When To Euthanize A Dog With Tracheal Collapse?

There is no black and white answer to this question, as the decision to euthanize a dog with tracheal collapse will depend on a variety of factors specific to each individual case.

Some dogs with tracheal collapse may be relatively asymptomatic and only require minimal treatment, while others may experience severe respiratory distress and require intensive therapy.

It’s understandable that you are worried. Perhaps you are considering euthanasia for your dog, or even just wondering if it is the right thing to do.

But, before you take that difficult decision, read on to learn more about the condition first, the signs and symptoms of tracheal collapse, what treatments are available, and the next steps after euthanization.

What Is Tracheal Collapse?

It is a condition in which the trachea (windpipe) loses its structural integrity due to the weakening of the cartilage rings.

The trachea becomes flattened, much like an empty soda can that has lost its shape. When severe, this flattening can lead to respiratory distress both during inspiration (breathing in) and expiration (breathing out).

If left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening respiratory failure.

A dog with severe tracheal collapse may require immediate euthanasia, as its prognosis is very poor. Some dogs may be treated effectively with balloon dilation or surgery.

If the collapse is mild, treatment with bronchodilator drugs and cough suppressants may be all that is required.

Signs And Symptoms Of Tracheal Collapse In Dogs

The signs and symptoms of tracheal collapse can vary depending on the severity of the condition.

In mild cases, there may be no signs or symptoms at all. In more severe cases, a dog may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Coughing, especially after exercise or exposure to cold air
  • Difficulty breathing, especially during exercise or while panting after exertion
  • Breathing through the mouth as opposed to the nose, due to the effort required by an inefficient trachea
  • Gagging or retching in response to stimulation of the larynx (voice box) due to compression of this area by a collapsed trachea.

In very severe cases, a dog with tracheal collapse may experience respiratory failure and will require euthanasia.

How And Why Do Dogs Develop Tracheal Collapse?

The trachea is formed by the rings of cartilage that hold it in place.

sad dog on the beach

When these rings weaken, there is less support for the structure, and it begins to lose its form. This condition is known as tracheal collapse.

Several factors including:

  • Dysplasia of the trachea
  • Trauma to the trachea following a dog bite or car accident
  • Prior surgery on the neck, which can damage the structural integrity of the trachea.

This last reason is especially important for dogs that were previously subjected to throat or neck surgery, as even though it is often performed to correct a problem, it may have severe unintended consequences.

In fact, trachea collapse was noted as a possible complication in some dogs that underwent previous neck surgery. However, it is much more common in breeds with a naturally short and narrow trachea.

How To Diagnose Tracheal Collapse In Dogs?

The diagnosis of tracheal collapse can be made based on a dog’s symptoms and physical examination.

If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has tracheal collapse, he or she may order some diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Diagnostics of tracheal dysfunction require radiography or the use of an endoscope or bronchoscope to confirm the diagnosis.

Bronchoscopy allows for visual identification of any inflammation or irritation present in the dog’s airways. This can be related to chronic coughing and other infectious diseases.

Fluoroscopy, which allows visualization of the dog’s breath during inspiration and exhaustion, can also be performed. A heart ultrasound can be performed to evaluate the dog’s cardiac function.

Diagnostics of a dog’s collapsed trachea are often dynamic. This is due in part to the fact that dogs may look normal even when there is no moving air.

Likewise, specialized diagnostic equipment may be required for accurate diagnosis.

Some veterinarians will perform a tracheotomy to confirm the diagnosis. Tracheotomy is an incision made in the neck over the windpipe to allow ventilation of the lungs through a tube inserted into the trachea instead of through the mouth and nose.

How To Manage Tracheal Collapse At Home?

Luckily, there are some treatments that can be used to help manage the condition at home.

Medication

If your dog is coughing due to tracheal collapse, your veterinarian may prescribe bronchodilators or other medications to help open the airways.

Cough suppressants may also be prescribed to help decrease the frequency of your dog’s coughing.

Harness

In some cases, your veterinarian may also recommend that your dog wear a harness instead of a collar. This is because a collar can put pressure on the trachea and worsen the symptoms.

Weight Management

Another crucial aspect of managing tracheal collapse is ensuring that your dog maintains a healthy weight.

Extra weight can put pressure on the weakened trachea and exacerbate the symptoms. Obese dogs with tracheal collapse should be put on a weight loss plan under the guidance of your veterinarian.

Limited Exercise

Dogs with tracheal collapse should not be given strenuous exercise. This is because exercise can increase the respiratory rate and worsen the symptoms.

Normal activity such as a leisurely walk is usually okay, but your veterinarian may advise against any strenuous activity. Aerobic exercise can help to strengthen the dog’s respiratory muscles and improve their overall fitness.

Quiet Environment

A calm, quiet environment is also important for dogs suffering from tracheal collapse.

A lot of coughing or excitement can worsen your dog’s symptoms and should be avoided. A calm environment may also help ease the respiratory rate.

Physical Therapy

In some cases, your veterinarian may also recommend physical therapy for your dog.

Physical therapy can include exercises that help to strengthen the respiratory muscles as well as treatments such as heat and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and massage.

Good Clean Air

Many experts also recommend that owners of dogs with tracheal collapse use air filters and other purification systems in their homes to help improve the air quality.

Activated carbon filters can help reduce the concentration of household dust, chemicals, and allergens in your dog’s environment. They can also help to decrease indoor humidity levels if they are too high.

Clean air will help to decrease the frequency of your dog’s coughing and improve their overall respiratory health.

Rest

Finally, make sure your dog gets plenty of rest. This will help to decrease the amount of coughing and improve their overall quality of life.

What Treatments Are Available For Dogs With Collapsed Trachea?

In cases where a dog has been diagnosed with tracheal collapse, the main treatment options available include:

Surgical correction of the trachea

This option is usually extremely expensive and may not be covered by insurance. In addition, even if surgery is performed, it does not always work.

While some dogs do make a full recovery after surgery, others may experience a recurrence of the condition after some time.

Medical management with corticosteroids

This option is often recommended for dogs who are not good candidates for surgery or who have already had surgery but continue to experience problems.

Corticosteroids help to reduce inflammation and swelling in the trachea, which can help to improve the dog’s breathing.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

This is a program of exercises and therapies that can help dogs with collapsed trachea to improve their breathing and quality of life.

Natural remedies

In addition to traditional veterinary treatments, some pet owners choose to try alternative therapies such as supplements and essential oils. These may be used to boost the physical and emotional well-being of dogs with tracheal collapse.

When To Euthanize A Dog With Collapsed Trachea?

Ultimately, the decision of when to euthanize a dog with collapsed trachea is a difficult one that must be made by the pet’s owner in consultation with their veterinarian.

dog with jacket being held

If the dog is experiencing severe or constant coughing, is having difficulty breathing, or is not responding to treatment, then euthanasia may be the best option.

The decision must also take into account the overall quality of life of the dog.

If the dog is uncomfortable and miserable, then euthanasia may be the kindest thing to do.

If you are considering euthanizing your dog, please consult with your veterinarian to discuss the best course of action for your pet.

What Are The Next Steps After Euthanization?

If, after consulting with your veterinarian, you have decided to euthanize your dog because of tracheal collapse, then the next step is to discuss how to handle the body.

Many veterinarians will offer their clients cremation services for a small fee.

Cremation is the best way to dispose of an animal’s remains and will provide you with an urn or box in which to keep the ashes.

Alternatively, some pet owners choose to bury their pets in their backyard. If this is your choice, make sure to check with your local municipality to see if there are any restrictions on doing so.

Finally, you may also choose to donate your dog’s body to a tissue bank. This means that your dog’s tissues and organs will be used for scientific research, which may help to advance veterinary medicine in the future.

People Also Ask

How Long Can A Dog Live With A Collapsing Trachea?

It is hard to say exactly how long a dog can live with a collapsing trachea. Some will begin to show symptoms of the condition as they age, while others may never experience any problems at all.

Even dogs who do begin to experience symptoms early, however, may still have several years of life left before their tracheal collapse becomes too severe.

Are Dogs With A Collapsed Trachea Suffering?

While it is true that, as a condition affecting the respiratory system, tracheal collapse may cause dogs to suffer from increased difficulty breathing and coughing, this does not always mean the dog is in pain.

Dogs may also be able to manage their symptoms by limiting exercise or taking medications for discomfort. In addition, many breeds of dogs with collapsed trachea – such as bulldogs and pugs – are known for their good temperament and quality of life, even with the condition.

How Do You Comfort A Dog With A Collapsed Trachea?

First, keep the environment calm and quiet. Dogs with tracheal collapse may become anxious and stressed easily, so try to keep noise levels down and avoid large crowds or busy streets.

Second, make sure they get plenty of rest. Dogs with tracheal collapse often tire easily, so give them plenty of opportunities to relax.

Finally, keep their diet and water intake consistent and try to avoid any foods or drinks that may cause vomiting or coughing.

Can Tracheal Collapse Kill My Dog?

While it is not usually fatal, tracheal collapse can cause severe respiratory problems in dogs and lead to death in some cases.

If your dog is experiencing difficulty breathing, coughing, or other respiratory problems as a result of tracheal collapse, then it is important to seek veterinary care right away.

Conclusion

Tracheal collapse is an unfortunate condition that can cause dogs to experience discomfort and respiratory difficulties.

In severe cases, this condition may eventually lead to death.

It may be possible to manage the symptoms through medications and changes in lifestyle, but sometimes euthanasia or surgery is necessary if a dog’s quality of life is no longer acceptable.

Deciding when euthanasia is the best option for your dog with tracheal collapse depends on several factors, including how severe the symptoms are and how much your pet seems to be suffering.

It is never an easy decision to make, but consulting with your veterinarian is the best way to ensure that you are making the right choice for your pet.

Does your pup show the signs and symptoms of tracheal collapse? If yes, it’s best to visit your vet immediately.

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

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