Do Dog Collars Cause Tracheal Collapse? (The Truth)


The trachea (or windpipe) is the tube that connects your dog’s throat to their lungs, allowing air to enter and exit.

It goes without saying that making sure your dog’s trachea doesn’t get damaged is super important. If your dog has a tracheal collapse it can seriously harm your beloved four-legged family member. Can the collar they wear cause this terrible event to happen?

Collars on their own do not cause tracheal collapse. Some dogs are born with less cartilage in their trachea which makes the structure of their windpipes more vulnerable. But, constant pulling pressure on a dog’s delicate throat while wearing a collar can contribute to a tracheal collapse.

In this post we discuss everything about dog collars and their relation to tracheal collapse. You’ll also learn about the symptoms, prevention, and remedies of the condition.

Let’s jump right in.

do dog collars cause tracheal collapse

What Exactly Is Tracheal Collapse?

Breaking the tracheal rings results in progressive respiratory diseases known as “tracheomalacia,” which indicates inflammation or weakening inside this region, leading to collapse. It may cause harsh dry coughs for your canine.

The reason for tracheal collapse in dogs isn’t entirely known, it could be something a dog is simply born with. Your puppy may be born without enough cartilage cellular rings to support their airways and vocal cords, and they produce a honking.

Can Pulling On a Collar Cause a Dog’s Trachea To Collapse?

A dog frequently pulling on their collar could cause tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse is rather unknown but if a dog is born with less cartilage in their trachea to maintain the structure of their airway, constant pressure on their throat isn’t good.

This is another reason why it’s super important to spend enough time training your dog to walk nicely on their leash.

Moving pulling pressure to their chest instead of their throat is the main reason why people recommend a harness over a collar. Since harnesses rest below a dog’s throat there’s no pressure being put on their trachea if they end up pulling.

If you notice your dog coughing quite a bit even after their walk, it would be a good idea to have a vet take a look at them.

How To Know If Your Dog’s Collar May Have Caused Tracheal Collapse

If during your walk you have constant tension on the leash while they’re wearing a collar, it could be a matter of time before their trachea collapses. If they aren’t born with enough cartilage in their trachea the added pressure would make their situation worse.

If you start to notice your dog coughing differently, sounding similar to a goose honking, there’s a possibility that they may have a collapsed trachea.

Why Do Dog Collars Cause Tracheal Collapse?

The most apparent reason is that a dog collar is close to the dog’s tracheal ring and its cartilage. The excess pressure from pulling and tugging puts a lot of strain on their trachea, causing it to crack, collapse or get injured.

The extent of the tracheal collapse is linked to the force you use to pull your pup or that they use to pull you. And if it’s frequent and powerful, then this condition might worsen with time.

Do All Dog Collars Have The Potential to Cause Tracheal Collapse?

Tracheal collapse could be a congenital disorder where a dog is already born with weakened tracheal rings. Which means it won’t take much pressure from their collar to cause their trachea to collapse. This is, however, a rare case.

All collars have the potential to cause tracheal collapse but it’s not super common. Some dogs are born with strong cartilage in their trachea that better protects their airways where others have weaker cartilage that are more at risk.

This means that one dog could pull aggressively on their leash their entire life and not undergo a tracheal collapse. While another could be at risk with far fewer pulling instances.

To give your pup the best chance at avoiding a tracheal collapse (unless they were born with the condition) you’ll need to train them to walk with a loose leash.

How To Ensure Your Dog Doesn’t Damage Their Throat Wearing a Collar

If your dog was not born with tracheal collapse, then it is preventable.

Here are some of the things you can do to ensure that your dog does not damage their throat while they have a collar on:

Find Them a Comfortable Well-Fitting Collar

The first thing to do is get your dog a light collar that’s relatively loose on their neck.

The collar should be free moving, but not constricting the airway or squeezing their neck.

The best way to know if your dog collar fits perfectly is to try and rotate it. Also if you can place 2 fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. If you cannot turn it or fit 2 fingers, then that collar is too tight.

Refrain From Tugging And Pulling Your Dog’s Leash

Teaching your dog from an early age to be able to go on a walk with a loose leash will ensure they don’t damage their throat.

If you have an older dog you can definitely still train them to walk with a loose leash, it just might take a little more time and patience.

The better your dog is at walking with a loose leash the less opportunity there is for their throat to get damaged from excessive pressure by their collar.

Consider Using a Harness Instead Of a Collar

A harness essentially does the same job as a collar, but it’s wrapped around their chest instead of their throat. This means if your dog does pull, the pressure will be applied to their chest instead of their throat.

A harness with a front-clip is also a good tool to help train your dog to stop pulling.

What Dog Breeds Are More Prone To Tracheal Collapse?

In general, smaller dogs are more prone to having their trachea collapse. Here’s a list of a few breeds that tracheal collapse occurs more with:

  • Miniature and Toy Poodles
  • Pomeranians
  • Chihuahuas
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Pugs
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Shih Tzu

These are just some of the more common dog breeds that can get tracheal collapse genetically and after pulling on their leash & collar.

But, it does not mean that if you have one of these breeds as a family member that their trachea will collapse. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean that other breeds of dogs can’t experience a tracheal collapse.

They, too, can get tracheal collapse if you, or they, tug with too much force.

5 Signs a Dog Could Have a Collapsed Trachea

The signs that could indicate your dog is suffering from tracheal collapse are:

  • Wheezing
  • Breathing problems
  • When you pick them up or put pressure on their neck, they cough.
  • Events of vomiting or gagging
  • A dry cough without phlegm

If you notice one or several of these symptoms and they happen often, you should take them to your local vet to have them looked at as soon as possible.

What Triggers a Collapsed Trachea in Dogs?

Unfortunately, the cause of most cases of tracheal collapse are unknown.

The best thing for a dog mom or dad to know is which breeds are most likely to experience a tracheal collapse and why it happens. Tracheal collapses happen when there’s not enough cartilage in a dog’s trachea to support their airways.

If this is the case, a dog’s trachea can collapse on it’s own (quite rare) or added pressure to their throat can contribute to their trachea collapsing.

If your dog is a part of the breeds that have an increased chance of having a tracheal collapse, you’ll want to do your best to make sure their walks are without pulling & tugging on the leash.

Final Thoughts

Some dogs might be more susceptible than others to Collapsing Trachea Syndrome, but no matter what type of dog you have, it’s important to keep their throat away from strain as much as possible.

Some dog’s can go their whole life pulling on their leash and collar without any complications. Others might not be so lucky. Training your dog to loose leash walk has many benefits but keeping their neck safe and healthy is probably at the top.

A harness could be a great solution if your dog is a slow learner and you’d like to keep their throat safe from pulling ASAP.

Other posts you might find interesting:

Are Quick Release Dog Collars Safe? (The Truth!)

Dog Harnesses Fully Explained (Are They Cruel?)

Do Harnesses Encourage Pulling? (The Truth..)

Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessories. Learn more about Alec's story here

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