Common diseases in older dogs: Respiratory Ailments

Decreased lung capacity
As your dog gets older, his lungs lose their elasticity. Also, the ability of his lungs to oxygenate the blood may be decreased—making him more prone to respiratory infections. Be sure to have your dog checked by your vet at least twice a year to identify any potential health problems. If your dog appears to have trouble breathing, take him in for a checkup immediately.

Tracheal collapse
Tracheal collapse is a hereditary condition that primarily affects toy breeds—especially Yorkies, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Toy poodles. This disease exists when the rings that make up the trachea (the windpipe) are weakened and become flattened over time, making it difficult for your dog to breathe. Your dog may show symptoms at birth, but in many cases, symptoms appear when dogs are five or older. The symptoms of tracheal collapse include difficulty breathing (especially with exercise or excitement), coughing and fatigue. Often dogs with tracheal collapse will have "attacks" when they appear to be out of breath and seem frightened. In this instance it's very important to stay calm and keep your dog in a cool, quiet environment.

If your dog has this condition, activity or excitement should be reduced generally. If your dog has tracheal collapse and is overweight, weight loss is mandatory to relieve pressure on the airways. Also, instead of a collar, use a harness to take pressure off his airways. If you suspect your dog may have tracheal problems you should see your vet. There are medications available that can help manage this condition. Stent placement in the trachea is an option for some dogs that don't respond to medications. This procedure should only be performed by an experienced specialist in veterinary surgery or internal medicine as it is not without significant risk.

Elongated soft palate
Elongated soft palates may affect some older dogs, though this condition is more common for dogs less than one year of age. With this condition, the soft palate serves as a flap that prevents food and water from entering the nasal passages. When a dog has an Elongated Soft Palate, his soft palate is unusually long, causing chronic airway obstruction (CAO). Dogs affected by CAO tend to make a snoring sound when they inhale. And, the harder the dog breathes, the greater the swelling of the soft palate. Surgery is the most common treatment for this disease.

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