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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 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.

Cathy signature Chi

female vet holding fuzzy dog

Dr. Sara Ochoa

DVM

This article has been fact-checked and approved by Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.

Laurie Rumer

Monday 30th of May 2022

I loved my beloved chihuahua in August 2022, two weeks after the vet diagnosed her with a collapsed trachea. He gave her a prescription cough suppressant. Knowing what I learned after she passed, I wish he had prescribed steroids to treat the collapsed trachea instead of treating the cough. ๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”

Cathy

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

I'm so sorry Laurie! Did the vet know it was tracheal collapse and still only prescribed cough meds?

Brian

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Our 14 year old chihuahua has symptoms of the dogs in both videos. It has progressively gotten worse.It honks day and night and sneezes sometimes difficulty with breathing.

Does it sound as though the trachael surgery is an only option?

Cathy

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Only your vet can answer that Brian. I know there are several medications they can try first but if it's too severe, sometimes surgery is the only option.

Chris

Tuesday 16th of November 2021

Our chi was born not breathing and has always had some sort of breathing problem. She does the reverse sneeze thing and now that she's gotten older, she's 12, she's now doing the tracheal collapse cough, we've seen a post on here before for a product called Throat Gold. We have recently in the past three months gotten her on one dose at night and it seems to be helping. Our chi would wake up in the morning coughing, or in the middle of the night, since the Throat Gold, she sleeps great and wakes up happy.

Cathy

Tuesday 16th of November 2021

Thanks for letting us know about the Throat Gold. Hope it continues.

Lynn

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

My dog Brownie was a rescue, the vet said she was approx 6-7 years old. She was used as a breeder, as she was very small, and had great features. The first six months, my vet pulleld some of her teeth, and spayed her, she had licked her hair so much in that case, it was completely wrapped around all of her teeth. That was approx 3 years ago.

I also have to mention, during fireworks or loud noises, she appears not to breath and her mouth locks open??

Took her in 1 year ago, and had rest of her teeth removed. They were very bad, but said it has not affected her organs.

Approx 1 weeks ago she started with the coughing as dog #2 in video, it continued to worsen. Then she would get better and start to eat again.

Last Sunday during the day she had a couple of episodes of coughing with a frothy foam coming from her mouth. I read that a little honey with warm water was good for that. I did the honey thing for a couple of days. On the 3rd day in the evening (Sunday) she started coughing and could not stop, it almost looked like a seizure. I was holding her, and it continued, aslo with her mouthing locking open. She died in my arms approx 20 minutes later. We are broken hearted, and want to know what could have happend. It appears that the treachal collapse was a problem, but shouldnt the vet of saw that during her teeth removal. We are just looking for some type of closure, as we are blaming ourselves, wishing we would have taken her to be checked out when the coughing began.

Hearts Broken in Cali...

Cathy

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry Lynn! That's awful. I'm glad though that she had a good final years with yall feeling loved and cared for. Yeah your vet should have at least suspected it. But it may have been congestive heart failure too. In the final stages they cough a lot. But then again, I would have thought they would have checked her heart before putting her through surgery the year before.

Suzy

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

My Chihuahua has tracheal collapse. 4 days ago at 130am he just started coughing aggressively, we took him to the emergency vet and they said it was kennel cough. They drugged him up pretty good so the next 24 hours he was fine. But when the 24 hours were over, he started coughing even worse. Took him in again where they then did am xray. Told us he has it. And we needed to get him medication ASAP, and pretty much made it seem like he was about to die. So thw next day which was a monday we took him in and she explained everything(something the emergency didnt do). They said there was 3 different things they wanted to check for so they sent new xrays of that day(he was such a good boy that day, almost no coughing, not a hard belly and ate and drank) to a radiologist to see which problem was the worst. They vet said she thinks the enlarged heart was from him not getting the air he needs. And he had fluid in his lungs. So instead of treating tracheal collapse, they wanted to treat whatever was causing the most harm. . they did a much better job at their job than the emergency vet.... So now we are on day 4 and he sleeps on 2.5 hour intervals, coughs for about 2 minutes. And then sleeps again.. I can see he wants to be himself. You can just see the fear in his eyes.

Cathy

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

Poor little guy. I'm so sorry ya'll are going through this Suzy!