If your darling little Yorkie starts honking like a goose, odds are he's suffering from tracheal collapse. A common problem in Yorkshire terriers, it means the tube making up his windpipe, or trachea, has begun taking on a flattened shape. Surgery basically rebuilds his trachea, allowing him to breathe freely.
The American College of Veterinary Surgeons describes the trachea as resembling a ribbed vacuum cleaner hose, with its small cartilage rings that keep the airway open. These cartilage rings, in the shape of a C, attach to the dorsal membrane, running the length of the windpipe. The trachea begins collapsing when these rings weaken and start flattening. Visualize a tube open at both ends with a collapsed section in the middle.
Besides the telltale honking cough, symptoms of tracheal collapse in Yorkies include breathing difficulties and lack of energy. Your dog's gums might develop a blue tinge. The coughing and breathing issues become more pronounced when your Yorkie is excited or when the weather turns hot and humid. Symptoms of tracheal collapse generally occurs in a Yorkie's middle-age, around 6 or 7. Since the condition progresses, the sooner you take your dog to the vet for treatment, the better. While medical treatments such as anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators help many dogs, some canines don't respond and require operation.
Tracheal Ring Surgery
Tracheal ring surgery replaces a Yorkie's collapsed cartilage rings with plastic prosthetic rings or continued spirals. Penn Veterinary Medicine reports that this technique involves placing support rings around the trachea, with a 75 to 85 percent success rate in reduction of the clinical signs of tracheal collapse. However, at least 5 percent of dogs died after surgery, while a significant percentage required permanent tracheotomies because the surgery caused larynx paralysis. A tracheotomy is a surgically created opening in the trachea with a tube inserted to allow breathing.
Tracheal Stenting Surgery
In tracheal stenting surgery, a metal tube or stent is placed inside the windpipe to keep it open. It's generally an option when the collapse occurs deeper into the windpipe. According to the Animal Medical Center of New York, clinical improvement occurred in between 75 and 90 percent of patients. However, the mortality rate runs as high as 10 percent. One advantage of stenting over ring surgery is that's a much faster operation for the surgeon to perform and less invasive, with dogs discharged earlier than ring surgery patients. Either surgery requires your Yorkie to take medications for life.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.