It can be difficult to decipher whether your dog’s cough is normal or is a sign of something more serious. If your dog is making strange noises that never seem to subside, like a deep cough or gagging, it could be a sign of a condition called Tracheitis.
What is Tracheitis?
As you have guessed by the name, Tracheitis directly involves the trachea. The trachea, also called the windpipe, is a part of both the human and canine anatomy. Essentially, it is a tube that connects the throat to the lungs and contains small rings of cartilage. When the trachea is agitated or inflamed in some way, it can cause health issues such as prolonged coughing and inflammation. The trachea can become inflamed and damaged due to constant barking or some kind of infection.
Causes of Tracheitis:
- Excessive Barking
- Boarding Facility (“Kennel Cough”)
- Respiratory Pathogens (Spread Dog to Dog)
- Prolonged Coughing
- Honking Sounds (as if your dog is trying to clear their throat)
Some dogs seem to be more prone to developing Tracheitis, a lot of which can be attributed to their environment or personality. For dogs that bark a lot, for example dogs with separation anxiety who become nervous whenever you leave, are more likely to develop a discomfort or agitation to the trachea. Barking constantly puts strain on the throat and in turn trachea, which can lead to complications.
A common environmental situation that lends itself to Tracheitis, is dogs that have spent time in boarding facilities. With boarding facilities and kennels come heavily populated areas with a lot of different dogs. Just like humans, if you put that many dogs together in a confined space, the chances of infections spreading rise significantly. It could be that your dog “caught” a respiratory pathogen like kennel cough from one of the other dogs. Excessive barking can also be a problem in boarding facilities, as dogs may be unnerved by their current situation and surroundings. When certain dogs are suffering from separation anxiety, or just the anxiety of being in a boarding facility in general, they will bark constantly, trying to convey their displeasure and nervousness. This excessive barking, coupled with the environmental risk factors kennels and facilities can bring, can put dogs at increased risk of developing some sort of trachea-based infection.
The good news is, usually, your dog’s symptoms will subside on their own and their tracheal irritation will eventually pass. For dogs that seem to have an ongoing infection and are not showing signs of improvement, treatments (usually inexpensive) are available at your veterinarian.
For issues like kennel cough, there is preventative treatment. This mostly includes a vaccine, which can be critical throughout your dog’s life. Never again will you have to worry about them contracting kennel cough, no matter how many times they may have to stay in a boarding facility or kennel. Not to mention, kennel cough is not mutually exclusive with kennels, your dog can catch and develop this health issue at any time, from any dog. The kennel cough vaccine can eliminate a huge contributing factor to Tracheitis. If you haven’t already, consult your veterinarian and think about getting your dog vaccinated! Further preventative treatment includes exercising your dog regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.
Mostly found in smaller dog breeds, tracheal collapse is a term used to describe a depression of the trachea. Many dogs with this condition will make the “honking or gagging” noise we discussed earlier and have trouble breathing properly. If you suspect your dog may have this condition, their symptoms will appear to worsen in situations where allergens, smoke, and humid weather are present.
How do I know if my dog has Tracheitis?
Tracheitis can be caused by a variety of factors, both environmental and physical. It can be a difficult condition to put a finger on, since things like coughing are a natural, everyday occurrence. You know your dog better than anyone. If you think they are displaying an uncharacteristic cough, and it seems to be ongoing, your dog may be suffering from a tracheal irritation or infection. If this is the case, it is not the end of the world, but it should still be addressed by your veterinarian. If left untreated or unchecked, tracheal damage can lead to a number of other health problems, never mind the constant discomfort your dog is feeling.