Ruptured windpipe (trachea)
We were having a quiet morning after a very hectic week, when a frantic dog owner suddenly rushed in with her dog, Meg. She had got into a fight with a bigger dog which bit her around the throat and given her a nasty shake. Suddenly, she was very short on breath and air was building up under her skin. Her tongue was blue and there were whistling sounds of air rushing in and out of one of the dog bite wounds on her neck.
We suspected an injury to her windpipe (trachea) which was leaking air into the tissues around it. The fact that her colour was blue was a poor sign, suggesting major problems with her getting air to and from the lungs. We made the dog bite wound larger so air could more easily go in and out of the lungs even though it was not the normal route.
We gave Meg an IV anesthetic and passed an endotracheal (ET) tube down her trachea from the back of the throat. It would only go half way down her neck but improved her breathing considerably.
A quick incision was made down onto the trachea to find it had been completely cut in half. The lower half of the trachea had retracted down her neck and there was a gap of approx 5cm between the 2 ends.
We placed a strong suture around the retracted part of the trachea and gently pulled it forward towards the head. We were then able to pass the ET tube into the lower half of the trachea down into her chest to give a better anesthetic.
We then placed 6 stitches on the far side of the trachea, joining one side together. When the gap narrowed, we partly withdrew the ET tube back into the throat and placed a new ET tube into the lacerated area down into the chest. It had a smaller diameter allowing us to place more stitches.
Once we had stitched approx 75% of the trachea together, we removed the ET tube and pushed the original one back down into the chest. We then finished stitching the trachea together.
We left the surgical site open in case there were any small leaks of air. If we had not done this and air did in fact leak, it would have built up under the skin and caused severe post operative complications.
Just to prove how tough a dog she was, Meg sat up 2 hours after surgery and devoured a bowl of tin cat food. Over 10 days, this hole slowly closed and the trachea had healed.