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Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

What Is Tracheal Collapse?


Tracheal collapse is a chronic, progressive disease that involves obstruction of the airway. The trachea, windpipe, is a tube that is supported by C shaped cartilage. Occasionally, the cartilage ring weakens and begins to collapse making the dog cough and/or hard time breathing. 


How does it occur?

  • Congenital
    • Certain breeds, particularly small and toy breeds, are at higher risk as a result of their size. Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, Pug, Maltese and Toy Poodles are among the breeds that where this is more most common.
  • Gradual
    • Physical or environmental stress over a period of time can weaken the trachea and reduce its structural integrity. These factors include excessive activity, excessive pulling on collars, and regular exposure to smoky environments. Age (over 5 years) will also increase the risk.
  • Sudden
    • Traumatic injury to the dog's neck area will also increase the risk.


What are the symptoms?


Although it depends on the severity of the collapse, the dog will have a honking cough. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, gagging while eating or drinking, and in severe cases bluish tinge to the gums and tongue.


How Is Tracheal Collapse Diagnosed?


X-rays can sometimes detect the obvious Tracheal collapses, but not always.  Using fluoroscopy, which is a moving X-ray, allows visualization of the trachea as the dog inhales and exhales may be necessary to confirm the accurate diagnosis. Other methods include endoscopy, which allows a view of the inside of the trachea with a tiny camera.

Note that any disease of the upper or lower airway can be mistaken for tracheal collapse. This includes a foreign object in the airway, laryngeal paralysis, elongated soft palate, infection of the trachea, lungs, or heart failure.


How can Tracheal Collapse Treated?


Most cases of tracheal collapse are treated with cough suppressants, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and/or antibiotics. It’s important to suppress the coughing because coughing irritates the throat, which leads to more coughing. If the dog is overweight, weight loss helps to breathe easier. Although treatment doesn’t cure the disease, over 70%of dogs respond well to medical treatment of of more than 12 months.

It is recommended that the dog is in a smoke-free environment and free of other environmental pollutants. Dogs with a collapsing tracheal should not wear a collar, particularly dogs who have a tendency to pull. It is discouraged to wear anything around their neck that might pressure the dogs’ tracheal. Rather, a choke-free harness should be considered, like Gooby's patented Comfort X series of harnesses.


How can a Comfort X Harness help?


Avoiding the neck area is the key to a choke free harness in mitigating tracheal issues. Our Comfort X series of harness does exactly this with an 'X' design that redistributes the pulling force of both the dog and the owner. This patented design allows the harness to be choke-free and gives owners a peace-of-mind knowing your dog will continue to breathe easy.



1. Tappin, S.W. (1996) Canine Tracheal Collapse. Journal of Small Animal Practice 5711