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D2008-34

Dear Daisy Dog

Pepi, my toy poodle, has a collapsing trachea. Despite our keeping him slim, walking him with a harness instead of a collar, and giving him several medications, his disease has worsened over the years.

Whereas Pepi once had only a dry, honking cough, now that he’s older, he experiences episodes of severe breathing difficulty that frighten me.

Pepi’s veterinarian is talking about surgery to strengthen his trachea. How successful is such surgery?

Daisy Responds

This surgery is successful 75 to 90 percent of the time. Nevertheless, it carries significant risk: Five percent of dogs die during the procedure.

As you’ve learned, collapsing trachea is most common in middle-aged and older toy and small-breed dogs.

The trachea, or windpipe, collapses when the cartilage rings that encircle it weaken, or when the muscle the runs the length of the trachea sags inward.

When medical therapy is not effective, surgery can be performed.

In one type of surgical procedure, a firm, mesh tube called a stent is inserted to support the trachea from the inside, holding it open.

In another type of operation, reinforcing rings are sutured around the outside of the trachea to keep it open. Sometimes, both rings and stents are used.

These procedures are performed by veterinary surgeons who specialize in complex, challenging cases. Your regular veterinarian can refer you to such a specialist.

It’s important to remember that tracheal collapse is a progressive disease. Even with surgery, Pepi’s collapsing trachea will require lifelong care.

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