Tracheal collapse is when the cartilage rings suspending the trachea, being weakend, cause it to narrow and impair breathing.
Tracheal collapse may remain unnoticed for a period of time before producing any symptoms. Complaints might only be visible during or after strong physical exercise or a bowel movement. Your dog may be short of breath, gasping for air, and showing labored breathing. He may develop bouts of dry and harsh coughing that often occur while eating or drinking. Physical performance can also be adversely affected, and the mucosa of the mouth and eyes may be discolored and bluish as a result of impaired oxygen intake. Audible whistling or humming sounds formed while breathing are also possible signs of tracheal collapse.
Tracheal collapse is seen almost exclusively in toy breeds, (i.e. Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Miniature Spitz, Chihuahua and Miniature Schnauzer) and the underlying causes are not yet known. A genetic predisposition is suspected. Together with genetics, old age and obesity are considered contributing factors.
Tracheal collapse can be diagnosed by measuring the diameter of the trachea by x-ray. In uncomplicated cases the condition may be treated conservatively, and medication can be used to widen the bronchi and lower airways. Excessive body weight has to be reduced and strong physical exercise should be avoided. As surgery is difficult and results vary, it is only considered in very severe cases.
For patients with tracheal collapse it is important to have as much fresh air as possible. Warm and stale rooms or cigarette smoke should be avoided. Also, in order to avoid placing stress on the dog’s chest, when walking on a leash, chest gear should be used in favor of a collar.