What is hypoplastic trachea?

In this congenital condition (ie dogs are born with it), there is abnormal growth of the rings of cartilage that make up the trachea, resulting in a narrowed airway. Hypoplastic trachea is seen most often in young brachycephalic dogs, and can occur as one component of brachycephalic syndrome. The condition may also occur at the same time as heart abnormalities. Brachycephalics are those breeds which have a comparatively short head.

The degree of tracheal narrowing ranges from mild to severe, as does the severity of clinical signs. Some dogs with this condition appear to outgrow it.

How is hypoplastic trachea inherited?


What breeds are affected by hypoplastic trachea?

The condition is seen most commonly in brachycephalic breeds, especially the English bulldog and Boston terrier.

For many breeds and many disorders, the studies to determine the mode of inheritance or the frequency in the breed have not been carried out, or are inconclusive. We have listed breeds for which there is a consensus among those investigating in this field and among veterinary practitioners, that the condition is significant in this breed.

What does hypoplastic trachea mean to your dog & you?

Since this is a congenital condition (ie dogs are born with it), problems are usually noticed by 5 or 6 months of age. The kinds of signs you will see include noisy or laboured breathing, and coughing. Your pup may become ill with bronchopneumonia (moist cough, lethargy, fever).

Dogs with no abnormality other than a mild to moderately narrowed trachea may have no clinical problems; however hypoplastic trachea is frequently seen as one element of brachycephalic syndrome. Affected dogs have varying degrees of obstruction to their airways, which causes signs ranging from noisy breathing to collapse.

How is hypoplastic trachea diagnosed?

Your veterinarian may find this problem on routine physical examination, or because your dog has respiratory difficulties. S/he will take x-rays to determine the extent of the narrowing, taking into consideration that all bulldogs have relatively small tracheas.

For the veterinarian: On x-ray, the size of the tracheal lumen does not vary with the stage of the respiratory cycle as is seen with tracheal collapse. 

How is hypoplastic trachea treated?

There is no specific treatment to correct the tracheal malformation. If your dog does not have heart disease or brachycephalic syndrome, the condition may never cause any clinical problems.

It is wise to maintain your dog at a healthy weight, as being overweight will worsen any respiratory difficulties. There may be occasional need for broncho-dilator therapy and antibiotics to treat an infection.



Brayley, KA, Ettinger, SJ. 1995. Disorders of the trachea. In EJ Ettinger and EC Feldman(eds.) Texbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, p. 754-766. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

Copyright © 1998 Canine Inherited Disorders Database. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 07, 2001.

This database is a joint initiative of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.