Understanding Collapsed Trachea in Dogs

collapsing trachea

When it comes to canine health, one condition that often  raises concerns among pet owners, especially in miniature or small breeds, is ‘collapsing trachea’ or ‘collapsed trachea’ in dogs.

What is collapsing trachea?

Tracheal collapse in dogs happens when the weak cartilaginous rings of the trachea or ‘windpipe’ are unable to maintain their shape during the normal respiratory cycle. This means that during inspiration (breathing in), there’s a tendency for the trachea to flatten, narrowing the airway. In dogs without tracheal collapse, the trachea is able to resist the negative pressures of inspiration and maintain its shape.

How can I identify symptoms of collapsed trachea in dogs?

Collapsing trachea symptoms may include:

  • Unusual noise when breathing
  • Persistent coughing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Acute respiratory arrest
  • Fainting

Moreover, they might have respiratory noises like honking and wheezing.. It is worth noting that not all dogs with this condition will show clinical signs of tracheal collapse.

 The characteristic ‘honk’ often associated with tracheal collapse in dogs.

Collapsed Trachea

What causes collapsed trachea in dogs?

The exact cause of tracheal collapse in dogs remains unknown. However, certain breeds like toy poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, and Chihuahuas often suffer from it, suggesting  a possible genetic basis. Studies have shown that in affected dogs, the tracheal cartilages become hypocellular, pointing towards this as a potential cause, though it remains unconfirmed.

Diagnosing collapsing trachea in dogs

While a presumptive diagnosis of tracheal collapse can be made on the dog’s history and symptoms, a definitive diagnosis requires more detailed investigation.  Tracheoscopy is the most reliable diagnostic method, but  it requires general anaesthesia which may not be suitable for all patients. Plain radiography can also be used, but a CT scan usually provides better results for identifying pulmonary (lung) changes.

Treatment for collapsed trachea in dogs

  • Medical Management – This is vital for all dogs with tracheal collapse. Treatment often focuses on addressing factors identified during diagnosis or managing symptoms like coughing. Common treatments include corticosteroids for inflammation and anti-secretory agents for mucus reduction.
  • Surgical Management – For dogs where medical management does not  work or those with severe structural issues, surgery might be the answer. This involves placing plastic rings outside the trachea to support the tracheal cartilages and muscle, with improvements seen in 75-85% of dogs
  • Intra-luminal stents – These stents, which can be self-expanding or balloon-expandable, are inserted inside the trachea to provide support. Proper sizing is crucial to avoid complications. They can provide immediate relief but require ongoing management.

Prognosis for collapsing trachea in dogs

The prognosis of collapsing trachea in dogs is variable. It largely depends on lifestyle changes and the chosen treatment method. Some dogs respond well to medical treatment, while the more difficult and challenging cases of collapse  might need surgical intervention.


Collapsed trachea in dogs is a condition that requires owner awareness, timely intervention, and long term care. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and the treatment options, owners can ensure a comfortable and happy life for their canine companions.

Being Referred to AURA Veterinary

At AURA Veterinary, our dedication to excellence in animal healthcare is unmatched. We understand that specialised care often starts with your local veterinarian. Therefore, we encourage you to speak with your vet first for access to our advanced treatments in areas like animal cancers, soft-tissue surgery, internal medicine, and interventional procedures. 

They will be able to assess your pet’s condition and, if specialised care is needed, refer you to us at AURA Veterinary. This collaborative approach ensures that your pet receives the best possible care tailored to their specific needs.



Soldier is a 5year old male Pomeranian, who was referred to AURA Veterinary from another referral centre to discuss management of his tracheal collapse. Soldiers family had tried various medications that had not resulted in any consistent improvement in his coughing.