About an hour after I brought my 8 weeks old Chihuahua puppy home she started coughing. It didn’t really sound like a normal cough – it sounded like she might be choking on something. It was a mix between a cough and a wheezing sound. In a slight panic thinking that perhaps my new little Chi baby had Parvovirus or Kennel Cough I took her to the vet.
The vet very calmly explained to me that certain dog breeds have this type of coughing associated with them. He explained it as a partial collapse of the trachea due to some Chihuahuas having a congenital weakness in the cartilage. I remember asking him how we fix it and he said “We don’t. It something that will likely happen when the dog gets excited about something….and she will cough. Unless you see it getting much worse, we don’t usually treat her it”.
One of the first signs of tracheal collapse can be a sudden attack of dry coughing that sounds a little bit like a goose honking. It progresses from the honking sound to a more consistent cough and often occurs when there’s pressure placed on the dog’s throat – like when they pull at their leash on a walk.
In our case, all the Chihuahuas I have owned in my life have, at some point, be all happy and waggy-tailed and then they start this coughing sound(which to me sounds kind of like a mix between a cat trying to hork up a furball and a sea-lion).
I’ve talked with many Chi owners and most all of them have had this occur from time to time. Some people call this a “reverse sneeze”, but in our case, it’s all mouth and no nose. It’s definitely a cough.
So, if your little guy begins sounding like an aquatic animal, and you hear yourself saying “My Chihuahua is coughing”.. keep this mind: Don’t panic and talk to your vet. Some vets will offer meds (for life) and some will offer to surgically insert a splint in the dog’s throat as a way to provide a cure. I had no interest in doing either of these. However, each case is different and if your dog is truly suffering and his trachea is fully collapsing then, of course, a different course would need to be considered.
In most cases, tracheal collapse is congenital, which means it’s present from birth from a deficiency in certain components of the cartilage rings – or it can be acquired. Strangely, we had one dog that figured out if she mimicked the type of cough her mother had been doing since birth, everyone would start petting him and saying “Ah, it’s OK Rambo”. He learned how to use this to get attention! When we figured this out, we’d say “Rambo, it’s not gonna work this time” and he would just stop coughing and walk away. I’m sure he was secretly plotting where he would leave me puddle, but I can’t prove it.