When Should You Euthanize A Dog With Tracheal Collapse?

When Should You Euthanize A Dog With Tracheal Collapse?

Tracheal collapse in dogs is often experienced by small breeds dogs such as Toy Poodles, Shih Tzu’s, Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas. This is an often fatal and progressive disease of the windpipe leading to eventual lung failure, though new treatment options are available.

When should you make the decision to euthanize your dog? The first step is often to speak to your veterinarian. Based on their professional judgment and the level of impact on your dog’s quality of life your veterinarian can help you make a decision on whether it is time to euthanize your dog. 

Take into consideration current quality of life when making the decision to euthanize your dog who is suffering from tracheal collapse. Here are some things to ask your vet.

  1. Determine if your dog is in pain and whether the pain can be managed with medication. This is something your vet can help you determine for sure.
  2. Is your dog still able to eat unassisted? Do you have to force-feed them?
  3. Does your dog have issues standing or is unable to stand on their own?
  4. Is your dog experiencing frequent diarrhea or vomiting accompanied by dehydration and weight loss?
  5. Is the dog suffering from breathing problems or chronic cough for prolonged periods of time?
  6. Your dog just seems out of it and has lost interest in commonly enjoyable activities they previously got excited about such as playing or walking?

If you notice a drastic change in your dog’s appearance, mannerisms, or energy it would be a good idea to seek the opinion of a qualified veterinary professional. 

Also note that liver issues are common among dogs with tracheal collapse, check out our article about when to euthanize a dog with liver failure to learn more about steps to identifying the condition early on.


Before euthanizing consider treatment options

New treatment options are always being developed as veterinary medicine advances. Be sure to speak to your vet about possible treatment options before making the decision to euthanize.

According to VCAHospitals there are various treatment options ranging from prescription drugs to complex and specialized surgical treatments. However, it should be noted that regardless of the treatment your dog will still experience discomfort and cough throughout their lives. 

In the end, you and your veterinarian will need to decide whether the cost of treatment and the potential gain to your dog’s quality of life is worth it before making a decision about euthanizing your dog.

Steps to help your dogs tracheal collapse

Although we cannot stop the condition from progressing we can alleviate some of the most common symptoms of canine tracheal collapse by making some changes to our dog’s environment and our actions.

Total Time Needed :



Total Cost:


USD – 1000+ USD

Required Tools:

– A commitment to consistency.
– Patience & Compassion.
– Love.

Things Needed?

– Air purifiers (if needed)
– Medication prescribed by your vet
– A dog harness (use it instead of a collar)
– Specialized dog food (Low calorie or something similar)

Everyday Steps to help manage your dog’s symptoms:

reduce air pollutants

Step 1 – Air quality

If you are a smoker or live in a home with a smoker it is important to avoid smoking around your dog, the smoke along with other irritants in the air can flare up your dog’s symptoms. 

dont overfeed your dog

Step 2 – Don’t Overfeed

Try to avoid overfeeding your dog and attempt to help them reduce their weight, this can have a major impact on symptoms.

medication for tracheal collapse

Step 3 – Medications

Make sure to feed your dog any medications prescribed by your veterinarians such as cough suppressants and steroids. 

dog harness over collar

Step 4 – Use a dog harness

Use a dog harness instead of a dog collar when going on walks.

avoid humid and hot climates

Step 5 – Avoid humid climates

Avoid overexertion in hot weather, especially humid and warm weather. Keep your dog inside when humidity is high as this can exacerbate coughing.

avoid over excitement

Step 6 – Over excitement

Try to avoid exciting your dog as this can cause symptoms such as coughing to flare up.

Reducing pollutants in the air

Since tracheal collapse is made worse when your dog coughs it is a good idea to reduce any potential triggers in the air. An air filter can go a long way to helping to make sure your dog is breathing clean air. 

In the long term, it can have a significant impact on the progression of your dog’s condition. Since the wearing down of the trachea occurs faster when your dog coughs reducing the likelihood of tracheal irritation can really help.

We recommend a good air filter to help you reduce irritants in the air. We currently use the one recommended below in our home and find it to be a very good choice which can easily handle even large rooms. 

Dog tracheal collapse weight loss treatment

According to the American Medical Center weight control is a critical step to helping your dog manage their chronic cough caused by tracheal collapse. Being overweight contributes to breathing difficulties and induces coughing fits. 

Developing a safe and effective diet and exercise plan for your dog can make a huge difference in their quality of life and significantly impact the severity of their symptoms. 

Even a small amount of weight loss can have a dramatic impact on your dog’s quality of life when dealing with tracheal collapse symptoms. There are certain foods specifically designed to help your dog lose weight, talk to your vet to determine if low-calorie dog foods are a good fit for your canine companion. 

Choose a harness over a collar when going for walks

When a dog has tracheal collapse their windpipe’s cartilage is weakened so we want to avoid putting unnecessary stress on their necks. 

It is a good idea to attach your dog leash to a dog harness instead of directly to your dog’s collar. This shifts the pulling tension from the neck and distributes it around the dog’s chest.

You can still use a dog collar for things like ID tags, but avoid using it for dog walking. It is also a good idea to make sure your dog’s collar is not too tight as this could cause further discomfort. 

You can check out our breakdown of the collar vs harness where we breakdown key differences and go over the advantages and recommendations for each.   

What is Dog Tracheal Collapse?

This is a progressive and irreversible condition that normally occurs as a dog grows old (but can occur in younger dogs as well). This genetic flaw is often only seen in smaller breeds of dogs due to their smaller tracheal cartilage rings.  

Dog tracheal collapse commonly blocks air from passing through the windpipe due to weakened cartilage around the trachea which begins to collapse. Tracheal collapse in dogs is commonly characterized by a chronic dry and harsh honking cough and difficulty breathing. 

Signs & Symptoms of Dog Tracheal Collapse

The weakening of your dog’s tracheal cartilage restricts airflow to their lungs leading to labored breathing and a dry and harsh chronic honking cough. 

As the dog’s trachea begins to fail and collapse oxygen has a harder time reaching the lungs. This lack of oxygen often leads to bluish gums as the amount of oxygen-rich blood in their body decreases.

Canine tracheal collapse is also characterized by an increase in fatigue especially during exercise and general outdoor and indoor play. You may notice your dog is not as active as they once were.

Please note that tracheal collapse in dogs should only be diagnosed by a veterinary professional, and any recommendation for euthanizing your dog should be discussed with your dog’s vet.

How long can a dog live with tracheal collapse?

A dog who has a collapsing trachea typically lives up to 2 years from the time of official diagnosis. With surgical procedures, a dog’s life with this condition can be doubled to 4 years and up.

You can further extend a dog’s life by taking additional steps to help them manage their symptoms. Diet changes leading to weight loss and ensuring clean air can go a long way to improving your dog’s chances of living longer with this condition.

Avoiding unneeded strain such as using collars for walks, physical activity during humid hot days, and being careful not to overfeed your dog will also have a positive impact on their longevity. 

Things to note about canine tracheal collapse

The common symptoms of tracheal collapse in dogs could also be a sign of other serious conditions such as heart failure. It would be a good idea to talk to your vet about getting your dog screened for other possible ailments. 

Other issues such as liver disease are also common with dogs who suffer from tracheal collapse. Testing your dog’s liver function when bringing them in for evaluation could help your vet develop specialized treatments to tackle both of these conditions. 

After making the decision to euthanize

Saying goodbye to your pet is one of the hardest decisions you will have to make as a dog owner. Your dog is a part of your family and saying goodbye will be tough; especially on your kids if you have any. Be prepared to have a discussion with your family about your dog’s condition. 

The American Humane Society recommends the following books to help your kids deal with the grieving process of losing a pet:

When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers

Remembering My Pet by Machama Liss-Levinson and Molly Phinney Baskette

After you have made the decision to euthanize, be sure to give every member of the family time to say goodbye to your dog in their own way. Try to schedule a time and place for every member of your family to say their goodbyes before the procedure. 

Be sure to ask your veterinarian about your options for the actual procedure. Some vets will come to your house and perform the euthanization. This option allows your dog to have their final moments in a place of comfort together with your family. 

Consider not having children present during the actual euthanization. Depending on their age, this could be traumatic to them. This is a personal call and it is up to you whether you are comfortable having them present.

What to expect during the euthanization

Your veterinarian will handle the entire procedure and help you answer any questions you may have. Depending on the size of your dog they will either be laid down on a table for the procedure if they are a large breed or held by a vet’s assistant if they are a small breed.

Your vet will then administer an injection with a syringe of sodium pentobarbital which is an anesthetic drug that will quickly cause your dog to lose consciousness and painlessly stop their heart. Your vet will confirm the time of passing by checking for a heartbeat and allow you a few moments with the pet. 

This is the last time you will see your pet so mentally prepare yourself to say goodbye. Think back to any fond memories you had with your furry companion and know that they are now free from pain. 

Know that you made the humane decision to not see your canine family member suffer and have given them a painless and quick end to their suffering.

What’s next after euthanization?

You will need to make arrangements to have your pet either buried or cremated. This is a personal choice and your vet will typically give you the option to do either. 

Cremation is often a popular choice as it allows you to keep your dog’s ashes in your home close to you and your family. There are many options available to help you commemorate your dog’s legacy.

If you opt to bury your pet you can look for a local pet cemetery or bury your pet in your yard. Please be advised that some towns have strict rules about pet burial so be sure to call your local town hall to inquire further.


Knowing when to euthanize a dog can be a tough personal choice. At the end of the day, it comes down to a humanitarian choice to end the suffering of your beloved pet. Seeking out the advice of both your family and your veterinarian to help you come to a decision about euthanizing is often the first step.

Know your options, pet medicine is evolving every day and new treatments are being developed by some of the brightest and most committed veterinary professionals worldwide. Euthanization may not be your only choice, make sure you have all the facts before making a decision.

Related Questions

Can a Tracheal Collapse be fatal to dogs?

Tracheal collapse in dogs can be fatal in severe cases. If dogs can not breathe due to an insufficient amount of air from the narrowing of the collapsed trachea, then they may have respiratory distress and can potentially die. 

The good news is that life-threatening and severe cases of a collapsed trachea in dogs are rare. In most cases, dogs with tracheal collapse will start to cough a lot. This should catch your attention and prompt you to contact your dog’s vet as soon as possible. 

Early detection is key so that the condition does not worsen to respiratory distress. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to consult with your vet. Your vet will perform a series of tests on your canine friends and give you the proper diagnosis so that treatments can be properly administered.

As dog owners, be aware of this health problem especially if you have small dog breeds like Yorkshire Terriers, Teacup Poodles, Miniature Poodles, and Chihuahuas or if you have older dogs.   

If the tracheal collapse in dogs is not detected early and this health problem advances, it can be fatal. 

There is no cure, but there are treatments like tracheal stenting. The vet places a rigid structure inside (or outside) your pup’s windpipe to permanently hold it open to prevent the trachea from collapsing again. This allows your pooch to breathe well again.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.