These little breeds as well as a few others frequently suffer from a condition know as collapsing trachea. The trachea is normally circular in shape but in these poor dogs the trachea becomes flattened. The top of the trachea is a soft flap and when the dog exerts or gets excited, the extra breathing effort sucks the trachea closed. What you will notice is a sudden choking spasm or honking during times of excitement. The trachea closes down and the dog is literally choking. Usually this will end when the dog collapses and the trachea relaxes during unconsciousness but not always. This condition can occur at any age. There are some non-medical interventions we can do to help out. These are keeping the dogs at the proper weight so they don’t have to exert to breathe. Avoid excitement. Make sure you keep the teeth nice and clean becasue any infection in the mouth is easily transmitted to the trachea and makes the condition worse. Medically we can use anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce any swelling in the trachea but these do have side effects and are not always successful. There are also surgical interventions which can be performed where rings are placed around the trachea to help it keep its shape.
Gentle Vets has also introduced to Hawaii high-tech tracheal stenting which is a procedure where a special nitrile stent webbing is placed in the trachea from the inside to help it stay open. These stents must be placed using digital radiography or fluoroscopy and endoscopic assistance is crucial to assist in moving the stent if it is not correctly placed. Gentle Vets is fully equipped with digital radiography and endoscopy for this stenting and we even have an emergency stent available if your dog enters an irreversible tracheal collapse suddenly. We now have two patients on which we have placed tracheal stents and they are both doing great! Umi had her stent placed in August of 2011 and Sachi had hers placed in early December 2011. Both dogs went from death’s doorstep to feeling better than they ever have in a matter of minutes. In contrast to ring surgery, these dogs went from critically ill to perfectly fine in a matter of seconds. It is absolutely amazing and tremendously rewarding to watch a dog go from literally choking to death to running around like they never felt better in a few minutes!