It seems that nearly every pet parent encounters the scary moment of tracheal collapse at least once in their dog’s life. Whether it is a common occurrence in your dog, or it has happened only once or twice, you can take steps to prevent tracheal collapse and promote better health for your pet.

What is a collapsed trachea? What causes a collapsed trachea?

Collapsed Trachea Infographic

The trachea, or “windpipe”, is the tube that connects the throat to the lungs. The trachea has small rings made of cartilage that help maintain the tracheas open shape, making it possible for air to travel from the mouth to lungs and back. However, these cartilage rings are only about 83 percent of the circumference of the trachea – the rest is made up of soft tissue. A collapsed trachea, signaled typically by a honking or persistent cough and trouble breathing, happens when the rings of the trachea become compressed, or when the soft tissue slacks and sags.

When the trachea collapses, it becomes very difficult to breathe because the tube transporting the air is (quite literally) crushed. Tracheal collapse is often caused by wear and tear on the windpipe, which is why older dogs may be more susceptible to tracheal issues. The cause can also be genetic and seen more frequently in certain breeds. The disease is chronic, progressive, and irreversible but is manageable.

What are symptoms of tracheal collapse?

There are several symptoms of collapsed trachea to watch for. Make sure to discuss these symptoms with your holistic veterinarian, as they may also be symptoms of a heart condition or kennel cough. Your veterinarian may order a radiograph, echocardiogram, or fluoroscopy to determine if tracheal collapse is the final diagnosis.

  • Honking cough
  • Loud, abnormal, wheezy, or labored breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Retching
  • Blue or purple gums
  • Inability to exercise without breathing issues
  • Fainting
  • Breathing changes when being picked up

You may also notice the symptoms worsen when:

  • Your dog is excited
  • Your dog recently ate or drank
  • When overheated or in high humidity
  • When around smoke
  • At night
  • When there is pressure on the neck or throat area

Is a collapsed trachea painful? Can a dog die from collapsed trachea?

A collapsed trachea may be very painful and may last for several minutes. If the trachea is collapsed for an extended period of time, oxygen levels may drop dangerously low and in extreme cases this can be fatal.

What breeds usually get a collapsed trachea? Is a collapsed trachea common in all dogs?

 While all dogs are at risk as they age, small dogs and certain breeds are more naturally prone to tracheal collapse. These breeds include Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, Poodles and Chihuahuas. 

What is traditional treatment?

Traditional treatment involves both surgical and medical intervention. Your dog may be prescribed an anti-inflammatory to prevent spasms, irritation, and coughing which may trigger tracheal collapse. Your dog may also be prescribed a sedative to prevent anxiety associated with tracheal collapse, as many dogs experience panic attacks during episodes. Additionally, your vet may prescribe antibiotics for any active infections that cause inflammation or irritation to the trachea. These medications may come with their own dangerous side effects, and only 70 percent of dogs show improvement.

How do you treat a collapsed trachea naturally?

To prevent collapsed trachea, you should always use a harness rather than a leash. Regardless of your dog’s size or breed, a harness will take pressure away from the dog’s neck – especially when the dog may run forward faster than you can keep up. You should also manage your pet’s weight, as obesity can worsen collapsed trachea. A raw or freeze-dried diet is the best diet for balanced gut health and weight. It is also important to keep the dog’s environment free of irritants like smoke, excessive hair, and dust.

While collapsed trachea currently has no cure, you can alleviate anxiety and some of the symptoms caused by inflammation with full spectrum hemp extract (CBD).

Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently conducted pharmacokinetics study on cannabinoids for dogs. This 8-month double-blind study was the first of its kind for Cornell and studied dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. Dogs in the study saw a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity, with no side effects. In fact, the study concluded the following:

“Pharmacokinetics revealed an elimination half-life of 4.2 h at both doses and no observable side effects. Clinically, canine brief pain inventory and Hudson activity scores showed a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity (p < 0.01) with CBD oil. Veterinary assessment showed decreased pain during CBD treatment (p < 0.02). No side effects were reported by owners… This pharmacokinetic and clinical study suggests that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA.”

A study published in 2006 in Current Neuropharmacology also states that CBD has therapeutic benefits for both people and pets suffering from chronic pain and acute chronic pain episodes.

Compounds found in cannabis that reduce inflammation are abundant and diverse. The most abundant phytocannabinoids in cannabis, THC and CBD, both have strong anti-inflammatory properties, while CBC, CBG, and THCV have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.

Cannabinoids act as anti-inflammatory agents by inducing apoptosis, inhibiting of cell proliferation, suppressing cytokine production, and inducing T regulatory cells. Apoptotic mechanisms induced by cannabinoids in immune cells include activation of CD95 to induce Bcl-2 and caspase cascades in immune cells. Cannabinoids have also been demonstrated to promote the production of anti-inflammatory interleukins such as IL-10 while inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α in a CB1-dependent fashion – which means that full spectrum hemp extract (CBD) not only reduces inflammation but prevents future inflammatory episodes.

2013 article published in Neuropharmacology also found that: “In addition to modulating basal anxiety states, recent studies suggest an important role for the endocannabinoid (eCB) and glucocorticoid systems in the modulation of emotional states and extinction of aversive memories in animals.” This means that CBD can help in facilitating extinction of aversive memories which treats PTSD and anxiety or panic disorders in people and animals – perfect for preventing anxiety surrounding tracheal collapse episodes.

Full spectrum hemp extract (CBD) dosage for collapsed trachea 

Based on research and my experience: Start with 9-18 mg (1-2 mL) of EASE full spectrum hemp extract CBD situationally or daily. If your dog is still in pain after 10-15 minutes, administer another 9-18 mg.

Before choosing to wean your pet off of medication for tracheal collapse, discuss safe weaning with your holistic veterinarian.

To learn more about CBD for pets, visit

Angela Ardolino has been caring for animals for over 20 years and has operated a rescue farm for over 10 years. Ardolino is the owner of Beautify the Beast natural pet salon and spa, and the founder of CBD Dog Health. An expert in medical cannabis, Ardolino has dedicated her life to providing all-natural relief for pets of all kinds and to educating the public about the benefits and safe use of CBD through national speaking engagements. Ardolino has four dogs, plus 4-10 more at any time that she is fostering or boarding. Visit to find out more.


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