Trachea Troubles #1

I recently found out that my little one Belle has a collapsing trachea, on top of that she got bronchitis. Another problem from another day. I will start by saying no it was not from wearing a collar, harness or pulling. Yes, pups can have a collapsed trachea from both a collar and a harness. After talking to a lot of different vets I found out that it is very common in smaller dog breeds especially: Yorkshire Terrier, Toy Poodles, Chihuahua, Pomeranians and Shih Tzu. It’s more common in middle age to older when they get diagnosed but it can develop earlier.

What is a trachea?

  • The windpipe. The tube that brings air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. It is made up of C-shaped cartilage ring.

What is a collapsing trachea?

  • It can occur to the portion of the trachea in the neck or in the chest. Possibly both. During inspiration it is more likely the trachea in the neck that is collapsing and during exhalation it is more likely the chest. This usually cases a “goose honk” sounding cough to develop followed by hacking or white foam. During the normal breathing process, the pressure changes the airway. The pressure change can cause the top part of the trachea to press down narrowing the airway.
  • There are four grades of trachea collapse in dogs:
  • Grade 1 = 25%
  • Grade 2=50%
  • Grade 3=75%
  • Grade 4
  • Reduction collapse in dogs
  • Reduction in trachea lumen size
  • Reduction
  • The most severe where the trachea is basically laying on the lower portion

Thankfully, Belle is falls under Grade 1 but her trachea is not at 25%. We caught it early where it was barely noticeable. There is a slight deformation on her trachea and we are taking as many precautions with her so it doesn’t get worse.

Clinical Symptoms:

  • Goose Honk sounding cough often triggered by excitement, eating or drinking, barking excessively, pulling on the leash, allergies and inhalations, irritants such as smoke can also help the trachea collapse
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration in gums or tongue to to lack of oxygen)
  • Collapse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Respiratory distress

Belle’s Symptoms:

  • Coughing: excited or after exercising
  • Bronchitis (I felt a vibration when she was breathing)
  • Low energy

I noticed that whenever Belle got excited or after her walk she would cough A LOT. I first thought she was coughing because her throat was dried out due to the weather being so cold. I kept an eye on her to make sure it wasn’t going to get worse. The second day was colder and she stayed about the same, but I notice she had a little less energy than yesterday and when she was laying on me that there was a vibration in her chest. I thought I was just being paranoid so I waited until day 3. I called the vet and she had an appointment on Monday. That’s when we learned she not only had bronchitis BUT a collapsing trachea. They gave Belle a shot for the bronchitis and us medicine to give her as needed for her trachea. We immediately saw a difference in her and she was back to her normal energy.


  • Limited Exercise
  • No collars/harness
  • No stress (We have to make sure she is not in stressful situations)
  • No baggy clothing
  • Keep her calm (The hardest because she get’s excited about food, treats, people)
  • Elevated food and water
  • No artificial heat (Heaters will dry out her throat causing her to cough which will irritate her trachea)
  • Keep her away from smoking heavy places (My dad quit smoking for her)

Im still doing a lot of research about how to keep her as comfortable as possible but so far I have only given her medicine once in over a month since she has ben diagnosed with this. I really want to make sure she lives her best life, while still being cautious. As many vet’s as I have talked to I have also talked to a lot of owners of puppies who have had/have a collapsing trachea. Some stories were sad but A LOT lived their lives to the fullest and still living. Which gives me hope.

Have you ever experienced a collapsing trachea?


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