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Can Collapsing Trachea Occur in Young Dogs?

You have a link talking about collapsing trachea in canines and mention 'middle-aged' dogs. I have a young pom (almost 4 years old) who has...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Oct 3rd 2010

You have a link talking about collapsing trachea in canines and mention ‘middle-aged’ dogs. I have a young pom (almost 4 years old) who has had this from a relatively young age. My own vet told me not to be concerned about it and suggested I use a harness (which I do). Like your article, my vet also told me that a collapsing trachea condition doesn’t typically shorten the dog’s lifespan. Is there anything when she is having a episode (thankfully they are short) to help her get through it faster? I have noticed (and I don’t know if this is just coincidence(that if I raise her paws and have her give my face a couple of licks that sometimes that seems to get things going normally again – but not always). Anyway, any tips to shorten the episode for her?

Bay Area, California

Collapsing trachea occurs when the supportive structures of the windpipe (also known as the trachea) become weak and fail to hold it completely open. This allows the trachea to partially and temporarily (in most cases) cave in. This so-called tracheal collapse causes a tickle in the throat. The tickle in the throat causes coughing.

Tracheal collapse is most common in small dogs such as Pomeranians. It occurs more frequently in middle-aged and older dogs. However, it isn’t uncommon for young dogs to experience the syndrome.

Rapid air movement through the windpipe is the most common cause of coughing episodes in dogs with tracheal collapse (the physical law that explains this is described by the Bernoulli principle, which also explains how airplanes fly). Excitement and exercise are the most common causes of increased breathing in dogs; therefore, coughing due to collapsing trachea is most simply treated or prevented by encouraging affected dogs to rest and be quiet.

That said, if your dog’s coughing isn’t debilitating I don’t recommend any major lifestyle changes. Dogs with collapsing trachea are still entitled to have fun.

Pressure on the neck can cause affected dogs to cough; therefore, harnesses are better than neck leads for affected individuals.

Collapsing trachea is a progressive syndrome but most cases do not lead to serious problems. Over the last ten years I have met hundreds of dogs with the syndrome. I have seen only one dog die as a result.

Even dogs that develop collapsing trachea at a young age generally don’t suffer severe consequences from the syndrome. Those rare dogs who are the exception to the rule may benefit from a surgical procedure in which a stent is placed in the windpipe to hold it open.