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When Should You Put Down A Dog With Tracheal Collapse?

If you’ve got a dog that’s been diagnosed with a collapsing trachea, then you’re understandably worried and not sure what to do about it.

You’re likely concerned about your dog’s life expectancy with this diagnosis and how you can treat it.

You may even be considering euthanasia, or just wondering if putting down your dog is something that your should do for him.

Sadly, if your dog is not is not responding to treatment and has constant, severe coughing, then it may be time to consider euthanasia.

We’re familiar with the tracheal collapse diagnosis, so let us help you come to terms with what it means for your doggo.

What is Dog Tracheal Collapse?

sad dog on leash

Tracheal collapse is a progressive, fatal, and irreversible condition of the windpipe and the lower airways that cause the mainstem bronchi’s collapse.

Tracheal collapse mostly affects the small breed dogs such as the Chihuahuas, Poodles, Shih Tzu’s Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians, and the Yorkshire terriers.

The severity of tracheal collapse in dogs can differ, as it is a significant source of airway obstruction.

Dogs with minor collapses show less to none clinical signs, while those with more severe collapses have severe coughs and experience breathing problems.

Most small dogs are born with cartilage strong enough to keep the windpipe open, but with advancing in age, the cartilage weakens.

As age takes its toll on a dog’s cartilage, tracheal collapse symptoms start to show in this older dog.

What Causes Dog Tracheal Collapse?

Dog tracheal collapse is caused by a collapsing trachea or windpipe, which makes it hard for air to get to the animal’s lungs.

dog walking on leash in park

Tracheal collapse results from the flattening of the tracheal rings during inspiration when the wind is drawn into the airway.

This happens when the cartilage rings lose some rigidity and strength or when the membrane gets slack and saggy.

Often this happens as the result of a dog pulling or yanking on a leash that’s around his neck.

Tracheal collapse in dogs usually happens in the middle-aged to senior dogs, between 4 to 14 years of age, but younger dogs can be affected as well.

Dogs that are most susceptible to tracheal collapse are middle-aged and older, as well as dogs that are overweight.

This, however, does not mean that younger dogs are not prone to tracheal collapse.

There may be a genetic factor involved, so all dogs are susceptible to tracheal collapse regardless of breed, size, or age.

The reason why tracheal collapse occurs in dogs is, however, unknown, although there are suspicions of a congenital abnormality being a trigger.

yorkie on leash

During congenital anomalies, the trachea rings’ cartilage weakens, as they are less cellular, which results in breathing difficulties.

Some factors bring out the symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs, but they are not necessarily causes of the condition.

Dogs that are obese and those that have undergone anesthesia that involved the placement of an endotracheal tube are more prone.

If there is an increase of respiratory irritants such as dust, cigarette, or smoke in the air, or heart enlargement, it increases the chances of tracheal collapse.

Signs and Symptoms of a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs

Coughing is the first warning sign that your dog might have a tracheal collapse.

This is because the trachea’s narrowing during breathing causes a tickle in the dog’s throat, hence, coughing.

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

The severity of tracheal collapse symptoms in dogs is increased when there is a fast airflow, which makes the forces responsible for the tracheal collapse even stronger.

The harder the dog breathes or coughs, the more pronounced the tracheal collapse symptoms are likely to be.

When a dog with tracheal collapse coughs, the cough is usually dry and can come in solitary or in clusters depending on the trachea’s pressure.

This pressure acts as a stimulant for the trachea, which helps vets diagnose the condition in dogs.

In addition to the dry cough, other signs and symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs include difficulties in breathing, exercise intolerance, fainting, wheezing noise when breathing in, and turning blue when excited.

However, the goose honk or the dry, harsh, and persistent cough is the most common clinical sign of tracheal collapse.

Dogs that have tracheal collapse also have a bluish tinge on their gums.

Other symptoms can be invoked by excitements, obesity, hot and humid weather, eating and drinking, exercise, and certain tracheal irritants.

Diagnosis of Dog Tracheal Collapse

A honking cough might seem enough to diagnose your dog with tracheal collapse, but a definitive diagnosis is crucial for affirmation.

When diagnosing a dog with tracheal collapse, it is vital to take radiographs as a start.

They are an excellent and non-invasive modality to aid in identifying a collapsing trachea.

The collapsing trachea can be diagnosed during a physical examination of the dog by placing very light pressure on the trachea.

This stimulates coughing or difficulties in breathing, which are red flags of tracheal collapse.

Diagnosis of tracheal collapse requires such tests as radiography or use of bronchoscope or endoscope to affirm the diagnosis.

Bronchoscopy allows visual identification of any irritation or inflammation present in the dog’s airways linked with chronic coughing or infectious diseases.

Fluoroscopy can also be done, as it allows the visualization of the dog’s windpipe during inspiration and expiration.

You can also have an ultrasound of the heart done to evaluate the dog’s cardiac function.

The diagnosis of a collapsed trachea in dogs can be a dynamic phenomenon, mainly because the trachea can appear normal if the image is taken when there is no moving air.

sick pitbull

Treatment Options and Outlook for Dogs with Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse in dogs can be treated either surgically, medically, or by a combination of both, depending on the options advised by the veterinarian.

This condition is not easy to get over, and even with good control, some dogs keep coughing throughout their lives.

Most of the tracheal collapse cases in dogs are treated using tough suppressants, corticosteroids, bronchodilators, or antibiotics, which help control inflammation.

Dogs with tracheal collapse resulting from obesity can use weight loss to help minimize respiratory effort, which has an excellent long-term response.

If there is no response after using medical management procedures after two weeks, or if specific symptoms affect your dog’s functionality, then consider surgery.

There are various surgical techniques used, but the outcomes vary depending on the age of the dog.

Dogs older than six years have a more unsatisfactory result and a less than 75 percent success rate.

Medical Management for Dogs Tracheal Collapse

vet taking care of sick dog

Medical management is centered on the minimization of coughs and controlling the inflammation of the airway.

It is also vital for environmental modification to be done to help reduce stress on the respiratory system.

Medical management includes weight loss techniques, medications to minimize inflammation and spasms, and sedation for minimal anxiety and coughing.

You can do certain things to help decrease the frequency and severity of tracheal collapse symptoms.

Such is the reduction of daily stress and excitement, the use of a body harness in place of a neck collar, and improved air quality at home by getting rid of specific triggers.

Medical management works for about 70 percent of the dogs with tracheal collapse, especially those with very mild collapses.

Depending on how severe and how progressive the disease is, the veterinarian uses anti-inflammatory medications, sedatives, or cough suppressants to treat certain complicating infections like chronic bronchitis.

Antibiotics can also be used to treat these complicating infections, but the disease is very progressive and irreversible.

It can advance or progress to a point where medical management is ineffective.

If this happens, use a tracheal stent as an alternative life-saving therapy option.

vet taking care of sick corgi

Surgical management for Dogs Tracheal Collapse

As tracheal collapse advances, some dogs stop responding to medical management, which necessitates the need for interventional or surgical treatment.

There are two procedures currently used for surgical management of tracheal collision in dogs; placing steel tracheal rings for shoring up the weakened cartilage and using tracheal stents. Both treatment options have the potential for complications.

The surgical treatment option is considered a salvage one because, although it helps in saving lives and improving the dog’s quality of life, it doesn’t fix the primary problem permanently.

It is also vital to know that stents may eventually fail, and metal stents are not as flexible as a normal trachea, so they won’t be as effective.

They can result in irritations of the airway, tracheal rupture, collapse of the main stem bronchi, stent fractures, laryngeal paralysis, and even death in some rare cases.

Some veterinary surgeons perform surgeries on dogs with tracheal collapse using a tracheal stent.

A tracheal stent is a spring-like device of plastic rings that are placed around the outside of the windpipe to hold it open.

Stents enable the treatment of tracheal collapses without the dog necessarily undergoing a surgical incision.

However, surgical procedures are not for mild cases of tracheal collapse but for the cases that cannot be controlled using such non-surgical procedures as weight loss and medication.

sick dog at vet getting infusion

When Does it Become an Emergency? Euthanasia for Dogs with Tracheal Collapse

In very severe cases, the patient experiences a lot of distress that causes the mucus membranes that are usually pink bluish, which makes them collapse as a result.

If this happens, you are required to tranquilize to help perpetuate the heavy coughing and breathing through the reduction of anxiety.

You can also use oxygen therapy or cough suppressants but if the patient’s distress becomes too much or if there is a collapse, consider getting emergency veterinary care.

When to Say Goodbye; Euthanizing a Dog with Tracheal Collapse

Severe cases of tracheal collapse in dogs have fatal consequences most of the time because the disease is very progressive and irreversible.

The condition can become so intense that there is no sufficient airflow to the lungs, which causes death as a result of respiratory distresses.

As there is no cure for collapsed trachea in dogs, sometimes it is possible to consider euthanasia to help your dog have a quality life at the end.

Euthanizing your dog is a sad part of dog ownership, but you have to make a choice because the end stage of tracheal collapse can come as early as two years, forcing you to make the call to euthanize.

Although dogs’ life expectancy with tracheal collapse is two years, most dogs live for more than four years with the disease.

vet examining sick german shepherd

However, critical trachea collapse can be life-threatening, especially if complicated by episodes of severe shortness of breath.

If your dog is fighting to stay alive, then help it survive, but if the dog just lays down, unable to move, euthanasia is the best form of human comfort to get it off its misery.

Unfortunately, the end stages of tracheal collapse in a dog’s can come quickly, forcing you to make the euthanasia call, especially if the dog starts having convulsions.

If the cough persists even after days of medication and treatment, consider outing down your dog before he chokes to death on his own.

Some state laws permit non-veterinarians to put a pet to sleep in such cases as severe tracheal collapses, as long as they undergo training.

There are also laws that allow veterinarians, animal control agents, and law enforcers to put down a sick, injured, or dangerous animal that can’t be saved.

It is possible for dogs to die from shortness of breath, which is caused by the trachea’s narrowing, resulting in insufficient airflow in the lungs.

The symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs can be severe, but severe coughing is the main symptom.

There are other signs such as shortness of breath and blue gums, which become more apparent when your pet drinks, eats or gets excited.

The decision to euthanize your dog should be taken heavily, and as a last result.

It is also crucial to get your vet’s insight into any available options before deciding to put your pet down.

vet with sick pekingese dog

Final Word

When your dog is terminally ill and has tracheal collapse, it can be hard watching the dog’s slow, steady, and painful decline of health.

The dog stops doing happy jumps when you pull into the driveway, and even the slightest of movement becomes a source of discomfort.

If your dog has reached a point of producing hacking sounds and struggling to get in the air to the lungs, you have to consider calling your vet to put him down.

It is very heart-breaking, but it is better than watching your dog suffer through a completely collapsed trachea.

Euthanasia doesn’t have to be an immediate decision for dogs with tracheal collapse, but if the situation calls for it, take the necessary steps with your vet to give your dog a decent life quality to the end.

The decision to put your pet down is not easy, but when the situation demands it, you have to be brave enough to help your pet rest easy.

credit: Pexels

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58 thoughts on “When Should You Put Down A Dog With Tracheal Collapse?”

  1. i have a small dog with a collapsing traçhia. i have been googling fór months trying to find some kind of straight foward answers to the questions i have about what to do and what not to do. this is the first time i have had any of my questions actually answered . thankyou for taking the time to explain it all in a way in which i can understand. excellent excellent info.

  2. Thank you for your insight explaining not only the progression of this disease, but also dealing with the painful decision process dog parents experience. We love our little pup and it’s painful to watch her struggle, gasping for air, getting worse everyday. She’s on medication but it only seemed to help for a couple of weeks. I’m still not sure what to do but this is the first article I’ve found dealing with the painful end of life decision making process.

      • It’s been almost 2 weeks since a kind veterinarian helped me send my little Westie to the rainbow bridge. He was just over twelve years old. He probably was in serious tracheal collapse for about a year. Four years ago, a horrific attack of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis forced an emergency veterinarian to delete antibiotics from my dogs med list. Three years later, my own veterinarian removed a mast cell tumor from his belly while my baby’s heart began to fail. Jordy was a strong westie for quite a while. He was a very happy and loving Westie. He was the best example of unconditional love I’ve ever witnessed. I am stunned and shattered without him, but he just wasn’t himself at all lately. It came to me that convulsions or suffocation could kill him before an emergency euthanasia. Omg, I miss him so much. But I heard another Veterinarian say, don’t keep a dog alive for yourself. Yet still, I am haunted by the day I sent my baby away. He was scared and uncomfortable, he was trying to get away from the needle in his arm. Oh God.

        • I’m so sorry for your loss. I never allow a vet to just administer the death needle! I always demand they give an injection in the body that they use for surgery and dentals. That way the dog is out and doesn’t fight it. It’s a much more peaceful ending.

  3. My eleven years of chihuahua was diagnosed with a collapsing trachea in April, but she was fully healthy throughout the summer, with no signs of a cough or gasping for air. I never even had to use her Hydrocodone until two weeks ago; I managed her with a hot eucalyptus steam bath and Hydrocodone that gave a short temporary relief, but she was getting worse. I suspected that she also got a cold.

    I brought her into the emergency on January 6 because of her ongoing tracheal cough that started on December 27 and still on January 10. She was put into the oxygen tank and had her x-ray done. She was diagnosed with bronchitis (suspect chronic) and a collapsing trachea.

    I’ve been treating her with Prednisone (anti-inflammatory), TheoLA (bronchodilator), Hydrocodone (cough suppressant), and Clavaseptin (antibiotic).

    Unfortunately, her cough hasn’t been improving at all. In the past two days, her afternoons were better, but she has coughing episodes every hour, mini ones that she can manage or I can help with or longer ones that last for a longer time no matter what we do.

    I called the Animal Hospital several times, and they suggested to bring her back for further testing. The truth is that I have researched every article that I could found on the Internet, and I know what we are facing. Fluoroscopy would be the next test, which is very expensive, and it would tell me what I already suspect. If money wouldn’t be a subject, I’d do it to determine which stage she exactly is. At that age, I wouldn’t do surgery. I researched that tracheal stent is a finicky surgery, requires an expert to do it, and has a 75% survival rate. In older dogs, perhaps less.

    That’s why this article is helpful. I agree with the other commentators; this is the only one I find clarifying the symptoms, and when to say goodbye. So thank you.

    The animal hospital also suggested waiting at least five days, which is tomorrow. If she is not getting better with all the meds she is having, bring her in, and I can decide.

    Since December 27th (today is January 10), we haven’t been sleeping, and I couldn’t work because I am a 24/7 nurse. I am happy to do that because my dog is precious to me, but I can only take so many days off my business.

    But mainly her suffering that is painful.

    The problem is, and it is confusing that my dog otherwise healthy. She is eating well, wants to play, even going for walks when she has a few hours of restful sleep.

      • Thank you. We’ll see how our fifth day goes. Right now, she is not eating and just resting. We are both exhausted. The more I read about this condition, the more I realize there will be no solution, and the collapsing trachea is only a timing bomb, unfortunately.

        • We are facing the same decision. Our Morkie will be 13 in May. His cough became much worse at the end of December. He is otherwise happy, playful and eating well when he is not coughing. He doesn’t sleep and gets a few windows of rest during the day. Every time he switches positions he starts coughing. It is exhausting to watch.

          We just started a bronchodilator as our last resort and will give it few days to show some improvement. I hate to rob him of time, but I also don’t want him to suffer in the end. Very hard choices.

          I hope you find peace in whatever decision you make.

          • I can completely relate. My 15 year old Ori-Pei was diagnosed with collapsing trachea 3 years ago. He takes hydrocodone for the cough. We then found out he has a laryngeal growth so he takes prednisone too. The pred makes him pant all day and beg for food. In the evening he tries to relax but he constantly has to lift his head and gasp for air. It’s so hard to watch but he still eats and drinks but otherwise I’m not sure how happy he is. 🙁

        • So sorry for you. We to have been experiencing same with our 17 year old beagle girl. For the last week the meds have not been helping. Coughing most of the night. Today we made the decision and our appt is in a few hours. Better to let them go with a wagging tail than in desperation. Prayers for your heart.

        • Hi, thank you for sharing I have read all that you have wrote ? I to have a 12 almost 13 year old dog and he is my baby. He has a collapsing trachea and he is other wise fine and when we go outside he is fine . But at home he is always coughing unless he is lying down . I can’t bring myself to put him down because when we are outside playing he is fine without coughing .
          May I ask how your dog is ?

        • I had to put my Pepe down from collapsed trachea in April. It broke my heart but I didn’t want him to suffer. He was 13 1/2.

    • Hi Andrea,
      My 12 year old Shih Tzu passed away suddenly 3 days ago. He had been suffering from tracheal collapse for just over a year. Unfortunately he was misdiagnosed by his vet, who insisted that it was heart failure (he did not listen to the history I was giving him, he had already made up his mind). This resulted in several months of the wrong treatment and worsening of his condition. Finally, upon my insistence, he was prescribed Theophylline and codeine about 6 weeks ago. I could not get the codeine into him as the tablets were large and my dog was a very finicky eater. I managed to get one Theophylline tablet into him every day (100mg). There was some improvement of his work of breathing, but no cough improvement.
      His cough only occurred when he moved, not at rest. The cold weather also seemed to make his cough worse. Up to his last day, he continued to show interest and enjoyment in his life. On his final day, I left him with my mother while I attended a physio appointment. She reports that he seemed fine and wanted to go outside. Within a couple of minutes, she heard him at the door, having severe cough and not being able to catch his breath. She brought him inside, where he continued to gasp for air, then collapsed, he was gone.
      I am devastated to lose my precious boy, but grateful that he passed quickly and had some quality of life until his last day. I am not sure if there was anything that I could have done differently, other than going with my gut feeling regarding his diagnosis and perhaps getting another veterinarian opinion.

    • Hi Andrea
      My 14 year old morkie zoe has been going through the same since October and I’ve been struggling on the right thing to do. I’ve tried getting my vet to tell me. But he says if she shes still eating and all her other medical is fine that she will let me know when it’s time. He also said she’s not in pain that it’s kinda like asthma ..which kinda confused me…
      I’m really on the fence of keeping her alive or just letting her go..
      Could you tell me what has transpired with your little fur baby?

  4. I use steroids for my candy girl
    She was doing the honking thing almost uncontrollable . Then I asked about steroids. Vet said ok. Miracle drug. It made her normal again. But now 8 months later an irritating cough has developed. Not sure how much longer she has.

    Steroids is a miracle drug for mine.

  5. Unfortunately this is the case with my chihuahua. I agree with one of the comments that it is confusing because the dog looks otherwise ok, wants to be happy but the cough takes over and it extremely sad to watch! She is under meds but her cough is almost constant.
    How severe does the cough needs to be in order to consider putting her down? I need a little guidance please!


    • Sorry to hear that, Rose. We don’t have any vets on staff here, but in my opinion what you’re looking for is when it starts of affect the quality of life of your dog. We all want our pets to be with us, but at the same time we don’t want them to suffer. Best wishes through these hard times.

  6. My chi, Emme lee died Jan 14th I’m saying from a collapsed trachea, but has never been diagnosed with it. I never had to take her to the vet much, she never had problems. when she died she was breathing hard and fast, it didn’t last long before she quit breathing. She had a history of the honking noise when excited and was over weight. She was 11 yrs old.
    My question is, do you think it could have been a collapsed trachea or something else?

  7. We recently put down our bichon frise that was 15.5 years. Two months ago I first noticed her coughing at night and her bark sounded strange. almost muffled. i took her to the vet thinking she had congestive heart failure. they did an X-ray and said her heart was fine but that her trachea was collapsing. she made it seem like it was good news. well, shortly after that, she began to have trouble eating. I tried switching her to wet food and that worked for a few days and by the end I was having to spoon feed her 1/4 tsp at a time so that she wouldn’t cough it up. she still had good appetite and energy for an old girl. her last day she must’ve aspirated because she was coughing up fluid all day long. was not able to eat or drink anything without coughing up mucous. i stayed up all night with her while she coughed knowing that there was nothing else we could do. she had been on prednisone for the previous two weeks with no improvement. the next day we called the vet and they wanted to know if i wanted them to call her in a prescription for antibiotics or if i wanted her to be seen. i couldn’t imagine that antibiotics would be useful as she was unable to eat or drink without coughing up fluid. i told them she needed to be seen and when the vet saw her she said that putting her to sleep would be for the best. it was the hardest thing because i did not want to let her go and i know she didn’t want to leave us. i had her to the vet for several tests to determine what was causing her to not be able to eat with out coughing and all of her tests indicated that she was in excellent health. it was just her collapsed trachea which makes me so sad. i feel like we could have had our girl for longer if not for this. 🙁 i have been reading everything i can about trachea collapse and have not seen any information about dogs having difficulty eating. is this normal for tracheal collapse?

    • Hi Angela,
      I’m so sorry to hear that you had to put her down. What’s most common with tracheal collapse is a lack of appetite because eating/swallowing puts pressure on the trachea (since it’s not where it’s supposed to be). With that in mind, I can see how in some dogs that could lead to the dog not wanting to eat due to the pressure/pain. But I’m afraid we’re not familiar with the coughing up of fluid making a dog not want to eat when they have tracheal collapse. I hope you can find the answers you’re looking for.

    • My 14 yr old is refusing to eat almost anything,she is mostly just lying on floor with a terrible rasping breathing and panting,she has been on steroids,and antibiotics,but didnt help,she has arthritis in back legs too,and now needs carried outside for toilet,its so so difficuilt

  8. Article helps quite a bit. My winston diagnosed with collapsed lung. Struggles to sleep but otherwise OK eating, etc. If he struggles much more, I will ask the vet if any meds will help substantially and if not, I love him and will not make him suffer. Vet said it is like a very heavy blanket on his chest

  9. Thank you for your excellent support here for us wondering if we have come to this final best decision for our darling pets❤️I am sitting here watching my 14 year old pug, Griz struggle for breath. He had an acute episode of waking with blue gums and hardly able to stand on Sunday morning…it is now Wednesday morning and I have hand fed him for three days when he would eat but he is not improving this time. I think In his sleep Saturday night he had such a collapse that his oxygen level was low for so long he is now having stroke like symptoms. Two years ago he was this severe but on the fourth morning after he got up and was completely recovered. This year he has had one in July, in January and now end of February. I will speak to the Vet today about euthanasia and my heart is breaking. I genuinely am so sorry for each and every one of you here on this thread…God bless our hearts with Peace as we make these “letting go” Decisions.

  10. Thank you for this article. Our little baby is almost 6 and was diagnosed three years ago with a collapsing trachea. We thought we’d loose him then but he bounced back. Now, he’s the worse we’ve seen him… over the past year the honking started up after short walks and he’d have moments, but now a consistent bad breathing for 4 weeks. The Vet said his trachea is the size of a coffee stirrer. We have him on all the meds and he’s only getting a few good/cute times in a day, then trying to position himself to breathe. The nights are hard. We are at the decision time and it is breaking my heart since he has good moments too. I don’t want him to suffer or be afraid. He’s such a trooper and happy but the last fews days I’ve seen fear and he wants to go off by himself. He has been eating good but then I feel is dangerous now afterwards. We have to think of him and I like in your article that maybe do something so he has better last days. Any more suffering than this I don’t have the heart for.

  11. My dog, Romeo, passed away due to his collapsed trachea. He was 8 1/2 years old. He was diagnosed pretty young with a collapsed trachea at about 2/3 years old. We gave him Trazodone to keep him calm to help from irritating his trachea and breathing too hard. I always knew this condition would catch up with him, but I was never expecting it to hit so suddenly. A few days ago he had lots of trouble breathing and starting not getting enough oxygen in his body. We got him to the vet and were told he was beyond their care , and it was either try to rush him to a specialist and spend thousands not knowing the outcome, or he would choke to death if we didn’t take action. The specialist option wasn’t promising so I had to make the tough decision to put my Romeo down. It was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because his instincts wouldn’t let him stop fighting his shortness of breath. He kept his spunk until the end and I can’t help but feel guilty that I robbed him of his life–even knowing he would never be the same again. I feel like there’s never a right answer especially as a pet parent, but the only thing I can say is that I’m happy he’s no longer gasping for air every waking moment of his life. I really hope I ultimately made the right decision for him. I was there through and through and held him until he had his last good breath. Miss and love you so much buddy.

  12. I am dealing with my 15 yr old Yorkie-Poo with this condition. She took 2 weeks of antibiotics and has been on 1/4 tablet of steroid for weeks now. She has recently started throwing up her food- She doesn’t have a persistent cough like I’ve been reading about, but has the honking sound when she is distressed and can’t find me. We have the added burden that she became completely blind in the past month also. I can’t leave her by herself- she rides comfortably in the car with me when I have to go somewhere but the nights are dreadful because she won’t sleep alone in her bed- has to be next to me. I don’t mind but I woke up in the middle of the night with her throwing up in my bed and – it was a mess. She sounds like she’s snoring when she sleeps- just a bit louder and more gurgles. We have an appt today with the vet- it has been about a month since they did the xray and diagnosed her with the collapsing trachea. I want another xray done today to see if it has progressed and what stage (1-4) are we at. I’ve never had to put a dog down and I am having a hard time with this. She’s not a candidate for surgery because of her age. She’s also not obese and never has been- so it must be genetic. 15 years- along time – a lot of memories – and her companion of 15 yrs (Teddy) will miss her no doubt. He knows something is wrong and just kinda follows her around. I hate this part of pet ownership. But I’m not alone in that. From all the comments here, I see we are all suffering the same thoughts.

  13. thank you for providing much needed clarification on this issue. i am giving my 16 yo oxycodone but now he is constipated. I will be having to make some decisions soon. I don’t want him live like this for 2 more years. I will try steroids. Again thank you so much.

  14. my 9 year old yorkie mix is in the hospital right now on oxygen. He could barely breathe, they said it’s a severe collapsed trachea but honestly
    , he doesn’t have the cough that seems to be so common with this, last night he was hacking as if he was trying to cough up something, he could barely breathe.. hoping he is okay..

  15. The information and article were extremely helpful . My elderly poodle ( about 15-16 , rescue) started with the coughing and hacking about 2 months ago and progressed to honking cough . He was already on steroids for appetite and pain for the past year . Last week he couldn’t breath for 3 days in a row and I gave him Valium . I wasn’t getting any sleep at night because of coughing and he was up half the night short of breath . I didn’t think I could get the cough medicine in because he would fight and spit out medication. I had decided to euthanize him when I saw him gasping for air and he collapsed to the floor . I felt horrible all week long missing him so much . I kept thinking I could have tried the hydrocodone but it doesn’t sound like it helps for very long . He couldn’t walk at the park anymore because he was too weak . He was too old for surgery at this point.
    It’s very sad to lose them

    • I just went to the emergency vet tonight. When they heard him the took him back before I could say my name. Then they put me in a room. 6hr wait was 5 min for me. I can’t believe I didn’t get how serious this is. He was just fine. He has snored maybe 2 years and lately it’s worse. I switched groomers recently and I will just die if they had a collar too tight. He is shitzu/yorkshire terrier two of the breeds that most commonly suffer. He is 9. I did not think I would lose him this soon. I just started medication and we are going to the regular vet today. Not only trachael collapse but gastrointestinal problem with bloody stool. He is eating rice and chicken and drinking fine. He was just fine. This is one of the worst days of my life. I can’t be selfish and have him here as a zombie and gasping for air for my own reasons. Thank you for telling your story. My kids and I are in for a tough week.

  16. I have an 8yr old Pomeranian that I believe has this and I have been giving her a syrup along with CBD treats. She doesn’t play like she used to but will still run and bark. She still eats and outside of the cough is normal. She might cough but has a mean streak too. I don’t see she is having a bad quality of life but I would like to help her breathe better.

    • Elita – so sorry you are going through this – it is heartbreaking. I wanted to ask what “syrup” you are giving and if it helps the cough. My Silky Terrier is experiencing the honking cough more and more in the last few weeks. I have not made a decision yet on what to get for cough.

    • My a
      16 yeqr old yorkie has a collapsed trachea. Her condition is worsening quickly. It is stopping her sleeping properly. The honking and hacking sound is unbearable for her and for us to see. She as had medication but blnothing worked. Is ittime to have her put to sleep.

      • Thank you all so much. Reading this article and the replies has been both incredibly helpful and heartbreaking. My 11 year old Maltese is going through this right now. Please don’t judge me too harshly, but I feel incredibly guilty because I’m not throwing every penny I have into expensive veterinary tests when it’s very obvious what is going on. I’m doing everything else possible that the vet has prescribed to manage it. This is so difficult, but according to this article and everything else I get my hands on trachea collapse is fatal. Still, I feel bad that I’ve chosen this path. I know she’s only 11 but her symptoms came on fairly quickly and are quickly advancing. I feel awful about choosing not to throw a lot of money I can’t afford at this, but a while back I spent nearly 4K over the course of a year and a half on a 13 year old cat who died anyway. My vet just lays out options and leaves it to me to decide. It would help so much if they’d give an opinion.

  17. My 14 year old Pomeranian has been suffering with a collapsed trachea for over 1 1/2 year with the constant dry hacking. Last year it seem like the allergy medicine given her helped but not this year. I have researched everything I can think of to help her but nothing is looking good for Honey. I’m having a hard time when thinking of putting her down. So sad!

    • We just lost our 13 year old Pomeranian collapsed trachea. Inexperienced vet assistants took blood from neck exacerbated it. Online said honey could help cough. Wish we tried that. Didnt take her to ER early enough. Wish we tried. Oxygen tent. Congestive heart failure maybe diuretics, hydrocodone. Will never know if could have had her longer. Miss her dearly. God bless. Our guardian angels.

  18. Hi I’m sorry to hear about your babies, and I’m in the same place my Max is almost 9 years old and last year was diagnosed with collapsed trachea and every day is getting worse he is been taking different medications and helped for few weeks and again get worse I’m devastated I don’t want to see him suffocate and I won’t be ready for euthanasia thank you for the information is very helpful. Adriana

  19. I just had to have my fur baby euthanized. He was suffering from congestive heart failure and collapsing trachea. I couldn’t take another night of him struggling to breathe. His last night scared me so much. I just couldn’t let him suffer like that. What a horrible thing to watch and hear those awful choking sounds. My heart is so shattered at the loss of my dear companion of 13 yrs.

  20. I just had to have my fur baby euthanized. He was suffering from congestive heart failure and collapsing trachea. I couldn’t take another night of him struggling to breathe. His last night scared me so much. I just couldn’t let him suffer like that. What a horrible thing to watch and hear those awful choking sounds. My heart is so shattered at the loss of my dear companion of 13 yrs. I don’t know if the last night was from the collapsing trachea or the congestive heart failure.

  21. Thank you for this article. The comments below helped a lot. Our Boston terrier is 15 years old. He was diagnosed with a collapsed trachea , he sleep without coughing, but the coughing is bad during the afternoon. We do not want him to suffer, what is the right choice?

    • It’s a highly personal choice. I recommended scheduling some time to talk with your vet to get a better idea of the outlook for your dog, since your vet should have a better understanding of his overall health. Best wishes.

  22. Hello,

    We have a 14-year-old Westie that developed a cough several years ago. It was occasional and basically sound like she’s clearing her throat. Maybe 1 or 2 times a week. Lately it’s been happening multiple times a day. She’ll get up and gag a few times followed by a louder cough but not bring anything up. She’s fine otherwise, she still runs and plays and this doesnt seem to bother her. This is alarming though, sometimes she’ll cough once or twice but she’s had a couple bad coughs that went on for 5-6 times.

    We’ve mentioned it to the vet in the past but this week is the first time the Vet said it may be a collapsing trachea. It’s been diagnosed in the past as allergies or a cold. She hasnt really done it in front of the vet yet.

    Anyways, She’s old so I’d like to avoid surgeries. I was wondering what everyone else has experienced and what were the next stages they saw. I don’t think we’re near putting her down but I also dont want her to be in distress. Anyone have any luck with certain meds?

  23. I have just had to my Labrador to sleep , she was 14 and a half years . She always was sensitive around her throat , so maybe genetic . I never put her on a lead due to this . She stopped barking a few years ago , which I had no idea that this could have been related to this collapse. The difficult breathing started gradually over her last week , I waited a few days thinking it may come right on its own , but it got worse .She walked into the vets , was happy to take a treat and was given steroids pills . She happily took them that night but in the middle of the night , the gasping was severe. I was very concerned and stressed . She made it through the night and I thought she was improving in the morning . By the afternoon I took her back to the vets , as I felt she was declining again and I was getting very concerned again . They xrayed , gave a steroid injection , slight sedation and put on nasal oxygen . She was still in distress and was declining , there was no question that putting her to sleep that afternoon was the only option . It was very hard to accept . But my dog was scared and confused and her condition would never have improved . I wish she had not departed this world with this condition . I was shocked by how rapid her decline was . Hope this is helpful for someone else .

    • My Malti-Poo went very quickly, she had just turned 14. I took her to the groomers and when I picked her up she had a horrible cough, I just thought she had some hair stuck in her throat, so when we got home she took a big drink of water and kept coughing then seemed fine. Later that night I heard the honking cough and knew it was not good. I called the dog clinic and they told me it was mOre than likely a collapsed trachea and there was nothing much they could do because of her age. In just a matter of a couple of months I had to put her down because I did not want her to suffer. Everyday I miss her, but I made her happy and comfortable before I had to send her to the Rainbow Bridge, I will always love you my sweet girl!!!!!!!

    • Thank you for sharing. My Chihuahua started honking violently last night. She snored lightly for the past 2 years but was otherwise normal and happy. This severe honking came on suddenly, I rushed her to the vet this morning. They showed me her X-ray which showed a small piece of her tracheal closed . The vet recommended that we put her down given the poor prognosis of a collapsed trachea. I’m at work and she is still in the oxygen tent. They tell me she is aware of her surroundings and is sitting up. Such a hard call. Don’t want to loose my little 9 year old Chloe.

  24. My 16yr old pomapoo has had collapsing trachea for years. In the past year, it has gotten horrible and I’m sobbing thinking the end is near. She’s currently on Hydrcodone, prednizone, benazipril, and Sildenifil. Like others have mentioned, she’s fine and happy during the day, still gets excited and runs, only coughing occasionally. At night, she coughs constantly, keeping us and herself up. This is heartbreaking. I cannot fathom losing her in the middle of the night during one of her episodes. How do you determine that an otherwise happy dog should be put down? 16 years I’ve spent with her, she is my child. God this hurts.

  25. Faye
    It is heart breaking writing this down about our 14-year-old Joey, a pom-chi-pap mix. Hoping I get through it. After reading all these comments, the tears flow, and I struggle considering putting my Joey through the ordeal of leaving us. He has so depended on us for so many years, and us on him. The ups and downs of this collapsing trachea tears us apart. We’ve tried all the meds and delt with their side effects, struggled through weeks of sleepless nights, the desperate talks with our vet, the happy jumping excited dog we’ve known only to revert right back to the heart-breaking cough back in all our lives. Joey has a heart murmur, allergies, occasional pancreatitis, allergies, partial deafness, annal gland explosions if not closely watched, a special diet for the pancreatitis, separation anxiety and the sweetest disposition ever. He takes Benadryl liquid for children for the allergies and stress, and Hydrocode for the cough. Neither are helping at night. He’s up all night, sleeps sporadically during the day, follows me everywhere and not eating today. I can’t go anywhere; he gets so stressed out. Seems to sleep with one eye open on me. Please excuse me I’m just overwhelmed and devastated about what we have to do. My husband and I have lost 3 wonderful family dogs in 10 years, and I have gone over every single decision a million times. I guess I’m going to need to add this wonder friend to that list soon. Thank you to all the great people and their comments. Ultimately, this choice, though not easy, can only be made by ourselves. God Bless all the wonderful pet friends and loving giving pets.

  26. Our rescue 4 pound yorkie poo, age unknown (thought to be 15) is so tough and has lived with tracheal collapse for several years. We have only kept a hydro cough syrup on hand for serious flare ups. A funny aside, the dose is so small it’s hard to measure, literally only a couple of drops. Nighttime has gotten worse lately and like many others have mentioned, he is otherwise his normal self.

    My wonder is how prevalent the sudden congestive failure is and how often does a dog collapse, then die as result? I helped our previous dog to the natural end of his live but also witnessed his death. I struggle with euthanasia in a dog that has a lot of good time in his day. I guess it’s a roll of the dice as to having a crushing emergency and can’t get to a vet in the middle of the night or worse going to an emergency vet and they still put them down vs preemptively putting them down.

    Thinking a call to the hospice vet is in our future. If you don’t know about a hospice vet, look it up. They come to your home, assess your animal and help you make a plan including euthanasia which they would do in the comfort of the pet’s surroundings. They are a gift.

  27. I am so glad I found this forum. My 13 1/2 year old toy poodle has had collapsing trachea for a couple years and is now at the place where not much of anything helps.
    She also has cushings disease, which we elected to not treat because of the trauma it would put her through with all the testing it would require.. That alone has badly affected her trachea condition because of the extra weight it causes. Her stomach is quite extended and doctor says her liver is enlarged. I suspect she also has CHF, even though the vet has not indicated it.
    Suni is such an angel and still enjoys life for the most part. She is having some arthritis flare-ups in her legs, caused I’m sure because of carrying around the extra weight. She also has had enucleation of one eye and the other one is in bad shape too. But through it all, she has been my best friend and closest ally and protector of all times. And still is!
    Right now all I am giving her is a Chinese herb cough syrup and we just this week started her on Stanozolol, an anabolic steriod. We have tried the Adaquan shots, prednisone, Hydrocodone, Cough tablets, stress relief tablets and I’m sure there are more. But after it all, here we are almost at the end of the line. It’s so sad watching my darling gasp for air and looking at me for help. Breaks my heart. Then when it passes, she is somewhat normal for a little while. We keep fans going in every room for her and the AC set low. I don’t allow her to overdo or struggle if I can help it. No outside activity. Can’t exercise. Stresses out when riding to vet or groomer. I think she probably had her last spa day last week. Just too stressful on her. So far her nights are not too bad as she sleeps with the fan blowing on her and under the air vent. That way, she rests pretty well.
    My heart hurts for each and everyone here that is going through it. I know! It hurts! It stinks! It’s frustrating and it just makes me so angry that there is so little can be done! And they deserve so much more. My heart, my love, my life, my girl, Suni…As much as it kills me, I want to keep you from crossing rainbow bridge while gasping for your last breath. God help me! God help us all!

  28. Don’t feel bad about not spending money at the vet. I also haveclearned my lesson spending thousands just to have them die anyways. My poodle pom was diagnosed 3 years ago. She srnt me home with a prescription for narcotics. We didnt start the narcotics but instead started on cbd calming oil. I drop it on her food. It has helped keep her calm but the coughing has only progresssed. She is suffering. Some days worst than others. She cant go on our walks anymore. She cant relax unless shes drugged up (cbd). She is 16 and too old for surgery. We’ve made the decision to euthenize her. I cant stand watching her suffer it’s been 2 years. We are having a vet come to our home today.

  29. My Deer-face chihuahua/one quarter pomeranian Pip was diagnosed this June 2022. She has about 2 spasms of coughing per day. I do notice that when she sleeps flat out on her side, that she can rest easy, so I removed her bed with sides, and instead have her laying un-restricted on a folded blanket. I’ve ordered an herbal remedy on-line. Won’t receive for a couple of weeks. I believe its a powder to put on her food. I’ll let you know how it works in a couple of months.

  30. This is also the same with my 12 yr old little
    Rescue guy. He has several bad episodes throughout a 24 hr cycle and is on hydrocodone and a tranquilizer. His mild symptoms started 4 yrs ago . Progressively much worse now.He has high anxiety and hates being alone. He still likes to walk but is totally wiped out upon return.His appetite is good with wet food and cbd treats. He tries to play with the young grandchildren but the coughing becomes severe and they become frightened and no longer enjoy the visits.The sleep nights are becoming more disruptive for him and me
    The end decision is not an easy one

  31. My Roo was rescued when she was about (we think) a year old and we’ve had her for 13 years. About a year and a half ago she started having a dry cough which became more frequent as the weeks went by. A misdiagnosis caused a six month delay in proper treatment. Prednisone and Guaifenesin calmed it some and slowed it down, but tapering down the steroid resulted in a rebound of that horrible cough so we went back to the heavy dose. The honking sound has come on now, as she coughs her whole body jumps. She gets some rest but awakens coughing. The steroids seem to have produced the same unqenchable hunger and thirst we dealt with in our other dog who had Cushings. She isn’t herself at all and only becomes animated by her new obsession with food. The rest of her is fit and healthy, which makes it so hard make this decision. But I made that decision today. A coughing fit had awoken her and had her on her feet, and as it got particularly bad I noticed that her tail was between her legs. She was afraid. These meds are no longer prolonging her life, but instead, her death. We’re taking her tomorrow afternoon. Today she’s getting absolutely everything she wants.
    No doggie has ever been so loyal and devoted to me, as my Roo-chini.


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