Collapsing Trachea is a Lifelong Challenge

Question:

I have a young male chi-wiener dog who has a cough that sounds like human whooping cough.  He gets it maybe once a day and lasts for 10-30 seconds.  He is very healthy and active with a good appetite.

 

Dr. Nichol:

Chronic coughing is never a good sign.  Chi-Wiener’s youth and vigor make cardiac and lung disease unlikely. He may be struggling with kennel cough or he could have a collapsing trachea. An important clue would be coughing when pulling against his collar.

 

Air moves into and out of our lungs through the trachea (windpipe), a flexible tube that’s constructed of a series of C-shaped rings of rubbery cartilage. Some small dogs are genetically programmed for weakness in their cartilage rings, causing their windpipes to flatten when the dog pants or breathes hard. The resulting honking cough worsens the damage. Tracheal collapse can be so severe that a dog can pass out from a lack of oxygen. Chest and neck x-rays will tell the tale.

 

If Chi Wiener is overweight you’ll want to reduce the stress on his respiratory system. Despite any ancestral dietary proclivities a break from Taco Bell and bratwurst will be in order. A high fiber reducing diet called r/d, available from your veterinarian, will help him shed the blubber.  A cough suppressant like butorphanol, anti-inflammatories (prednisone), and a medication to open the airways (theophylline) may also be necessary.

 

A couple a lifestyle changes will be important. Swapping his dapper collar for a harness will eliminate pressure on his severely challenged windpipe. Finally, eliminate airborne irritants. No smoking for Mr. Chi Weiner or anyone else in the Weiner family.