Australian Silky Terriers are more commonly known as a Silky Terrier, and are known as being a healthy dog breed. Despite the fact of being a healthy breed, a Silky Terrier is also known to be subject to certain types of genetic disorders, such as tracheal collapse. Most often toy breeds are the ones who are most likely to develop tracheal collapse, though it occasionally does happen in bigger breeds. Tracheal collapse can be serious and does require veterinary care. In some instances, a change in lifestyle and medication can be enough to alleviate or even correct the condition, while in other serious cases the dog may require a surgical procedure because of the condition.
The windpipe is known by the medical term “trachea,” and is a muscular organ in the throat which carries environmental air to and from the lungs. The trachea needs to be open at all times as air that cannot be moved from the lungs can cause suffocation and death. The air moves through the trachea by means of hard, C-shaped cartilage and in several toy dog breeds the cartilage grows weak and does not allow the trachea to stay open effectively. The cause of a collapse is idiopathic and thought to be a combination of many factors. One theory suggests that the chemical composition of the cartilage is abnormal and unable to support an open trachea. When cartilage becomes weak, the trachea collapses and air cannot move freely in and out of the dog’s body.
Tracheal collapse causes the dog to experience coughing fits and airway obstruction. Signs of collapse most often show up around the time a dog is 6 years of age or older. Dogs that develop tracheal collapse will often have a dry, persistent cough that may sound like “honking” of a goose or “barking” like a seal, they may also display signs of breathing difficulty, gagging and the gums may be cyanotic (blue). The dog may be unable to exercise or be active for long periods of time; physical exertion causes fatigue and sluggishness. When tracheal collapse occurs, mucus and trapped secretions are released and at times the secretions can lead to further airway obstruction as well.
To treat a collapse, a veterinarian will first normally use steroids, bronchodilators and cough suppressants coupled with antibiotics. Obesity in the dog can also aggravate tracheal collapse and often simply putting the dog on a diet will help alleviate the condition. If none of the traditional treatment methods work for a collapse, a veterinarian may consider performing a tracheal reconstruction surgery; the outcome of the surgery will be dependent upon the age and overall health of the dog. Barring obesity, there are also other conditions which can lead to tracheal collapse such as chronic bronchitis, congestive heart failure, a long palate, pneumonia, allergies and repeated exposure to airborne irritants such as dust, pollen and smoke. Often, treating the environment or underlying health conditions will help improve the symptoms of canine tracheal collapse. While there is no long-term cure for the condition, with proper veterinary care and intervention the dog can still have a good quality of life.