Help for an Episode of Collapsed Trachea

by Michelle

He makes this honking sound and looks like he is choking. Then he coughs it sometimes lasts 3-4 minutes!!! What do you do?? What if it totally closes?

Anonymous Answers:

Go to the vet asap. Make sure its that. My dog has it. He is one cough medicine, no heavy exercise, keeping him calm, and out of the heat. He seems to be doing better, just has those episodes once in a while like if I don’t let him in quick enough. I also have water pills just in case. Good luck with him.

Our Answer:

Michelle, the first thing we wonder is if your Shih Tzu has actually been diagnosed with tracheal collapse or if that’s what you assume it is. The honking, choking sound is certainly a big indicator of TC, but a condition known as inspiratory dyspnea, or “reverse sneezing” presents with a very similar snorting, coughing sound. Both tracheal collapse and reverse sneezing are common disorders among Shih Tzus.

Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is when the dog makes a snorting noise or appears to cough as it breathes in. It can be caused by excitement, eating, constriction of the throat or the dog breathing in allergens. The Inspiratory dyspnea triggers a spasm which causes the dog to extend his neck and expand his chest as he struggles to inhale. An episode of reverse sneezing looks and sounds worse than it really is. The condition rarely requires treatment and can commonly happen several times a month without concern. However, if your dog experiences chronic reverse sneezing, seek veterinary help.

If we didn’t do anything at all to help a dog while reverse sneezing he would be absolutely fine. But a gentle downward stroking on the throat will cause the dog to swallow which relaxes the muscles and stops the spasm.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a potentially serious disorder that involved the rings of cartilage that hold the trachea open. If these rings poorly formed they become progresibly flatter and eventually the trachea collapses, leaving the poor doggie to try and breath through what amounts to a closed straw.

One of the most tell-tale symptoms of TC is a dry, hacking cough that sounds similar to the honk of a goose. Exercise, excitement or pulling on the collar can cause a coughing episode. Getting a definitive diagnosis is important because other diseases share the honking/coughing symptom. A dog that’s having coughing episodes might also be sufferng from laryngeal paralysis, and elongated soft palate, tumors, heart failure or an infection of the lungs or trachea.

Treatment of TC depends on the severity of the disorder and may include medication or surgery.

If your furbaby has been diagnosed with mild tracheal collapse supplements like glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin and cetyl myristoleate may help strengthen the cartilage and maintain its integrity. A holistic veterinarian might also suggest acupuncture or chiropractic therapy to reduce the duration and intensity of duration of coughing episodes.

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to stop a coughing episode if one has started. Follow your vet’s advice and take preventative measures such as avoiding intense exercise and use a halter for walking.

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