What is Collapsed Tracea
The Trachea, also known as the windpipe, is an important structure, which connects the throat to the lungs. It serves the purpose of directing air into the respiratory tract.
The normal trachea is tubular. It maintains its shape because of a series of rings made of cartilage. These rings do not completely encircle the trachea. Instead, they go from the 2o’ clock to 10o’ clock positions. The reminder of the trachea is composed of a flexible membrane that joins the ends of cartilage rings.
When the cartilage rings are flattened from the top to the bottom, the trachea has now collapsed. Rapid inhalation of air can cause the trachea to flatten and make it difficult for air to enter the lungs.
What are the clinical signs?
The most common clinical sign is a chronic cough. It is often described as a dry, harsh and can become quite pronounced. The term “goose honk” is often used to describe it. Coughing is often worse in the daytime and less at nighttime. The cough may also begin due to excitement, pressure on the trachea (from a leash), from drinking water or eating.
What is it diagnosed?
A dog with a chronic cough, especially a goose honk, should be suspected of having collapsed trachea. Many times, very light pressure placed on the trachea during the physical examination can raise a suspicion of collapsed trachea in a small dog (such as; Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apsos, Toy poodles and Yorkshire terriers.) with a persistent dry cough. While the information gained from the physical examination id helpful, other tests are needed to confirm this condition.
Collapsed trachea can be treated medically or surgically. Some dogs respond well to brochodilators and various types of anti-inflammatory drugs. The trachea of these dogs is easily infected, so antibiotics are usually part of the treatment. If obesity is present, weight loss is often beneficial. Excitement and vigorous exercise are likely to cause a relapse, so they should be avoided as much as possible.
Some dogs respond well to the medical approach and others do not. Medical therapy only treats the symptoms and does not correct the problem; these dogs are always subject to recurrences of coughing and breathing difficulty.
If medical therapy is not successful, the dog should be evaluated for possible surgery. Radiographs are endoscopies are used to determine how much of the trachea is collapsed. If the only abnormal part is that segment between the throat and the point where the trachea enters the chest (the thoracic inlet), the surgery may be curative. If the segment of the trachea that is within the chest cavity is abnormal, surgery is not likely to be helpful because that part is not accessible to the surgeon.
There are several surgical approaches that have been used. Each approach implants an artificial support device that is secured around or within the trachea. The purpose of the support device is to hold the tracheal rings in their normal, open position. Although some dogs have excellent results and are truly cured of the disease, the outcome is not uniformly successful.