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Ask the Pet Expert | Collapsed trachea

I have a 14-year-old female West Highland terrier. She was recently diagnosed with a collapsed trachea.  She is eating and drinking fine. She has this horrible seal-like cough upon rising from a supine position and when she overexerts herself. My vet has been trying to treat her with Prednisone, antibiotics and a bronchodilator. Nothing seems to be helping her. I was thinking about taking her to someone else for a second opinion, but I am not sure it would do any good. Are there any other treatments besides surgery for a collapsed trachea?

Collapsing trachea can be a difficult diagnosis, often needing fluoroscopy to definitely identify it. It is most often a syndrome in smaller-breed dogs, like Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and other similar-sized dogs. The ideal treatment for collapsing trachea is surgery, and there are specialists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicinel doing some amazing work with interventional radiology for this syndrome. However, surgery in this area can be risky and is often not practical for many owners or their pets. There are medications that can be used to help control the cough associated with a collapsing trachea (i.e., cough suppressants) but not cure it. In addition, one of the best things that can be done is to be sure your pet is not overweight. An overweight or obese dog who is suffering from collapsing trachea will definitely see improvement in symptoms by appropriate weight loss. 

This week's expert is Dr. Meghan W. Johnston of Hunt Valley Animal Hospital. Send your questions to

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