Almost two years ago I noticed that my senior pug Beans was gagging after she would eat. At first it was only happening after she ate, so the vet suggested she may be eating too fast, or not chewing well enough. She had been on the same food for years, but we decided to try one that is specifically for small dogs and comes in really small kibble pieces. That didn’t help her stop gagging. We bought a slow feed bowl to help her eat slower, and that did help a little bit but she still gagged some.
Slowly over time we noticed her coughing more frequently throughout the day. For example, she would cough after playing or getting excited/panting. We mentioned it to the vet again at a later date and because she gets anxious/excited while at the vet they were able to observe some of the coughing. They took some blood work, and listened to her heart to rule out a few other possibilities. Then the vet listened to her neck area by putting a stethoscope there. He said he could tell that there was a ‘rattle’ in her throat which lead him to believe she had a collapsing trachea.
He explained that trachea collapse is common in a lot of smaller dog breeds including pugs. He told us that it was great that they were wearing harnesses and not collars because collars are really problematic for dogs with a collapsed trachea. Shortly after we brought the pugs home I read up on pug-care and read that harnesses are safer than collars so they have always used a harness if they are going to be attatched to a leash, at least since they have lived with us. He said sometimes surgery is suggested, but at her advanced age (13 at the time) he wouldn’t recommend putting her through it.
Instead, he gave us a cough suppressant. Since then we have kept her on the cough suppressant year-round. We considered switching to canned food, and we may still do that in the future. However, for now we add water to her kibble and let it set for about 5 minutes before serving it to her, to soften the food and that keeps her from coughing or choking at all.
While the medication helps a lot, it doesn’t prevent her from ever coughing. She still coughs especially if she gets excited or pants. Sometimes she will have days where she coughs a lot more than others. The vet has told us that things that may trigger allergies or asthma symptoms in people with those conditions, may also trigger more coughing in dogs with tracheal collapse.
For example, dust, pollen, changes in weather, chemicals in cleaning supplies, etc. I am careful to not use cleaning supplies while she is in the room, and to dust and vacuum when she isn’t close by as well. Still, there are just “bad coughing days” for her.
When people visit our house, our dogs tend to get excited which means Beans will end up coughing a lot more than she does when we are just hanging out at home without visitors. I try to explain to everyone who sees her that while she coughs a lot when they see her, she doesn’t always cough that way, and that we are treating her condition.
I also try to comment to others in the waiting room at the vet about it because many associate a dog coughing with kennel cough which can be contagious, while collapsing trachea is not something another dog can catch from Beans, so I don’t’ want them to worry about being in close quarters with my dog while in the waiting room.
While I wish that Beans didn’t have this issue, it is something we have lived with pretty easily. She is still happy and playful and doesn’t seem distressed by the coughing at all. The vet says it is not a fatal condition, it is just something to manage so that is what we do.
Do you have a dog with coughing and gagging? Or has your dog been diagnosed with tracheal collapse? I’d love to hear your experience including any tips or tricks for keeping your dog happy and comfortable.
Hi there! I am Emily Evert, the owner of Emily Reviews. I am 28 and live in a small town in Michigan with my boyfriend Ryan and our two pugs. I have a large family and I adore my nieces and nephews. I love reading memoirs, and learning about child development and psychology. I love watching The Game of Thrones, Teen Mom, Sister Wives and Veep. I like listening to Jason Isbell, John Prine, and other alt-country or Americana music. I created Emily Reviews as a creative outlet to share my life and the products that I love with others.
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