Upper Respiratory Issues
Chihuahuas suffer from a variety of upper respiratory conditions, not all of which are medical problems. The following sections describe some of the most common you are likely to observe in your Chi.
This condition is one that is almost exclusively seen in toy and miniature breeds, especially the Chihuahua. It is considered to have a genetic factor; however, it can be difficult to eradicate because symptoms often don't appear until the Chihuahua is middle-aged and has already been bred (potentially) many times.
Tracheal collapse is the inability of the inner rings of the trachea (the air tube from mouth to lungs) to keep their circular shape, causing the trachea to narrow significantly or collapse while the dog is breathing. When this happens the Chihuahua will make a harsh, honking cough.
Obesity, heart disease, and chronic respiratory infections are thought to play a role in exacerbating the extent of a dog's tracheal collapse. All of these factors can apply added pressure to the trachea, forcing faulty cartilage in the trachea to collapse even further.
The coughing tends to occur in fits, with the coughing spells becoming more and more frequent and debilitating over time. Periods of exercise, excitement, pulling on a leash during a walk (putting pressure to the trachea), drinking, and eating will often initiate these coughing fits.
At this time, there is no known cure for trachea collapse; however, it can be managed relatively well with bronchodilators, nebulizers, and vaporizers. In some cases, corticosteroids (as a fast-acting anti-inflammatory) and sedatives may be necessary. In all cases, Chihuahuas with this condition should be walked on a halter or harness to avoid any direct pressure on the trachea.
Chihuahuas are notorious for a condition called reverse sneezing, which could be mistaken for a collapsing trachea. Reverse sneezing is brought on by periods of excitement and exercise, and the sound a Chi makes when reverse sneezing is quite alarming. Rest assured, however, that this condition is neither related to trachea collapse nor dangerous.
When a Chihuahua starts reverse sneezing, she usually stops moving and becomes a little hunched as she starts sucking air in hard through her nostrils, making a dreadful wheezing sound. The episodes don't last more than a minute at most. If you want to help your Chi halt the reverse sneezing, you can try blocking her nostrils with your fingers or encouraging her to swallow a few treats.
Many new Chihuahua owners are amazed the first time they hear the melodious sounds of a Chi enjoying a deep, luxurious sleep. In other words, Chihuahuas snore. Snoring has nothing to do with a collapsing trachea — it happens because they have shorter muzzles. It's just a cute little thing that Chihuahuas do when they're very relaxed and comfortable. Smile and enjoy.