray, it gives a real-time movement of the trachea. This not only confirms or denies a diagnosis but can also help the vets determine the severity of the condition.
Bronchoscopy is another way for a diagnosis to be confirmed. It is usually performed under general anesthesia and it allows the vet to use a special camera, called a bronchoscope so that they can go in and watch the movement of the trachea.
How can tracheal collapse be treated in dogs?
Depending on the severity of the case, your vet may recommend either medical management or a surgical approach.
The medical management usually included drugs that will help suppress the coughing, some bronchodilators, and corticosteroids. But they may not work the best for every case. Sometimes, if you notice your dog is struggling to breathe, consider bringing it to the vet as soon as possible, so that it can receive some oxygen supplementation and get stabilized.
In cases that are quite severe, or the dog has been brought in as an emergency, a board-certified surgeon will need to place something called a stent in the trachea which will help your dog by keeping the windpipe open.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that your dog may not have a similar episode such as this. The reason for this is that this disease can’t be cured, but only managed and in some severe cases the outcome may be poor.
Owners could be faced with a bill that can go up to $5000, especially if their dog comes in as an emergency.