How Do I Care for a Tracheostomy in Dogs?

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Proper care is required if your dog has had a tracheostomy.
Proper care is required if your dog has had a tracheostomy. (Image: naughty dog image by MichMac from Fotolia.com)

A tracheostomy is a surgical procedure that involves creating an opening in the windpipe to allow breathing when the normal passage of air is hindered. This procedure can be done for temporary results or as a long-term solution in either humans or animals. When a dog has a tracheostomy performed, the incision is made through the neck into the trachea. If temporary, a tube is inserted and will remain in for as long as needed while it is under the care of the veterinarian. A permanent tracheostomy requires at-home care after the removal of the tube, which will continue for the life of the dog.

Clip your dog's fur frequently and carefully from the stoma, the skin opening into the trachea. This prevents the dog's hair from blocking the opening. Monitor the area routinely for swelling and discharge. Clean the area of any crust, mucus or other debris that may interfere with your dog's breathing one to two times a day or as needed. Clean the stoma three to five times a day or more, until the area heals completely. Follow any special instructions from the veterinarian regarding about how to best clean the stoma.

Prevent water from entering the trachea to reduce the risk of drowning or choking. Prevent your dog from entering swimming pools and use caution when taking him near bodies of water, such as a beach or lake. Wash your pet carefully to avoid getting water and shampoo into the site.

Walk your dog with a harness instead of a collar and leash. A harness will not block the opening and it will prevent excess pressure and pulling that is often associated with walking a dog using a leash and collar. Refrain from using a collar on your dog at any time, even if you are not walking it.

Monitor the size of the opening routinely. Take your dog to the veterinarian if it appears to grow smaller or if you notice the dog is having difficulty with breathing. In some cases, the hole may need to be surgically enlarged.

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