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Tracheal collapse

A goose honk cough might be the first sign that your dog has a Tracheal collapse. 

What is Tracheal collapse?

Tracheal collapse, or Dynamic Airway Disease, is a common disease seen in veterinary practice and luckily, in many cases, is manageable. 

Tracheal collapse refers to a chronic, irreversible disease where through weakening of the tissues in the trachea (windpipe) such as the cartilage rings causing the windpipe to become narrow. This reduces the airflow into the lungs. 

Although there are many factors that can contribute to Tracheal collapse in dogs, which include issues with cartilage formation and function, other known factors that encourage the trachea to collapse include obesity, inhaling pollutant substances like smoke or allergens, heart failure and barking excessively. 

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Which pets are most affected?

Smaller toy dog breeds are more predisposed to tracheal collapse; however, it can occur in any breed of dog and is very rare in cats. According the PetSure claims data in 2020, Pomeranians had the highest prevalence of tracheal disorders. PetSure claims data also revealed that tracheal collapse occurs most frequently in dogs 8 to 15 years old. 

According to PetSure data (across 2020 calendar year), tracheal disorders are most prevalent in the following breeds: 

Breed 

Prevalence

Pomeranian

1.15%

Fox Terrier Smooth

0.27%

Toy Poodle

0.23%

Miniature Poodle

0.23%

Shiba Inu

0.20%

Lhasa Apso

0.20%

Shih Tzu

0.19%

Chihuahua

0.19%

Japanese Spitz

0.19%

Papillon

0.17%

*Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Tracheal Collapse

The main sign of tracheal collapse is coughing. The cough is often described sounding like a “goose honk”. The cough may worsen with excitement or exercise. Dogs with tracheal collapse may be reluctant or unable to exercise, wheeze when they breath, and in severe cases they may collapse, or have pale or blueish gums. 

Diagnosing Tracheal Collapse

The first stage of diagnosing Tracheal collapse will involve the Vet taking a clinical history. This means finding out if there has been an ongoing cough, or other signs of tracheal collapse as outlined above. A thorough exam of the pet patient will also be performed.  

The vet might put a small amount of pressure on the trachea to check for sensitivity in the area. A pet patient with tracheal collapse may start coughing at this time. X-rays are commonly recommended to check the respiratory system as well as the heart. A machine called a Fluoroscope is sometimes recommended to check for tracheal collapse, which is like an X-ray except that it captures moving images in real time. This can show the subtle changes of the airways as the pet breaths. Other tests may include ultrasound or bronchoscopy where a camera is passed into the airways to see what changes are present. Blood tests and other surveying tests may also be recommended to check for any underlying illnesses. 

Management of Tracheal Collapse 

Depending on its severity, Tracheal Collapse may be managed medically with anti-inflammatories and anti-cough medications. Weight loss may be recommended in obese pets to help put less stress on the respiratory system. Treatments for underlying problems such as heart disease, or anxiety may also be prescribed. Pets with tracheal collapse are more likely to get respiratory tract infections, so antibiotics may be indicated in some cases.

In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required. This is a specialised surgery that involves placing implants in the trachea to help open it up so that the pet can breathe more easily. 

In many cases, pets with tracheal collapse require regular checks and ongoing management with their veterinarian.  

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2020 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to Tracheal collapse was $525 with the highest, single claim being $6,975. The overall treatment cost of managing Tracheal Collapse will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet's response to these treatments.

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

References 

  1. American College of Veterinary Surgeons, Tracheal Collapse, Accessed on 08/04/2021
  2. VCA Animal Hospitals, Tracheal Collapse in Dogs, Accessed on 15/04/2021
  3. Vincyclopedia of Diseases, Tracheal Collapse, Accessed on 15/04/2021

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Kylie Mitchell is a veterinarian with over 17 years experience in animal health and welfare, including in the veterinary and pet insurance industries

She has three rescue cats (Noah, Bei Bei and Meeka), four very old cockatiels and a pond-full of fish.

Kylie's pets

Noah
Noah
Bei Bei
Bei Bei
Meeka
Meeka