Tracheal collapse is a progressive condition in which the C-shaped cartilage rings that keep the dog’s airway open collapse flattening the trachea or windpipe.

Tracheal collapse causes dry, honking coughing and harms the dog's quality of life or, in severe cases, its life expectancy.

In this article, I, Ivana Crnec, DVM, will discuss tracheal collapse in dogs. If you have a Yorkie, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, Chihuahua, Toy Poodle, or Lhasa Apso, keep reading, as these breeds are most likely to develop tracheal collapse.

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  1. Dog Tracheal Collapse Symptoms
  2. How to Soothe Dog with Collapsed Trachea
  3. Dog Tracheal Collapse Treatment
  4. Collapsed Trachea in Dogs Life Expectancy
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

Dog Tracheal Collapse Symptoms

The four main tracheal collapse symptoms in dogs are coughing, gagging, exercise intolerance, and respiratory distress.

The symptom severity depends on the collapse grade. Tracheal collapse is classified into four grades, including:

  • Grade 1: The windpipe’s shape is relatively normal (25% reduction)
  • Grade 2: The windpipe is partially flattened (50% reduction)
  • Grade 3: The windpipe is almost completely flat (75% reduction)
  • Grade 4: The windpipe is completely flat (90% reduction)

Dry Coughing

Dogs with tracheal collapse develop a dry, non-productive cough that sounds like a goose honk. The cough worsens upon pressure when the dog is picked up or pulled on the leash.

Strong emotions (such as excitement and stress), exercise, and environmental changes (like air temperature and humidity) can also trigger coughing episodes.


Gagging, known as retching or dry heaving, is the active process in which the dog acts like it is about to vomit. Gagging is non-productive, or the dog makes a small amount of white froth.

Dogs with tracheal collapse gag when eating or drinking. Differentiating gagging from vomiting can be challenging. Use the Petcube Pet Camera to make a video and show it to your vet.

Exercise Intolerance

Exercise intolerance is the inability to be physically active. Dogs with collapsed trachea cannot handle exercise; they have low stamina and tire easily.

Pale or blue gums, collapse, fainting, and trouble recovering after exercise are possible if the activity is strenuous or the condition is advanced.

Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress is a hallmark symptom of tracheal collapse. The top two signs are panting (fast but shallow breathing) and unusual breathing sounds.

Other signs of breathing issues in dogs with collapsed tracheas are shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, extreme tiredness, and, in severe cases, pale or blue gums.

How to Soothe Dog with Collapsed Trachea

Soothe a dog with a collapsed trachea by following the tips listed below.

  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential. Extra pounds put additional pressure on the trachea and contribute to exercise intolerance in the long run.
  • Limit Airborne Irritants: Do not smoke around the dog, and avoid air irritants such as perfumes, dust, and scented candles as they trigger or aggravate coughing bouts.
  • Avoid Weather Triggers: Do not take your dog out for walks or potty breaks if it is too hot or humid because they make breathing even more difficult.
  • Harness over Collar: Replace the collar with a well-padded harness to avoid straining the neck. Attach the GPS tracker to the dog’s harness for added security during walks.
  • Use Supplements: Joint supplements rich in glucosamine and chondroitin nurture the tracheal rings, while CBD oil helps keep the dog calm, avoiding stress and excitement.

Dog Tracheal Collapse Treatment

The treatment for a collapsed trachea is medical, surgical, or a combination. Surgically treated dogs still require lifelong use of medications and proper management.

Medical Treatment

The medical treatment includes anti-inflammatory meds, cough suppressants, bronchodilators, antibiotics, and sedatives. The vet will determine the best combination.

“Medical management may be effective in up to 70% of dogs with tracheal collapse,” according to Jennifer Coates, DVM, in an article for PetMD.

Surgical Treatment

There are two main surgical options for a collapsed trachea: placing rings on the outside or a stent inside the windpipe. Both approaches aim to keep the trachea open.

“Not all dogs can benefit from surgery, and the procedure itself carries some risk of serious complications,” warns Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM, the American Kennel Club's chief veterinary officer, in an article for the AKC.

Treatment Cost and Insurance

The monthly expenses for medically managed dogs with tracheal collapse are around $30, and surgical tracheal reconstruction costs between $3.500 and $6.500.

The treatment for collapsed trachea is expensive. Invest in the Petcube Emergency Fund, which gives up to $3,000 for emergency vet bills and offers unlimited access to online vets.

We love it when pet parents learn about dog health. To thank you for reading this article, we are offering 27% off the Fmergency fund by using this link.

Collapsed Trachea in Dogs Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of dogs with collapsed trachea is not predetermined. It depends on the severity of the condition and the dog’s response to treatment.

Early diagnosed and properly managed dogs can live long lives without suffering quality issues. On the other hand, euthanasia is an option for dogs with stage four collapse who fail to respond to treatment.


When to Euthanize a Dog with Tracheal Collapse?

Euthanize a dog with tracheal collapse when it fails to respond to treatment and the symptoms start affecting its quality of life. If the dog is severely lethargic and unable to perform daily activities, it is time to say goodbye.

How to Carry a Dog with Tracheal Collapse?

Carry a dog with tracheal collapse without straining the neck. Pick the dog up by the abdomen and avoid using collars and bandanas that add unnecessary pressure to the trachea.

What to Feed a Dog with Collapsed Trachea?

Feed low-fat but high-quality formula to a dog with a collapsed trachea to ensure weight control. Talk to the vet regarding the best option for the dog’s overall health, age, and nutritional needs.

What is the Best Sleeping Position for a Dog with Collapsed Trachea?

The best sleeping position for a dog with a collapsed trachea is with a slightly raised head and neck. Use a bed with raised sides or give the dog a pillow or rolled-up blanket. The dog will use them when needed to make itself comfortable.


Tracheal collapse is a progressive and degenerative condition in which the trachea flattens, causing coughing and exercise intolerance. It harms the dog’s life quality and expectancy.

My advice is to practice regular veterinary checkups and keep a close eye on your dog for signs of tracheal collapse, especially in predisposed breeds.

Tracheal collapse is easier to manage and has a better prognosis when caught early.

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