Now You Know

Tuesday, December 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:52 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

What was learned: MU veterinarians are using a surgical procedure to treat small dogs suffering from airway blockage.

How it works: Normally, cartilage in canine windpipes is stiff and supports a tightly stretched membrane across the top of it, which allows air to flow to the lungs, said Carol Reinero, assistant professor of veterinary medicine and surgery at MU.

“When dogs have tracheal collapse, which is fairly common in toy and small breeds, the cartilage degenerates and the membrane blocks the airways,” Reinero said. “Depending on the severity of the obstruction, dogs may cough, show reluctance to exercise or even die if not treated.”

Placing a stent inside the trachea of these animals allows the windpipe to stay open and keeps the membrane properly intact.

The procedure is not without risk and should only be used in canines determined to be good candidates.

Why it matters: Reinero said this type of blockage is one of the most common airway diseases in small dogs.

“This condition can interfere with the quality of life in many of these little dogs, and may ultimately be responsible for their death,” Reinero said. Further research may be conducted by MU to determine how this process improves airway function.

For more information: Reinero suggests pet owners contact local veterinarians with questions about tracheal collapse; referral to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at MU is necessary to determine if it’s the right choice for the dog.

— Jeanette Kozlowski

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