When to Euthanize a Dog with Tracheal Collapse Image

Euthanasia for Tracheal Collapse: What is the Right Time?

Modern medicine and research have allowed humankind to treat and cure diseases once deemed certain death sentences. This knowledge has also revolutionized veterinary medicine and provided exceptional pet care and animal disease treatment. However, even with present-day advanced healthcare, some diseases inevitably cause the animal’s demise, tracheal collapse in dogs being one of them. Though the condition can be treated in less severe cases, in more advanced stages, the owner may need to take the difficult decision of putting their furry friend down to spare them the suffering. Read on further to know all about this issue and when to euthanize a dog with tracheal collapse.

What is Tracheal Collapse in Dogs?

The trachea is a long tube extending from the dog’s nasal passage to the lungs, bifurcating into two bronchi. It is the channel for the passage of air during the processes of inhalation and exhalation and is held in place with the help of sturdy, C-shaped cartilage rings. Tracheal collapse is a condition that occurs when the tracheal rings collapse, causing the trachea to lose stability and restricting air passage. It is a progressive, chronic and irreversible condition that cannot be treated, though earlier stages can be managed through medication.

What Causes a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs?

The exact cause for this condition remains unknown, though it is largely believed to be congenital. The dog may not have enough cartilage rings to support the trachea adequately, or the dog may have been born with weak cartilage that starts to collapse over time due to the strain. So what causes a collapsed trachea in dogs? Irregularities in cartilage-producing cells and deficiency of raw material required to form the cartilage in the body are other possible congenital abnormalities that may cause a dog to develop this condition. It mainly affects small dog breeds like Pomeranians, Miniatures and Toy Poodles, Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas.

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Some other conditions pose risk factors that can cause trachea issues in dogs, for instance:

  1. Chronic respiratory disease
  2. Cushing’s disease
  3. Heart diseases
  4. Obesity
  5. Exposure to cigarette smoke and other pollutants

Signs & Symptoms of Collapsed Tracheal in Dogs

The symptoms of collapsed trachea in dogs usually start becoming evident around 6-7 years of age. The most evident symptom of the condition is a harsh, dry cough and the tracheal collapse dog sounds will resemble a goose’s honking. Other possible collapsed trachea symptoms are as follows:

Symptoms of Tracheal Collapse in Dogs image
  1. Frequent fainting
  2. Difficulty in breathing
  3. Intense coughing on picking your dog up/ applying slight pressure to their neck
  4. Vomiting or gagging associated with the coughing
  5. Cyanotic (turning blue) episodes
  6. The appearance of blue mucous membranes
  7. Wheezing
  8. Lack of energy, extreme fatigue
  9. Bouts of respiratory discomfort triggered by excitement, variation in environmental temperature, exercise, obesity or humid weather
  10. Bluish tinge to gums, evident while they are drinking water or eating.

Difficulty breathing on placing light pressure on the trachea during a physical exam performed by the veterinarian is one of the signs of collapsed trachea in dogs. X-rays and endoscopes or bronchoscopes are used to confirm the diagnosis.

How Does a Dog Develop Tracheal Collapse?

The cause of trachea collapse in dogs is believed to be multifactorial; genetic, nutritional or allergic factors may trigger it. The collapse may be the result of the tracheal cartilages losing their elasticity and ability to maintain the trachea’s stability during breathing. It may also be caused by the sagging of the cartilage membrane, resulting in the loss of turgidity. This subsequently causes the trachea to flatten when the dog draws in the air during inhalation, restricting the airway and causing respiratory distress. Sometimes tracheal damage can also result from the dog pulling or yanking at the leash around their neck. Thus, it is preferable to choose the best retractable dog leash. The extent of airway obstruction determines the severity of the condition.

Tracheal Collapse Treatment in Dogs

Though tracheal collapse is irreversible, medication and the adoption of preventative care in the early stages of the condition can allow your pet to live a longer and healthier life. If assumed that obesity is the primary cause then what you could do for dog tracheal collapse home treatment you can help your dog lose weight to prevent further complications. It is also advised to use a harness around the dog’s torso instead of around the neck to prevent further trauma to the trachea. The tracheal collapse treatment in dogs could be as follows:

Treatment for tracheal collapse in dogs image

After diagnosis, the veterinarian may prescribe the following medicine for collapsed trachea in dogs to manage inflammation and prevent the progression of the condition:

  1. Antibiotics.
  2. Cough suppressants: these include Hycodan, tramadol and butorphanol.
  3. Corticosteroids: these include prednisone and fluticasone.
  4. Broncho-dilators: these include terbutaline, albuterol and theophylline. These are useful in case of collapse in the trachea’s lower region and allow more oxygen into the lungs.
  5. Sedatives: these are used to lightly sedate the dog when they get excited, as that can cause the condition to worsen and cause bouts of respiratory distress.

Studies have shown that this problem is frequently concurrent with liver disease. Owners should monitor the dogs’ liver to spot and treat any irregularities.

In some cases, veterinarians consider surgery to be the most suitable approach in the treatment for collapsed trachea in dogs. The aforementioned surgery may consist of placing plastic rings around the trachea to carry out the function of the defective cartilage ones or placing a stent inside the airway to hold it open and allow the passage of air. Paired with medication, the surgical approach has shown positive results in many cases.

When to Euthanize a Dog with Tracheal Collapse?

Despite the success of the treatments described above, many owners choose to euthanize their dogs when the collapse has progressed to an untreatable stage.

If the following correspond with your dogs’ condition, it may be an indication for you to consider euthanasia for them to relieve their suffering:

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  1. Difficulty in eating and drinking.
  2. Unable to exercise or gather enough strength to participate in normal activities.
  3. Frequent choking, gasping for breath.
  4. Not responding to medication.
  5. Chronic cough for prolonged periods and laboured breathing.
  6. Convulsions, which, if persist, can result in death due to choking.


The owner needs to discuss with the veterinarian about all the viable options for their dog and make a decision that’s in the best interests of their furry companion. Losing a friend as near and dear as one’s dog is an experience more painful than one can imagine. However, to make the difficult choice of putting your dog down when the condition is beyond help is the most considerate decision one can take to ensure that their beloved pet’s last days aren’t filled with pain and suffering.