If your little dog coughs when he pulls on his leash or if your cat gags after he drinks water, then collapsing trachea might be the cause. Collapsing trachea affects animals both old and young, but dogs are more likely to be affected than are cats. Collapsing is not contagious.
Collapsing Trachea (Tracheal Collapse)
Picture a tube made up of C-shaped rings that open toward the spinal column. That is your dog’s trachea. This tube of cartilage extends from the back of the throat to the lungs. Age, illness and chronic irritation weakens these rings, causing them to lose their shape. This weakness causes your dog to cough from the pressure his collar puts on his neck as he pulls against his leash. He also may cough if he regularly breathes in cigarette smoke or dust, or he may choke when drinking water.
Dogs and cats possess the genes that cause tracheal collapse, but it is rare in cats. If your pet carries too much weight or has a chronic illness, he also may suffer tracheal collapse.
Why Collapsing Trachea is Not Contagious
Genes for collapsing trachea pass from parent to offspring. Just remember that genes are not contagious, even if they pass from one animal to another! In this way, collapsing trachea is no more contagious than obesity. Several animals in a single household might share the tendency for the condition, but no germs are involved in its spread. Even if a disease causes tracheal collapse, the disease itself would be contagious and not the collapsing trachea.
Symptoms of Collapsing Trachea
A dry and honking cough, similar to a cough made by a human with bronchitis, is a common symptom of collapsing trachea. Your dog or cat also may gag or vomit after eating or drinking, or he may have difficulty breathing during exercise or when he is excited. If your dog or cat has difficulty breathing or if he has bluish gums or, worst of all, if he faints, bring him to the vet immediately!
Treatment for Collapsing Trachea
Weight loss and cough suppressants are two simple treatments for tracheal collapse. All pets with collapsing trachea also can benefit from cigarette smoke and dust being removed from the environment -- and it may help you, too! Dogs with collapsing trachea should be walked using a harness rather than a collar. Some pets need surgery to open the tracheal rings. This surgery is risky and has many complications, but it rarely is necessary for the average pet.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.