If your Chihuahua is making noises that can be described as a honking sound, this can point to collapsed trachea. The dog may also appear to gag, struggling to breath and making a wheezing sound as if the he is having trouble with the airway.
This is a somewhat serious condition that many toy breed dogs are susceptible to. The windpipe of a dog is made up of rings of cartilage. If one or more of those rings are damaged, they can collapse inward and cause an obstruction in the windpipe.
This causes a Chihuahua to have difficulty breathing at which time the puppy or dog will make coughing noises that sound similar to a honking.
The Chihuahua is a breed that is prone to this issue. For some, it is a genetic issue that causes those rings to be weaker than they should be, which makes them more prone to this type of injury.
For other Chihuahuas, even if there is no genetic weakness to the cartilage, injury can still cause this to happen.
The #1 reason that Chihuahuas suffer from this is due to being led on a leash that is connected to a dog collar. When a Chi wears just a collar and is walked on leash, all pressure and strain is put on the very fragile neck of this tiny toy sized dog.
It does not take a lot for that pressure to crush a tracheal ring.
If you are currently only using a collar on your Chihuahua, this should be rethought. There is never an excuse to attach a leash to a Chihuahua's dog collar and allow all of the pressure to be placed on the neck.
All Chihuahuas, regardless of age
and size, should be walked on a harness. In addition, harnesses also allow for better control, which comes in very handy when teaching a Chi to heel.
An ID tag can be attached to the collar and the harness should be put on any time that a leash is used. Just this one simple element can prevent the terrible condition of Collapsed Trachea, since the harness works to distribute weight over the shoulders, back and chest, instead of having it all go to the tiny neck.
Signs of Collapsed Trachea
- A honking cough. The coughing may increase when the Chi becomes excited, eats, drinks, exercises or is in hot weather.
- Labored breathing. If breathing is severely labored, the dog's lips may turn blue as he struggles for air.
- Reluctance to exercise. This will be due to a combination of breathing problems and the pain that accompanies such an injury.
- Coughing after drinking water
Many experienced veterinarians can diagnose this based on the sound that the dog is making and the fact that the dog is a Chihuahua, since this breed is so prone to this. Additionally, an x-ray may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.
The main goal will be to allow the ring(s) to heal. This is done with the use of cough suppressants, bronchodilators and corticosteroids (to control swelling). In many cases, 2 weeks are given to see if this treatment works well enough. If not, surgery may need to be performed.
Roughly 70% of dogs recuperate well enough to not need surgery, yet will need to have ongoing care such as keeping weight at a healthy level (being overweight
contributes to problems) and wearing a harness and never a collar as mentioned above.