When to Put a Dog Suffering From Tracheal Collapse to Sleep?

Before you make any rushed decisions, it’s vital to determine the severity of the collapse.

Consult your vet about the extent of the tracheal collapse. Is it relatively asymptomatic, requiring minimal treatment? Or, is your pup in severe respiratory distress and needing immediate, intensive therapy?

As a dog parent, of course you’re worried. The internet has a knack for diagnosing minor injuries as life-threatening causes, so don’t read too far into it without an expert’s opinion. 

If you’re considering putting your dog to sleep because of the severity of tracheal collapse, do a quick read through this article first to make sure it’s the best choice. 

What Is Tracheal Collapse?

Tracheal collapse is a condition in which the trachea (windpipe) loses its structural integrity.

The trachea is formed by rings of cartilage that hold its shape. As the rings weaken, there is less support for the tracheal structure, and it begins to lose form. This is known as tracheal collapse.

The trachea flattens out, similar to an empty soda can that has lost its shape. When severe, this flattening can cause respiratory distress during both breathing in (inspiration) and breathing out (expiration).

A dog suffering from severe tracheal collapse may require you to put it to sleep immediately, as its prognosis is very poor. Some canines can be treated effectively with balloon dilation or surgery. If left untreated, it can lead to respiratory failure. 

If the collapse is mild, intervention with bronchodilator drugs and cough suppressants might be all that is needed.

sad dog on the beach

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs: Signs and Symptoms

For mild cases, there might not be any symptoms or signs. However, severe cases will exhibit:

  • Coughing, particularly after exercise or cold exposure
  • Difficulty breathing in the midst of exercise or any form of exertion
  • Breathing with the mouth rather than the nose
  • Gagging or retching in response to laryngeal stimulation (voice box). This would happen after barking.

Read More: Find out the best dental chews for dogs so you can familiarize yourself with the proper oral care tool.

Leading Causes of Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

Fido’s collapsed windpipe could be linked to any of the following factors:

  • Trachea Dysplasia
  • Tracheal trauma due to a dog bite, car accident, harsh impact
  • Prior neck or throat surgery

If your dog underwent a surgery in their neck or throat at any time in their life, tracheal collapse could come as a possible post-op complication. Dog breeds that have a naturally narrow and short trachea, such as Pomerianians, Chihuahuas, and Toy Poodles.

How Is Tracheal Collapse Diagnosed in Dogs?

Your local veterinarian can diagnose tracheal collapse based on a physical examination and symptoms. Chances are, your pup will undergo radiography and/or a bronchoscopy to properly determine the diagnosis. 

sleeping dog

You can expect your vet to order four tests:

  1. Bronchoscopy: allows for the identification of irritation or inflammation visually in airways. Can be linked to a chronic cough or other infectious canine diseases.
  1. Fluoroscopy: a visual representation of the dog’s breath during exhaustion and inspiration. 
  1. Cardiac Ultrasound: to evaluate cardiac function. 
  1. Tracheotomy: a more severe surgical method where a small incision is made around the neck area above the windpipe to allow manual lung ventilation. Instead of using the mouth and nose, a tube is inserted into the trachea (blocked).

How to Manage and Handle Tracheal Collapse at Home?

Check with your vet to see what works best for your dog in their current medical state. 

#1. Medicate Accordingly

If your dog is coughing due to tracheal collapse, your vet may prescribe bronchodilators to help open the airways. In addition, cough suppressants may be prescribed to decrease the steady coughing.

#2. Use a Harness/No Collar

In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend you to use a harness instead of a collar on your dog since collars can apply pressure to an already compromised area. If you are able to keep your dog around you without any leash/collar/harness- that is even better for the time being.  

#3. Manage 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.

dog on weighing scale

#4. Limit Exercise

Canine with tracheal collapse shouldn’t be strenuously exercising. Exercise increases respiratory rate and can worsen the symptoms, making it hard to breathe.

Check with your vet if a normal, low-energy walk around the block is still on the table. Aerobic exercise can aide to strengthen the dog’s respiratory muscles and improve their overall fitness.

#5. Keep a Quiet Environment

Calm, quiet environment is of utmost importance for dogs suffering from tracheal collapse.

Any spike in respiratory rate can negatively affect your pup’s condition. Maintaining a peaceful, safe atmosphere reaps benefits.

#6. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy includes exercises that help strengthen the respiratory muscles as well as provide relief, such as: electrical stimulation, heat/cold therapy, and massage.

#7. Purify Air

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

air filter

Think about it like this- You find it hard to breathe and you’re in a smoking household. Not only will you be breathing in decreased levels of oxygen, it will make your healing take exponentially longer.

Activated carbon filters aid in the reduction of household dust, chemicals, indoor humidity levels, and allergens in your dog’s environment.

#8. Get Some Rest

Finally, ensure your dog is well-rested. Rest is essential to the healing process.

Read More: Can Dogs Get Drunk? Learn what will happen if you pour your dog a drink!

What Are the Treatment Options for Dogs With Collapsed Trachea?

The following are the primary options for treatment when a dog has been diagnosed with tracheal collapse:

#1. Tracheal Surgical Correction

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

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

#2. Corticosteroids Medication

This option is recommended for dogs who aren’t 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 helps improve breathing.

#3. Respiratory Rehabilitation

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

dog breathing outdoor air

When To Put Down A Dog With Collapsed Trachea?

If your dog is coughing excessively or constantly, has difficulty breathing, or is not responding to treatment, then putting them to sleep might be the best option.

Ultimately, the decision lies with the owner and the veterinarian. In times of struggle and pain, it’s time to make the hard choice to alleviate discomfort. Other times, it’s treatable and not life or death. Figure out all your options before you pull the plug.

Next Steps

If, after consulting with your veterinarian, and because of tracheal collapse you have decided to put down your dog, the next step is to discuss how to handle the body:

  1. Cremation

Many veterinarians 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. Your pet will always be with you. 

  1. Bury your pet in the backyard.

If this is your choice, check with your local municipality to ensure if there are any restrictions on doing so.

dog with jacket being held
  1. Donate their body to science.

One uncommon option is to donate your dog’s body to a tissue bank for scientific research. This choice may seem emotionless, but in reality, it will help advance veterinary medicine in the future and possibly save another pet’s life.

  1. Keep a momento

Before your pet passes, stamp their paw print in paint on a paper for future use. You can carry them with you with a tattoo, painting, or design in the future. It’s a no-cost way to remember them forever. 

Read More: Is your dog frantically eating grass? Find out here the reasons why!

People Also Ask

How Long Can a Dog Live With a Collapsed Trachea?

All situations, breeds, and severities are unique. Some dogs will begin to show symptoms of the condition as they age, while others may never experience any problems at all.

Early symptomatic pups may still have a few years left before their tracheal collapse becomes too severe.

Do Dogs With a Collapsed Trachea Suffer?

Once again, it’s truly dependent on the severity of the case. 

Manage symptoms with the above tips and you can alleviate a lot of excess discomfort.

Many breeds of dogs with collapsed tracheas are known for their good temperament and quality of life, even with the condition.


Tracheal collapse is an unfortunate condition that, when left untreated, can be fatal. 

Yet, statistics are on your side. In a recent study of 18 dogs experiencing tracheal collapse, the fatality rate was a mere 11%.

Deciding if putting your dog who’s suffering from tracheal collapse to sleep is the best option, 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, please visit your vet immediately.

Photo of author

Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

4 thoughts on “When to Put a Dog Suffering From Tracheal Collapse to Sleep?”

  1. Thank you. You are the only Blog that explains my boys problems the best. Even my vet didn’t give me your complete diagnosis of his condition.
    I am sincerely grateful you did such a fantastic job. Personally, Auggie is a 15yr-old rescued Shih Tzu that we love so much, and unfortunately, we think it’s time with your heartbreaking answers. No one was able to let us see as clearly as you.
    We have another 18-year-old rescued Shih Tzu and will certainly be on your account to listen to all your expert collum. Again, thank you and God bless.

    • Our 10 year old shih tzu began with a goose honking sound periodically. I read somewhere on line that this was normal since they have a short snout as long as it was not happening often. He began having kennel type cough in September 2021 after 2 weeks after being groomed. My vet chalked up the cough to kennel cough and gave him some antibiotics. Fast forward 18 weeks later, and the cough was becoming progressively worse. I read that kennel cough could last up to 8 weeks so was not alarmed. I took him back to the vet who said the cough sounded like he had a tumor. He took an X-ray and said his lungs were totally clear, gave him another antibiotic and said it sounds like he has allergic bronchitis. I suggested tracheal collapse and he said the X-ray showed his trachea was completely open with no signs of collapse. He also suggested some oral corticosteroids which helped tremendously. He was fine for a while, but the cough has come back. He now coughs every day, although that is the only sign he has, aside from more coughing when he is picked up. I read that only a moving x-ray would show the trachea collapse, a still x-ray might catch the trachea when it is open and not collapsing. Wonder what your experience was with this. Needless to say, he is going back to the vet, just not sure the same one.

  2. my 11 yr old chihuahua does like hiccup but more soft huff sound then at times like a gag then like he’s gonna throw up sometimes after after drinking a little water will do that little huff sound and if my Chihuahua was to have trachea problem what can I do for it not to get worst I am unable to have him seen by a vet due to financial situation anything you can tell me I would surely appreciate Thank you

  3. Thank you for this article. My boy is having serious issues and but responding to treatment well so this truly helped me with deciding on his tracheal


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