Traumatic injuries of the respiratory system are fairly common in the dog and cat. Most of these injuries can lead to life
threatening complications. It is important that the veterinary clinician be familiar with the clinical signs associated with
these injuries and be prepared for aggressive intervention when required. This paper will present some of the common traumatic
injuries affecting the respiratory system, clinical signs and treatment for stabilization.
Traumatic injuries of the airways can occur in both dogs and cats. These injuries may be secondary to blunt or penetrating
trauma. Blunt trauma to the trachea or larynx can lead to hemorrhage or edema of the airway. In some cases this trauma can
lead to secondary obstruction due to swelling of the airway mucosa and or hemorrhage. The most vulnerable portion of the airway
system is the trachea. The cervical trachea is susceptible to crushing injuries, ballistic injuries and other penetrating
injuries such as bite wounds.
Clinical signs associated with airway trauma include dyspnea and cyanosis. Subcutaneous emphysema is often present following
the injury. The respiratory pattern may vary depending on the level of the disease ie extrathoracic versus intrathoracic.
Additional diagnostic evaluation may include radiography, contrast radiography or tracheoscopy.
Emergency treatment of these cases includes oxygen supplementation and restoration of the airway. This may include tracheostomy
and continued medical management or surgical repair in the case of tracheal disruption. Stabilization of other concurrent
disorders such as shock and pneumothorax must also be a priority.