Small breed dogs like the silky terrier are more susceptible to certain health problems such as collapsed trachea. Not all will develop this debilitating congenital disease, however, as onset often occurs in the adult or geriatric years, pet parents should be aware of the possibility, signs and symptoms as this condition requires monitoring and in a small number of cases can be deadly. Maintaining a healthy young pup will help prevent exacerbating medical conditions should tracheal collapse become a reality.
Anatomy of the Trachea
In mammals, the trachea or windpipe is a tube that allows oxygen into the lungs, and carbon dioxide back out. It is composed of cartilaginous rings to hold it open, especially during times of stress or exercise. When these rings weaken, they can collapse, making it extremely difficult for Fido to breathe.
Congenital or Acquired
Silky terriers and other small breeds may suffer from incomplete formation of the trachea. This deficiency of proteins, calcium and chondroitin -- the components of the tracheal rings causes a progressive weakening and inability for your pup to be exposed to environments or exercise that may require panting. Acquired tracheal collapse can occur in conjunction with other conditions such as obesity, dental infections, heart disease or thyroid problems though the issue for silky terriers is primarily congenital.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Between the ages of 4 and 14 years, silky terriers afflicted with this condition may start to pant more than usual, or cough and wheeze when any pressure is applied to the throat. In fact, this condition is usually diagnosed in just this way -- by a veterinarian applying mild pressure to the trachea. Severe symptoms include general respiratory distress, bluish discoloration of the lips and tongue, and increased stress to the heart and lungs.
Once diagnosed, progression of the disease can be monitored through periodic checkups. These will show changes in breathing patterns during inhalation and exhalation. Cough and anxiety medication, weight management, restricted physical activity and a reduction in humidity levels can help relieve symptoms and put less stress on the heart and lungs. Equally important is ensuring that no leashes or collars are applied to the throat. A veterinarian can provide a treatment plan and suggestions for a harness if necessary. Surgical correction through "stent" placement is possible in severe cases with young, otherwise healthy dogs.
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