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Dog Pulling On Leash & Now Coughing – Is It A Collapsed Trachea?

We’ve all been there – you’re out walking your pup and he gets excited or overworked by another dog or something else, and he starts to strain against the leash.

It may happen so suddenly that before you know it, your dog has lurched forward and pulled on the leash violently.

The next thing you know, you hear your dog coughing.

Before you start to worry, know that whenever there is the pulling of the leash or the collar on the dog like this then it is completely normal for the dog to cough afterwards.

This will happen with pretty much any dog.

Does pulling on the leash hurt the dog?

sad dog on leash

Yes, pulling on the leash can sometimes hurt your dog, which is why you should never, ever pull on the leash yourself.

If your dog has started coughing after a collar or leash pulling, and you’re worried that it’s something serious like a tracheal collapse, then let us help you determine if it’s time to call the vet.

Why do dogs cough after pulling on their leash?

The trachea, which is commonly known as a windpipe, gets restricted when a leash or collar is pulled to quickly and forcefully.

I’m not talking about a simple pulling of the leash, but more of a yanking of it that results in this.

The trachea is basically just a long column of rings  of cartilage that are stacked on top of each other.

For unknown reasons, some of these rings can lose their rigidity prematurely with age or are never as rigid as they should be.

And when the trachea tube becomes more floppy, it sort of flutters with your pups breaths, and that triggers fits of coughing.

dog walking on leash in park

What are the symptoms of a collapsed trachea in dogs?

The problem of a collapsing trachea is most commonly seen in middle-age to older dogs that are toy or miniature breeds.

So, this includes breeds like Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Shih Tzu, and others.

However, a collapsed trachea can occur in younger dogs or in larger dog breeds. And in rare instances, a dog can be born with this condition.

The most common symptom associated with a collapsing trachea is a dry cough that is often described as a “goose honk” sound. 

yorkie on leash

The cough is typically triggered by excitement, anxiety, exercise, eating and/or drinking, becoming overheated, and pulling on the collar.

The cough from a collapsing trachea always sounds worse than it is.

To most dogs, collapsing trachea probably just feels like an annoying tingling sensation in the throat, not a serious breathing problem.

As owners, it seems much worse to us, but just because the cough is loud or frequent does not mean that your pet is suffering or has a poor quality of life.

You might be wondering – Why does my dog cough when I pick him up?

Well, some dog owners report that picking their dogs up under the chest area can bring on coughing caused by a collapsing trachea.

Signs of a normal dog cough that does not necessarily point to a collapsed trachea are:

  • acting like they are trying to “cough something out” (but nothing is there)
  • a final, hacking, gagging sound that is louder than the cough (and ends a fit of coughing)
  • white or yellow mucous-like foam during this final coughing fit

The cough may even be severe enough to cause the pupper to faint, which can be scary for owners, but by itself is usually not fatal.

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

What’s really odd is that in the earliest stages, some dogs with a collapsing trachea do not cough at all and the problem goes unnoticed at home, until a vet notices the problem.

How can I get my dog to stop pulling on the leash? (and prevent trachea collapse)

The best way to stop a dog from pulling on a leash, and to prevent tracheal collapse, is to use a harness instead of a collar.

The harness fits around a dog’s chest, avoiding unnecessary pressure on the neck, so leash pulls are no longer potentially dangerous.

Of course, you can also invest in some dog training so that your dog learns how to properly behave while wearing a leash.

You should also make sure that your dog doesn’t get overheated, because this can lead to coughing fits.

So, don’t walk him in high humidity, don’t leave him in a hot car, and don’t over exercise him.

If your dog is overweight, then you should know that the excess weight puts extra pressure on the dog’s trachea.

You should take steps to reduce the weight of your dog, if he is overweight.

You should know that a collapsed trachea is not a curable problem.

With the right medication combination, weight loss if needed, and common-sense approaches like using a harness instead of a collar, a normal lifestyle is expected for a dog with collapsing trachea.

The honking cough will most likely never go away all together, but it is a disease that can be managed.

Best Harness for Dogs With Collapsed Trachea

If your dog already has a collapsed trachea and you’ve been using a regular leash, then it’s time to upgrade to a harness.

There are a lot of models available for your dog, but we recommend the Kurgo Dog Harness (available at Amazon).

This harness fits dogs of all sizes and comes with a tether for card riding.

Kurgo Dog Harness


As you can see, it’s best to be careful when using a leash with your dog, or you might end up accidentally causing harm to your pet.

Not all pulls on a leash or collar can cause collapse to the trachea of your doggo, but it’s still a good idea to never pull the leash (if possible).

In fact, instead of using a leash and collar, you should use a harness to avoid collapsing the trachea.

Look out for that telltale goose honking cough to determine if your dog is experiencing a collapse trachea.

And remember, our advice is no substitute for that of a trained veterinarian.

Please consult a professional if you believe that your dog is ill or hurt.

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2 thoughts on “Dog Pulling On Leash & Now Coughing – Is It A Collapsed Trachea?”

  1. is the Kurgo Dog Harness a no pull harness? I have a 4 month old Labradoodle and he is overly excited and even as young as he is he pulls very hard. I had him in puppy school and the trainer said I need to get him a prong collar. She said I will either get hurt or I will have to give up the dog. I ordered a very good one but the method of putting it on and off is very difficult and so I plan to return it.
    I am thinking of the Kurgo Dog Harness or the Positively No Pull Harness.
    I hope to hear from you soon. The Kurgo looks like a nice harness but does not look like one that would stop pulling.


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National Canine Research Association of America