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Tracheal Collapse in Chihuahuas

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tracheal collapse in chihuahuas

One of the biggest issues we hear from Chihuahua owners is wondering why their dog keeps coughing. Most likely it’s reverse sneezing which is very common in Chihuahuas. It could also be Kennel Cough which is highly contagious. But it may be a more serious issue called Tracheal Collapse.

This condition is common in many small dogs, including Chihuahuas.

Causes of Tracheal Collapse

Dogs with tracheal collapse have tracheas that are not shaped the way they should be. They flatten which causes the dog to struggle to get enough air.

The dog may be born with this defect or they can develop it later on. Some of the things that cause it are:

  • Cushing’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Injury to the throat (which is why you should always use a harness with a leash instead of attaching the leash to your dog’s collar)
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Obesity
  • Second-hand cigarette smoke
  • A congenital birth defect


Symptoms of Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal Collapse most often is described as sounding like a “goose honk”. If your dog starts doing this when exercising or excited, while eating or drinking, they may have a collapsed trachea. Their gums may get a bluish tinge to them.

Treatments of Tracheal Collapse

It’s important that your dog get treated if he has this condition because it will get progressively worse without treatment. Treatments for tracheal collapse include:

  • Corticosteroids which reduces the inflammation
  • Antibiotics depending on the cause of the disease
  • Cough suppressants
  • A weight loss program (if obesity is the cause)
  • Surgery (in extreme cases)

Reverse Sneezing or Tracheal Collapse

It’s often difficult to know whether your dog’s coughing is caused by tracheal collapse or the less severe reverse sneezing. The symptoms are very similar.

If your dog coughs when excited or after eating or drinking, or turns her elbows outward and extends her neck and gasps inward with a rhythmic snork snork  snork , this is reverse sneezing.

If she breathes with a raspy sound, or coughs reflexively when you simply rub her throat, she could have a collapsing trachea.

Also if she coughs with one or two expulsive outward bursts, typically with a gag or empty retch at the end, she could have a collapsing trachea.

Here’s an example of a Chi with reverse sneezing:

and here is a Chi with tracheal collapse:

They sound very similar don’t they? The best way to know for sure is to get your Vet to check your dog.

If you’d like to learn more about this condition, this is the best video I have seen that explains it:

Has your Chihuahua been diagnosed with tracheal collapse? Do you suspect they may have it?  I’d love to know about your experience.

Click to find about other chihuahua health problems.

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Sandra Castillo

Friday 30th of April 2021

My 7 yr old toy chi has been diagnosed. On meds. Some days are better than others. I worry so much i will find him dead. Hes my baby and we love him so much. I hate hearing him retch. Up at 4 am googling this. Im just wondering if theres anything i can do. Surgery sounds expensive.


Friday 30th of April 2021

Surgery should be a last resort but you might want to start saving up for it now. There are natural supplements out there that some say help build cartilage. The ones I know about are glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin but I don't know if these really do help or not. Some people give their dog honey mixed with warm water to help soothe their trachea. Other than that, I don't know what else you can do for your fur baby.


Thursday 25th of March 2021

My CHi just had luxating patella surgery and we found out she had a collapsed trachea after she developed aspirated pneumonia.


Friday 26th of March 2021

Oh wow, I'm so sorry T.

Alpianshutsa Exotlopnari

Thursday 4th of March 2021

My chihuahua just sounds like the first,thank you so much,I was so worried

Connie MacDougall

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

Our Chihuahua puppy is almost 5 months old. He snores at times when sleeping. He also ‘honks’ occasionally. Usually 2-3 times but recently woke us up in middle of night, doing it about a dozen times. Sounded like he was in such distress! I just happened to be taking him to vet in the morning so I explained to tech what was going on. While sitting in my car (thank you Covid) the vet called me & asked if he was in a daycare or do we go to dog parks. I said no. Then she asked if it sounds like a honking and I said ‘yes, exactly!’ She informed me about tracheal collapse but did say the only way to really diagnose it would be to X-ray during a cough. Sent us home with cough pills, 1/4 every 6-8 hours. If it stops, discontinue pills until it starts again. That’s the only day he got pills, 3 days ago. Made the noise once when we went for a walk yesterday. On a leash, with a harness. He was very excited, and I keep the leash very short as to keep him off other’s lawns. My sisters friends dog has it and she seems to think our little guy is doomed! He only weighs 4.1 pounds. Is very active, loves to run. My vet said it’s sounds worse than it is & will not shorten his life. I’m so confused!

Connie MacDougall

Thursday 10th of December 2020

@Cathy, is there anything we can do at home to keep him healthier? We are smoke free, I read we should not use aerosols, try to take him for daily walks (in Michigan, lucky not to have accumulated snow yet!) Seger, yes like Bob, likes to sleep late in mornings but is usually active most of day. That is as long as I don’t sit because then he finds his way you my lap. Lol We waited 7 years after we lost our 13 year old rott/shepherd mix because we were so heartbroken after her death. Now this. Is there any way I can ‘follow’ you? Join something? In order to ask questions when things pop up. Thank you.


Wednesday 9th of December 2020

Your vet is right. Dogs can have a long life with it. A few do have a lot of health issues and may die early but most don't.

Sandy Holmberg

Tuesday 27th of October 2020

My Chihuahua Phoebe who will be 13 on Halloween was diagnosed with the early signs of a collapsing trachea. She was examined by internist and a cardiologist. No heart problems. At the beginning she was on hydrocodone 3 times a day but then as needed. She is doing better. Her coughing is not severe like it was and sometimes she can go 24 to 48 hrs without medicine. I have been trying to get her to lose weigh Although it is a slow process she has lost a pound. I try not to get her to excited.


Tuesday 27th of October 2020

Sounds like you are doing everything right for her Sandy, Hope she continues to stay well.