Hints and Tips for Collapsed Tracheas

Following on from my earlier blog on Living with a Dog with A Collapsed Trachea, I have had lots of messages and questions, so I have written another blog to hopefully answer these. Please feel free to ask questions on anything I may have missed. Please note throughout this blog I will refer to the collapsed trachea as CT.

True to the disease, both Tommy and Nacho have got worse since the last blog, however, both are happy, play and live fulfilled lives even though they have CT. What is important to remember that what works for one dog won’t necessarily work for another as all dogs react differently. For example, Nacho’s CT makes him honk and cough when he’s playing, running or excited and he can generally still function. On the other hand, if Tommy gets overexcited, he will struggle to breathe and sound more strained. Nacho has also experienced episodes of fainting when overexerted, but he also has another respiratory tract illness called Laryngeal Paralysis.

Exercise and Play

Your dog will still want to exercise and play with a CT, and although you will have to make changes, your dog can still enjoy their life. All of my dogs are walked on lightweight harnesses with a padded chest strap. Collars should not be used to walk your dog as they apply pressure to the trachea. Some harnesses also put pressure on the trachea, so look at how it sits on your dog. The straps on the harness should be wide, and not come anywhere near your dog’s throat at all.

Nacho is still keen to walk and will want to go every day if I let him, however in damp or humid weather, I give it a miss as this makes his cough worse. The same goes for very hot weather because he will pant more and therefore cough more. We also avoid hills as from experience, this makes him cough more and on one occasion, he has fainted.

Games such as fetch and tug are a no-no in our house due to their coughs, but calm games with gently rolling a ball to the dogs, or playing with a teddy with Tommy still go on. Gentle games with your dog will still stimulate your dog’s brain, but just bear in mind your dog’s limits as this will vary.

A soft place to sleep

All of my dogs have memory foam beds, and I have a few different designs for them to choose where they want to sleep. Tommy’s bed has raised sides and he uses it as a pillow and this helps him breathe easier. You could give your dog a pillow or rolled-up blanket in their bed to allow them to raise their head if needed.


Coupage needs to be done by a trained professional, so it’s important you ask your vet about this one. Basically, using cupped hands and tapping your dog’s side, it can help lift mucus that is sitting on the chest and clear the airways. Mucus can build up when your dog coughs excessively or if they have an infection. Please do not try this yourself, but ask your vet if your dog is a good candidate.


Your dog will be different to my dogs, so please ask your vet what is best for your pup, however, I will say what medication Tommy is on so you can discuss it with your vet.

Tommy has codeine which is a cough suppressant and painkiller. He really hacks up sometimes and I like to know he is having something to help with what must bring a sore throat. Tommy has had many heart scans and is on medication to stop the buildup of fluid on his chest from the excess coughing. He is on two inhalers and one is a bronchodilator, which helps to open his airways. Tommy has the inhalers via a child’s spacer, however, there are special doggy inhalers on the market.

The last medication he is on for the CT is an anti-sickness medication called Cerenia. I know, I know, it sounds weird but when my vet and myself reached a standstill on what more we could do for Tommy, I did a lot of research, I found out that Cerenia has been trailed for other ailments, and something in Cerenia helps suppress the cough. Your vet may not be keen to give your dog this as there have been no long term studies on the effects on this medication if given all the time, however, I personally feel quality of life is the most important thing and if this medication stops his cough, that’s what I want to do. You may find that you just want to give the Cerenia if your dog is having a bad day. Any medications you give must be given under the direction of your vet, and it is important to see your vet regularly so they can help look after your dog.

Remember, your vet is there to help you. Taking your dog for regular check-ups will help catch this early. Tommy has been prone to chest infections and Nacho even caught pneumonia. Find a vet you can talk freely with and you trust.

I hope this blog has been helpful. Please share to help others.

For more informative blogs, read this blog on Living with a Blind Dog.

26 thoughts on “Hints and Tips for Collapsed Tracheas”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! My dog Angelina has CT and sometimes she struggles so much to breath it breaks my heart. She took codein before, but now the vet gave her a steroid called stanozolol and flixotide inhaler. She has a grade 4 CT, but I don’t know wether to operate her or not, since she’s ten y-o.

    1. Any updates on your dog? Mine is showing symptoms of CT & I am taking him to the vet soon. Would love to know about your experience with it. Thanks.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. My dog, Justus (Maltese, 7 yrs.), has recently been diagnosed with CT and I am frantically looking for ways to help him live the best life possible. Your blog has given me the best and most practical advice I’ve found. You’ve also given me hope that this diagnosis is not a death sentence and that we might have a few more years together. Bless you for taking the time to do this. It’s much appreciated.

  3. Thank You for sharing your experiences with Collapse trachea, My little chihuahua has this I am beside myself now trying to do what I can for her she’s 12 years old and I had her since she was 8 weeks old love her with all my ♡

    1. My Chi diagnosed 2 years ago at age 8 I discovered that CBD oil was all she needed prior to this discovery she had spent 5 months of almost nonstop coughing; also keep their weight down helps as well. I treat her holistically so I have never given her any meds…best of luck to you

      1. Debbie Bulless

        Hi Noemi, can you please advise me how much CBD oil you were giving your fur baby I have a 17 year old chihuahua and want to treat her with CBD oil but am not sure of quantity He is 5.5 kg
        Many thanks
        Deb Bulless

  4. Linnie Tochtrop

    When the dog is having an attack, can’t breath what is the best thing to do? Mine sounds like she is screaming until she calms down.

    1. The best thing to do is to keep calm and try and calm your dog. I find stroking Tommy’s throat gentle when he coughs bad can ease the spasms. Talk to your vet to see if there are any meds you can try.

  5. Thank you you so much for this very informative blog. My Cinta (11yr old pom) was just diagnosed with CT. I have been reading up on so much but found your blog very helpful. I will be asking my vet about more options now that I read this. My girl and I thank you again.

  6. Thank you for your blog it is very helpful. My baby boy Nino is 11 years old and has severe CT. He has been put of medications and a sedative to help him breath and cough syrup. This has been so scary and heart breaking watching him struggle for air and i’m constantly watching over him to make sure hes still breathing. Aside from the ct, Ninos blood work came out very good and no heart problems, He is over weight and I’m trying my best to get him to loose weight. Nino’s ct is very severe and I’m afraid of loosing him and wondered if it is to dangerous for him to have stents put in? His vet mentioned him having surgery and I said no at the time because i was worried about him surviving it. But this could be the only final thing to prolong his life. Any advise? I love him with all my heart and this is killing me!

    1. Hi Lisa. I am so sorry to hear about Nino, it’s such a horrible condition and it’s so hard to see them suffer. In regards to the stent, that’s something only you and your vet can decide. You could try a weight loss diet first and see if that improves the CT before deciding about surgery? Excess weight will put extra stress on his body and will make it harder for him to breathe, even if he didn’t have CT, so I feel that’s a good first step. If you are finding it hard to get Nino on a diet, many vet’s offer free weight loss clubs, perhaps it’s worth speaking to them to see if they can offer you any more support?

      1. Thank you for your reply and I will talk to my vet today. Nino has not been able to sleep the past two nights . He’s seems to be gasping for air it’s extremely hard for him to get comfortable. And when he exhales his whole body contracts with every breath. I feel so helpless!!

  7. katherine compton

    thank you for your insightful information. we all love our dogs so much and you have helped me to know some different ways to manage his illness. God speed to all of you!!!! xoxo kathy

  8. Darla Hredzak

    HI. It was comforting to happen across your blog. Our Yorkie is 4 years old with CT. We are going to a specialist tomorrow and I am at a loss as to what to expect. I suspected something 2 years ago, but the vet assured me it was a reverse sneeze. It seemed to be isolated and time passed. The next sign was when he was excited to meet new people he would “honk” a bit, but it was not excessive and when he left the situation the honking subsided. It was until June 25, he had an incident where his panting was super excessive and I thought he was overheated. It lasted for a few hours and he did not pass out, but became very lethargic. We took him to the vet. The Xray showed the collapse, but due to COVID, only mu husband was with him. He goes tomorrow to a specialist. I am at a loss for questions to ask. To date, his main symptom is excessive panting and he continues to “honk” when excited. Again due to COVID, we arent going to be face to face with the doctor, but I have started a brief history of his symptoms and some questions to ask. Please let me know if you have any insight on something I should ask

      1. Darla Hredzak

        Thank you for asking. It was a strange experience with COVID, but Oliver was examined by the specialist who told us that upon a physical examine, he felt Zertec would be a good medication to help him. However, he didn’t tell us the dosage and when to administer it? They also took more xrays and said he would reach out in 48 hours with their findings and recommendations. SO, $900.00 dollars later, we have no more answers than before. I did have a list of questions printed and gave to the doctor, so hopefully, they will be addressed soon.

  9. My dog Ernie is having X-Rays done Tuesday 10/20/20 because my vet believes he has CT. He is 13lbs and is 11.5 years old. I had complete blood work up done on him just to make sure everything was okay with him getting older. Everything came back good, but then when it came to his coughing well I had no idea it could be something so serious causing it. Ernie is a very active dog. You would think he was 5 years old the way he behaves and the energy leave he has. The only thing he does is cough, but it’s not all the time and is usually at night. He does not have trouble breathing and it has definitely not affected his life one bit. I’m literally going crazy with anxiety and heartbreak when I started looking into how serious this was. I think I have read every article and waiting six more days to find out is something I’m really struggling with. One thing I have not been able to find, which I’m sure varies from dog to dog but how fast does this progress. I’m pretty sure if Ernie has it then he is in phase one… but how long till he goes into phase two… then phase three. It’s so sad to me that he is a completely healthy dog and then to find out something like this is what is potentially going to kill him. Some articles say not to stress that it’s not as bad as it sounds then others have a dog only lasting two years at best with the disease. Guess I’m just needing some reassurance which I know no one can really give me, but I don’t want to live every day thinking he’s going to die soon. I will know more Tuesday, but I’m expecting the worst. I’ve been crying so much and yesterday all I did was hold him. I just love him so much. I have literally spent almost my whole work day looking up this disease. I wish I hadn’t.

    1. Hi
      How did Ernie get on at the vets? Two of mine have CT and have been diagnosed for several years now, still going strong. There is no set time for the rate of how quickly your dog will decline as all dogs are different. Some dogs progress quicker than others. With my dogs, it’s managing the symptoms as neither can have the operation. They have good days and bad days. I really hope you had positive news for your boy.

  10. I’m so sorry about the DX. It is manageable though. My guy is only 4 and has been diagnosed in July. He is a surgical candidate but the specialist feels its too early, as surgery has many issues that can arise. We have only been sedating him when we know there will be triggers (such as grandbabies visiting). He is heat intolerant and can only do small walks befor the honking gets too bad. This is a sad DX for us but we will do everything to keep him going strong! Best of Luck to you and if anyone has any other treatments that help other than sedation, please let me know!

  11. My Yorkie has just turned 15 and has CT. She has always coughed mainly after drinking water. Now she is coughing more. She had to have surgery on her back leg and since the surgery, she has so much anxiety. When I am not in her sight, she barks constantly. I think this has made the CT worse. She was then put on prednisone and that has made everything worse. Our vet says to try to manage this with meds which we are doing. At her age, it is so hard. I do not want to see her suffer.

  12. Hi, our 14 year old pug Kermit was recently diagnosed with CT, with a 60% collapse. He has been taking a cough suppressant for the last few weeks which seems to help a bit. I just picked up his inhaled meds and aerochamber and will start him on those tomorrow to see how they help him. He has a bronchodilator inhaler to help open his airways past the trachea and a steroid inhaler to reduce inflammation in his airway. I am hoping these help him as it is so sad to see him struggle to breathe sometimes.
    He even seems to have trouble eating now as well. He is a pug and has always been super food motivated but lately he eats a little bit and then kind of runs away from his food and we have to approach him with it again to get him to continue eating bc and he is definitely eating less than he would have normally. We’ve switched to mostly canned food with a bit of kibble mixed in (he seems to like this best) thinking it would be easier for him to eat and also hopefully help him lose weight with the added water content (he’s a Chunker at 33 pounds so I know that doesn’t help his issue!) We have to try to put him on a diet as his activity level is so low now between his arthritis and breathing issues that he can’t lose weight that way. We’ve also had to basically spoon feed him because he seems to find it easier to eat. When I’m feeding him I often notice his tongue slowly turning from red to a bluish colour so I know it’s affecting his oxygen levels, which is so sad and scary. I’m hoping starting the inhalers will help him cope with eating.
    A few things we’ve found that help him when he’s under some respiratory distress after too much excitement or getting hot, is to put him directly in front of a fan and put a cool, damp cloth on his neck. This seems to help cool him off so his panting subsides. I should look into a humidifier though, I never thought to try that to see if it helps him too.
    The saddest thing is that I believe we caused much of his collapse unknowingly. As he has aged, he has become less active and has a lot of joint pain. He can no longer jump onto the bed, couches, climb stairs, etc. so we resorted to lifting and carrying him. But with being very overweight and a top heavy breed we were likely supporting mostly his chest during these lifts, and I think his own body weight put pressure on where we lifted from which was likely on part of the trachea. I feel awful. But we never even considered this could happen. Anyways, thanks for the tips. Hoping my tips might help others out there care for their fur babies too. It’s honestly such a sad thing to witness them not getting enough air. Breaks my heart

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