Dear Dr. John,
My 11-year-old Yorkshire terrier has a honk that has gotten worse. I took him to the vet, and after a thorough examination and chest X-rays, they told me that his trachea had collapsed. That is why he is having trouble breathing as well as making the noise. He also has all sorts of little growths all over his body and fairly bad teeth and breath. I am writing because of the concern that I have that eventually his trachea will close up and I will have to put him to sleep. Is there anything I can do to prevent this and to stop him from making such a loud noise? How long might it take for the breathing problem to get to the point where I will have to put him to sleep?— M.W.
Tracheal collapse is a condition that is primarily seen in small breeds of dogs, with Yorkies being the most prevalent. The trachea loses its structure and ability to stay round in shape, and the resulting oval shape of the trachea collapses. The cause is unknown and it usually occurs in middle-aged to older dogs. There is no way to screen for the condition. This results in a honking sound on a random basis and especially when the dog gets excited. What I do not under-stand is where you heard that the condition will progress to where you might need to -euthanize your dog. I doubt any veterinarian would ever say that. The prevention for the production of the loud noise is primarily medical by employing the use of cough suppressants and cortico-steroids. It works somewhat. A debatable surgical procedure to place a stent around the trachea to re--establish normal shape or place rings around the trachea to retain normal shape might be considered. Otherwise there is no harm in letting the dog live with the trachea just the way it is and you learning to live with the noise. As long as there are no other complicating factors, then this issue is not of too much concern. The hard part might be getting some sleep, so you may need to place the dog in a different part of your home at night!