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The trachea, also known as the windpipe, is an important structure which connects the throat to the lungs. It is composed of 35- 45 C-shaped rings of cartilage that are joined by muscle and ligaments to create a tube-like structure. It serves the purpose of directing air into the respiratory tract.
When the cartilage rings are flattened from the top to the bottom, the trachea is said to be collapsed. Rapid inhalation of air can cause the trachea to flatten and make it difficult for air to enter the lungs, much like a soda straw being drawn on too vigorously.
Why does it happen?
We do not completely understand how this condition develops. However, we know that these dogs have an abnormality in the chemical makeup of their tracheal rings. The rings loose their stiffness so they are not able to retain their circular shape. We also know that it occurs in certain breeds of dogs, notably Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Toy Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers. Because of that, it is suspected that there is a genetic factor involved.
What are the signs?
With reverse sneezing the pharynx (back of the throat) goes into spasms. The dog finds it difficult to draw in air through the spasms, so it stands still, stretches out her neck, and thrusts its elbows out (like a bowlegged bulldog) as it honks, wheezes, or snorts. Often eyes open wide. The spasms will stop if she swallows a couple of times.
•Close off her nostrils with your fingers so it has to breathe through its mouth for a few seconds.
Young puppies can reverse sneeze, but the first episode typically occurs in late adolescence. Stay calm and get it to swallow with one of the methods described above. In a few seconds to a minute, it will run off to play. Reverse sneezing is a harmless phenomenon which needs no vet consultation and no medical treatment whatsoever. It is very common in toy breeds.
Other signs, however, will help you distinguish the two conditions:
The most common clinical sign of collapsing trachea is a chronic cough. It is often described as dry and harsh and can become quite pronounced. The term "goose honk" is often used to describe it. Coughing is often worse in the daytime and much less at night. The cough may also begin due to excitement, pressure on the trachea (from a leash), or from drinking water or eating.
How is collapsed trachea diagnosed?
Many times, very light pressure placed on the trachea during the physical examination can raise a suspicion of collapsed trachea in a small dog with a persistent dry cough. While the information gained from the physical examination is helpful, other tests are needed to confirm this condition.
How is it treated?
Collapsed trachea can be treated medically or surgically. Some dogs respond well to:
• bronchodilators and various types of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Because medical therapy only treats the symptoms and not the problem, these dogs are always subject to recurrences of coughing and breathing difficulty.
•surgery. The above tests are used to determine how much of the trachea is collapsed. If the only abnormal part is that segment between the throat and the point where the trachea enters the chest (the thoracic inlet), surgery may be curative. However, if the segment of the trachea that is within the chest cavity is abnormal, surgery is not likely to be helpful because that part is not accessible to the surgeon. There are several surgical approaches that have been used. Each approach implants an artificial support device that is secured around or within the trachea. The purpose of the support device is to hold the tracheal rings in their normal, open position. Although some dogs have excellent results and are truly cured of the disease, the outcome is not uniformly successful.
Natural ways to treat your Yorkie:
•Fresh foods, keeping the amounts low for weight reduction. Fat dogs have a much harder time breathing.
For more information visitMary Kay Keppler's article on collapsing trachea