My gorgeous three-year-old Pomeranian, Esther, has a collapsing trachea, which seems to be getting worse. She will have about four or five, what I call, honking fits a week lasting anything from 30 seconds to two minutes. She takes them in her stride as she has always had them, but recently she seems to be having more difficulty with her normal breathing. She is constantly wheezing and snorting, and she also snores heavily when she is asleep.
I am wondering if anything can be done to help her. I am hesitant about surgery as she has already been through so much having had operations on both her back legs and her eyes. However, I worry about the long term effects her breathing problems will have on her.
James Lawrence, by email
I can understand your concerns about putting your dog through further surgery. I would, however, advise you to take her to your vet about her breathing because there are other options available. For example, it may be that she has picked up a secondary bacterial infection which will respond well to a course of appropriate antibiotic.
We are all concerned about quality of life, and a dog who is having trouble breathing will not be able to enjoy life to the full. She is, after all, only three years old. As vets, we advise on possible treatments but ultimately the decision is always yours: if you do not want your dog to have any more operations, then an alternative way must be sought to make her comfortable.
Alison Logan, vet
Regarding the snoring problem, I would like to quote from my Guide to Natural Health Care.
“Snoring: An involuntary, deep, guttural sound emanating from the pharynx and soft palate on inspiration or expiration; often intermittent depending on posture of the head. May indicate a chronic, obstructive lesion of the pharynx. (Saunder’s Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary)
Snoring is most commonly seen in older, small breed dogs which are overweight. Affected dogs are often short of breath and cannot exercise. Surgery is often suggested to try and open up the airways but I suspect is rarely carried out because of the uncertainty of the outcome.
I believe snoring can often be cured by less drastic measures. The “obstruction” is usually caused by the muscles of the pharynx or soft palate. They become soft and flabby and as a result tend to sag and obstruct the airway.
An aggressive weight reduction programme combined with controlled exercise will improve muscle tone and tighten up the affected tissues.”
John Burns, Burns Pet Nutrition.