10 Best Harnesses for Dogs with Collapsed Trachea

The tube that makes up the trachea is made up of stacked C-shaped rings of cartilage. The rings allow the trachea to keep its strength but to also remain flexible so the dog can move well. If the cartilage is not strong enough, it can become constricted. If the rings collapse it reduces the amount of air that can pass through the tube, the dog typically begins to cough hard.

Until the dog can get enough air again, the coughing spell will continue. When walking your dog, you definitely want to know the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

Before we dive into what makes the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea, here’s a quick overview:

Last update on 2022-12-04. Source: Amazon.com.

For a more detailed review of each dog harness, read on to find out more.

What’s the Best Harness for Dogs with Collapsed Trachea?

Embark Active Dog Harness

The Embark Active Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) is easy to put on and remove which may make it easier to avoid putting pressure on the trachea while you get your dog prepared to walk. The Embark harness only needs to be adjusted once if your dog is full-grown.

The handle on the back is excellent for lifting small dogs or getting the dog to move without pulling on a collar or lifting a dog by the belly and neck. This is especially important with collapsed trachea since you want to avoid ever lifting in a way that will compress the throat. The harness is compatible with most seat belt attachments making it a popular choice for pet owners.

This dog harness may not be best for puppies or ultra-small dogs. The harness will not fit tiny dogs like a Chihuahua puppy. The company has a general money-back guarantee if you want to try it.

Blueberry Pet 3M Reflective Dog Harness

The Blueberry Pet 3M Reflective Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) is an excellent harness for those who walk at night since it has a reflective stripe. This may be the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea as pet owners often prefer it.

The harness is not a stretchable material which is good for strength but should not be used in situations where you want flexible fabric. The company recommends that dogs always be attended while wearing this harness. The non-stretch material can still be fine for dogs with collapsed trachea as long as the fit is just right.

The buckle is plastic which is eco-friendly but not extremely tough. If your dog is very strong, you may want a harness with a metal buckle. The D-ring itself is matte-coated metal so the leash will stay firmly attached even if the dog tries to pull hard. A big plus with this harness is that its machine washable in cold water.

Rabitgoo No Pull Dog Harness

The Rabitgoo No Pull Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) has adjustable side straps to allow for a custom fit without putting pressure on the trachea. Even if you need to re-adjust as your puppy grows, this harness has an advantage with the side straps. This is an excellent candidate for the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

This harness also has reflective straps for night walks. The material is soft and breathable but comes with very heavy padding. For small to large dogs, this harness is one of the better ones in terms of padding.

Some users recommend hand-washing only due to the extra padding. For very small dogs, be cautious with this harness. The extra-small is only available in a limited range of colors and won’t fit some of the smallest puppies.

The Original EcoBark Maximum Comfort and Control Dog Harness

The Original EcoBark Maximum Comfort and Control Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) can fit dogs from 4 to 65 pounds so this one has one of the wider size ranges. It has an extra-soft padded vest and no-choke design so it’s one of the better options for collapsed trachea for dogs over 4 lbs. It was one of our top 3 personal favorite dog harnesses. Again, another excellent candidate for the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea for pet owners.

This harness is also from a very eco-friendly line and has soft straps made from recycled water bottles. It’s lightweight and still retains strength. It has quick release clasps as well, so if your dog has a coughing fit while walking you can remove the harness quickly.

We recommend this hardness for dogs with collapsed trachea due to the comfort, flexibility and size range. We don’t recommend buying this dog in the same size you might have purchased with previous dog harnesses.

Do measure your dog carefully before making your size choice. The head must be able to pass through the dog’s neck opening, but although this requires careful measuring it also means safety and security while your dog wears this harness.

The extra small is for tiny dogs. The small and medium size will fit some small breed dogs, so measurements are everything. This harness is based on width measurements, not weight, so what you might buy in another brand of the harness may not apply to this one. What you will get is an excellent and long-lasting harness for tiny or small dogs with collapsed trachea.

Voyager All-Weather No-Pull Step-in Mesh Dog Harness

The Voyager All-Weather No-Pell Step-In Mesh Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) also requires careful measurements and is not based on weight. The company provides a sizing chart to help with this so pet owners like us can figure it out easily.

This harness is good, and a great candidate for being the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea, if you live in an area with a lot of wet weather since the fabric is made to be water resistant and to remain durable and non-slip even when wet. Once you have the harness set up, this one is super-easy for dogs to get into without even touching the trachea.

For dogs that are nervous about collars and harnesses, this one may be a good option. It has a strong Velcro closure that is easily pressed closed after the dog steps in and it includes metal D rings. The Velcro is popular with many pet owners.

Urpower Dog Harness and Leash Set

The Urpower Dog Harness and Leash Set (link to read reviews on Amazon) is made of heavy-duty denim and fits small to large dogs. It is constructed out of two thick layers of actual blue jeans plus red nylon to add comfort control. This is a very colorful harness with orange stitching as well. It’s also a fantastic choice for being the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

This harness isn’t likely to tear easily or be chewed up since it has the denim fabric and tough hardware, wear-resistant fittings and 2 strong adjustable straps.

This harness has no special features other than the vibrant colors and we recommend that you measure carefully if considering this one for extra small dogs. Otherwise, it is a decent basic harness that is cost-effective since it comes with a matching leash.

JUXZH Soft-Front No-Pull Dog Harness

The JUXZH Soft-Front No-Pull Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) comes in a variety of colors and the small size will fit a dog with a chest from 17-22 inches, so if you have a small dog of this size it can work. A great candidate for being the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

The buckle is extra-strong, but won’t fit extremely small dogs. One reader who tried it on a five pound Sheltie puppy did not get a successful fit. Others said it was a bit heavy or bulky.

This harness has safety features such as reflective material and a seat-belt attachment for car rides. It has a soft sponge padding in the chest area that prevents trachea compression even when you pull up on it. This one has multiple potential leash positions. Just measure the chest circumference in the line shown in the pictures to make sure this will fit your dog.

Copatchy No-Pull Reflect Adjustable Dog Harness with Handle

The Copatchy No-Pull Reflect Adjustable Dog Harness with Handle (link to read reviews on Amazon) fits very snug if the right size is available, so it is a good harness for dogs that easily get out of other dog harnesses. It still puts no pressure on the trachea as long as you don’t get a harness that is too big. A loose harness can slip upwards.

The harness is sponge-filled for extreme comfort, puts no stress on the trachea and is good for “pullers.” This one is popular for extended training sessions due to the comfort features. The top handle is a big plus for elderly dogs or other dogs that need help with mobility. There is no trachea pressure while lifting the handle. Another great reason for potentially being the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

There are clips in the neck and chest area which allow the harness to be taken on and off with only a little neck pressure. The only downside to this harness is the slight pressure placed near the dog’s neck while unsnapping that part of the harness. If your dog gets coughing fits with very slight pressure, there are other dog harnesses in our list that may be better.

Chai’s Choice Best Outdoor Adventure Dog Harness

The Chai’s Choice Best Outdoor Adventure Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) includes a lifting handle for mobility aid, two leash attachments and can be purchased with a matching leash. Chai’s Choice is a USA Veteran-owned company, so it’s a great choice for being the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

The handle can also be used with a car seatbelt attached through the handle area for car safety. It has a lightweight buckle that is still very strong. The small harness can fit any dog with a chest size of 17-22 inches.

This one has a 3M reflective vest offering a bigger reflective area than many dog harnesses. For frequent night walkers, this helps. Chai’s Choice has a soft sponge padding in the chest and in the belly, so there are more areas of padding as well. The adjustable straps allow for custom fit which is always good for dogs with collapsed trachea. The zinc-alloy rings allow for multiple leash positions.

As a bonus, we received links to special how-to videos on YouTube with our purchase. Check the sizing guide before purchasing, but as long as you can get this one in the size you need, this harness is another one of our top 3 picks.

Ruffwear Front-Range No-Pull Dog Harness

Ruffwear is a well-known name in the harness industry and is recommended by many dog trainers and dog owners. We took a closer look at the Ruffwear Front-Range No-Pull Dog Harness (link to read reviews on Amazon) for dogs with collapsed trachea since the harness is already extremely popular and highly rated in general. Without a doubt one of the most likely winners of the best harness for dogs with collapsed trachea.

The harness comes in a very wide range of sizes which is a big plus. In some colors, it starts as little as XXS with a 13-17 inch chest option. There are also extra small and small sizes available so it can fit most dogs and puppies as long as you measure carefully.

The padded chest and belly are very comfortable and the side-release buckles are great for dogs with a collapsed trachea. There are four total points of adjustment for perfect fit. Ruffwear includes the same two leash attachment points as other good dog harnesses, one in front and one on the back.

Readers who tried this harness loved it and enjoyed the small bonus pocket that allows the dog to carry an ID tag even when the collar is off. Unless your dog gets uncomfortable with harnesses that slip on over-the-head, this harness is in our top 3 favorites.

Why Use a Harness for Dogs with Collapsed Trachea

When your dog suffers from a collapsed trachea, one of the first things you will want to do is change out their collar for a harness. The first sign of tracheal collapse is a cough that sounds like a honking goose. The cough, along with other symptoms, is most apparent when your dog’s collar is pulled. The use of a harness will be a tremendous help in alleviating the issues caused by a collapsed trachea.

Why should you use a harness for your dog with a collapsed trachea? Any dog with a tracheal collapse should wear a harness as opposed to a collar because it reduces all pressure on their throat.

Collars are used to control a dog by pushing on the sensitive and vulnerable areas of the neck, which is where vital structures such as the airway are located. Using a harness will alleviate strain on the neck because it fits around the chest and rib cage instead.

All dogs can suffer from tracheal collapse, but small and senior dogs are more vulnerable. Smaller dogs, especially, more fragile necks and tracheas. In fact, this condition is most common in breeds like the Chihuahua, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier. If you have a dog under 20 pounds, the constant pulling from their collar can damage their sensitive throats. Any amount of pressure on a small dog’s throat can lead to or exacerbate a collapsed trachea.

What is a Collapsed Trachea?

Tracheal collapse is a chronic, progressive disease that impacts the windpipe, or your dog’s trachea in the throat. A collapsed trachea can severely affect your dog’s breathing and, if not diagnosed and treated properly, may lead to serious health problems.

Just as in people, the trachea carries air from your dog’s nose and mouth through the neck and into the lungs. It is a tube, somewhat like a vacuum cleaner hose, made up of c-shaped rings of cartilage connected by muscle. The rigid rings keep the airway open.

When the tracheal rings become weak they begin the collapse, resulting in a narrower airway. When this happens, your dog’s breathing becomes difficult often causing your dog to pant excessively and they will acquire a chronic cough. If not treated, a collapsed trachea could lead to more serious problems.

A collapsed trachea can be a congenital defect, meaning it’s present from birth, or it can be acquired. If the disease is congenital, the cartilage rings contain certain deficiencies that cause them to weaken and soften, causing them to collapse. An acquired tracheal collapse is often caused by certain underlying respiratory diseases, such as Cushing’s disease and heart disease.

When your dog’s cartilage rings are either not formed correctly at birth, or they begin to weaken from a condition, they will begin to change from a c-shape to a u-shape. The cartilage rings will get progressively flatter, especially if a collar is putting pressure and strain on your dog’s neck until your dog’s trachea collapses. This will leave your dog trying to breathe through something similar to a closed straw.

Signs and Symptoms of a Collapsed Trachea

One of the first signs of a collapsed trachea in your dog is a sudden attack of coughing that sounds somewhat like a honking goose. This will then progress to a more consistent and persistent cough, most often occurring when there’s pressure placed on the trachea.

As the disease progresses, your dog will begin to show obvious signs of respiratory distress. He will also show other clinical signs that will vary with the severity of the collapse, along with how narrow the airway becomes.

Additional symptoms of a collapsed trachea include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Retching
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Blue-tinged gums
  • Fainting
  • Wheezing
  • Gagging 

Certain factors may bring about or exacerbate the symptoms of a collapsed trachea, including:

  • Obesity
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Exercise
  • Excitement
  • Stress
  • Irritants, like smoke or dust
  • Hot and humid weather

None of the signs and symptoms associated with a collapsed trachea are unique to the disease. Any adverse condition of the upper or lower airway can be mistaken for tracheal collapse, including laryngeal paralysis, an elongated soft palate, infection of the trachea or lungs, heart failure, a foreign object in the airway, and tumors or polyps. You will need to get a proper diagnosis from your veterinarian to confirm a diagnosis of tracheal collapse.

How to Diagnose a Collapsed Trachea

In order to diagnose a collapsed trachea in your dog, your veterinarian will start by taking a complete health history and performing a physical examination. The vet may even be able to trigger a cough by pressing on your dog’s windpipe. They will then need to perform some diagnostic tests to confirm that it is, in fact, a collapsed trachea. The tests may include:

  • X-ray – An x-ray may be able to detect tracheal collapse by showing the narrowing of the tracheal opening, but it is not always the most effective method.

  • Fluoroscopy – A fluoroscopy is a type of moving x-ray that allows the vet to visualize your dog’s trachea as it breathes in and out.

  • Endoscopy – This is the most effective, but also most intrusive, method to diagnose a collapsed trachea. After numbing your dog’s airway, the vet will insert a tube with an attached video camera down its throat. This allows a view of the inside of the trachea, as well as the ability to collect culture samples for additional analysis.

An echocardiogram may also need to be performed to evaluate your dog’s heart function and to help determine a treatment plan.

How to Treat a Collapsed Trachea

If your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with a collapsed trachea, the next step will be to find an effective treatment. Although we know as dog owners that treatment won’t cure the disease, most dogs show an excellent long-term response to it. It’s important to break the coughing cycle because a cough irritates the already-compromised airway and leads to more complications.

Medical Treatments for a Collapsed Trachea

Treatments for a collapsed trachea can include:

  • Cough suppressants – These not only control the annoying symptom, but high-quality cough suppressants they also help reduce the irritation and inflammation that promotes more coughing.

  • Anti-inflammatories – Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce the swelling of the trachea.

  • Bronchodilators – These medications will open up small airways within the lungs, which will then ease the pressure put on the trachea.

  • Sedatives – Light, oral sedation can help reduce your dog’s anxiety or excitement, which will keep their symptoms from getting worse.

  • Antibiotics – There is a higher risk of infection with tracheal collapse. Your dog may be prescribed an antibiotic if an infection is suspected.

  • Anabolic steroids – Stanozolol, a derivative of testosterone, can help treat a collapsed trachea. It offers anti-inflammatory support and may help to strengthen cartilage.

Since there is no way to cure your dog’s collapsed trachea, as dog owners it is very important to continue with the treatments recommended by your veterinarian. Always monitor your dog’s condition and, if at any time you notice that symptoms are getting worse, contact your vet immediately.

Surgical Treatments for a Collapsed Trachea

Most dogs respond well to medication, but if your dog does not improve after several weeks of treatment, or their condition is affecting their quality of life, you may need to consider surgical options. As dog owners, this is a very serious consideration.

There are two options your veterinary surgeon may recommend: placing artificial rings on the outside of your dog’s trachea or putting a stent inside the trachea. Both options will prevent collapse, but one may be recommended over the other depending on your dog’s specific situation. 

Both surgeries have high success rates, especially with dogs under 6 years of age. However, complications can occur, and some dogs may continue to need some medical management even after surgery. You also need to keep in mind that either surgical procedure will be expensive.

Lifestyle Changes for a Collapsed Trachea

Many dogs that suffer from tracheal collapse also suffer from various other conditions like obesity, heart disease, liver enlargement, dental problems, and conditions affecting their voice box (larynx). All of these conditions will make the symptoms of a collapsed trachea worse, so they must be addressed in order for your dog to have a better quality of life.

While some of these conditions may need the help of your vet, there are certain lifestyle changes for your pet that you can do at home.

  • Your dog should be fed a diet that helps them lose or maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Your dog’s home should be free of cigarette smoke, allergens, dust, and strong fragrances.
  • Your dog should be exercised on a regular basis.

Exercise, however, has both benefits and potential risks if your dog has a collapsed trachea. It can help with weight management and relaxing your dog, but it can also make matters worse. If your dog gets over-excited, over-worked, or over-exposed to irritants while on a walk, their symptoms will worsen. Take your dog for slow, easy walks, and determine the best time of day and length that will work.

Most importantly, if your dog has a collapsed trachea, he or she should only wear a choke-free harness. A dog with a tracheal collapse should never wear anything around their necks, especially while out for a walk, that will put pressure on their windpipe.

How to Use a Dog Harness

Fitting your dog with a harness is easy. Follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Open the harness and place it on the ground.
  2. Get your dog to stand over the harness.
  3. Manually help your dog step his paws through the loops.
  4. Pull the harness up around your dog’s torso and secure it.
  5. Tighten the straps so the harness fits snugly, making sure that you can fit two fingers between the harness and your dog’s body.

To help your dog accept the harness and associate it with a positive experience, as dog owners we should use treats to encourage and reward them. If your dog resists at first, be patient and wait a few hours before trying to put it on again.

Once your dog has accepted having the harness on, let him wear it as much as possible, even when not on walks. Soon, they will feel comfortable with it on and you will have the peace of mind that they will not be damaging their collapsed trachea.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right harness for your dog is important. Besides protecting your dog’s windpipe, harnesses offer more control, making them even more ideal for dogs who pull while walking. Dog harnesses are easier to use when redirecting aggressive behavior, and they can help improve leash training.

If your dog is suffering from a collapsed trachea or other breathing problems, there’s no doubt you should consider buying them a no-pull dog harness. Both you and your dog will be glad you did.