Many of our brachycephalic dog breeds, majority of them small dog breeds, are prone
to tracheal collapse which usually progresses with age.
Tracheal collapse is an acquired condition, that most
commonly occur in middle-aged to aged dogs, but it has also been described in
young dogs as a congenital lesion. It is most commonly seen in toy and
miniature breeds, especially Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians,
Chihuahuas, Pugs, Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos.
There are two types of tracheal collapse
Dorsoventral form (flattening from the back to the
- Lateral form (flattening from the one side to the
The lateral form is unusual. Dorsoventral flattening
(narrowing of the trachea) is caused by an abnormal weakness of the tracheal
cartilage which is further complicated by a redundant and flaccid membrane that
prolapses into the tracheal lumen (the cavity or channel within the trachea).
The tracheal rings of the middle third of the trachea are usually most severely
affected. Increasing respiratory work further leads to dynamic collapse of
the dorsal tracheal membrane into the tracheal lumen, which further irritates
and inflames the mucous membranes, disrupts the mucociliary apparatus and
increases the risk of associated small airway problems and signs.
Tracheal collapse produces a respiratory distress syndrome
which becomes progressively worse and eventually results in severe exercise
intolerance, a dry honking cough and severe dyspnoea (laboured or difficulty
breathing). The disease often has a history of chronic coughing, with the
cough being harsh and dry and sometimes described by owners as a "goose honk"
sound. The coughing initially occurs during the day and occasionally in
the evening hours. The characteristic cough is elicited by excitement,
tracheal pressure, and drinking of water or eating of food. Tracheal
pressure is commonly induced by pulling on a leash, or by picking the pet us
which places excessive pressure on the thoracic inlet.
The most significant finding during clinical examination would be the
elicitation of a "goose honk" cough when the trachea is palpated in the region
of the thoracic inlet. Radiographs are indicated, but a considerable
percentage of false negative diagnoses occur because of the dynamic nature of
In all cases, medical treatment is first attempted as the
majority of cases can be successfully treated symptomatically. Medical
- Weight loss in obese patients by means of high-fiber,
low fat diets because exercise modification is unlikely. Weight loss
alone can be curative with regards to the symptoms of the disease.
- Bronchodilators (medicines that help open the
bronchial tubes (airways) of the lungs, allowing more air to flow through
them.) These drugs therefore do not have a direct effect on the
trachea, but they decrease the negative intrathoracic pressure by dilating
the lower airways and this in turn reduces the pressures within the chest
that causes tracheal collapse.
- Cough suppressants to decrease the tracheal
inflammation secondary to coughing.
- Corticosteroids may also be used short term to
decrease tracheal inflammation.
- Collars are to be replaced by harnesses.
Other measures include exercise restriction and a
reduction of excitement and stress.
When medical treatment fails to alleviate symptoms, then
surgical intervention is indicated.
For other articles on Congential Defects:
Defects of the vertebral column in dogs - Congenital conditions
Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency
Congenital Portosystemic -
Shunts in dogs
Defects of the Nervous System of Dogs
Defects of the vertebral column in dogs
A chart of many inherited dog health conditions -
Collapse to Veterinary Articles
Veterinary articles supplied by Dr S Strydom and published
with kind permission of DIA Publishing - publishers of KUSA Dogs in Africa
Dr Sunelle Strydom qualified as a veterinarian in 2004 at the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria. She has a passion for writing and the sharing of knowledge to promote animal health and welfare. She has written
several articles for KUSA Dogs in Africa as well as for Vra vir Faffa on the
Landbouweekblad website at www.landbou.com
- Ettinger S J and Feldman E C. 2000. Textbook of Veterinary
Internal Medicine 5th Edition. W.B. Saunders Company, USA
- The Merck Veterinary Manual (website). Available from www.merckvetmanual.com/
as accessed on 20 March 2010.
- The Free Dictionary by Farlex (website). Available from
www.medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com as accessed on 20 March
- BVSc class notes.
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