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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.

Cathy signature Chi


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.


Tuesday 24th of August 2021

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

Tommy McBroom

Thursday 1st of July 2021

My Chihuahua has this condition when excited. I just settle him down and issue is resolved.

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