Breathe Easy Understanding Asthma in Dogs

A closeup of the nose of a dog with asthma.

Pet emergencies can be distressing, especially when they involve your pet’s ability to breathe. While there are many different causes of respiratory problems in our pet patients, you can be assured that Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care is equipped to diagnose and handle all kinds of scenarios. 

Many respiratory problems that we see appear similarly to how one might envision asthma in dogs. While true asthma is not something that is often seen in dogs, there are definitely diseases that might seem consistent with it. Understanding these worrisome canine conditions can help pet owners spot trouble quickly and seek help early, before it becomes a true emergency.

Asthma in Dogs and Similar Conditions

True asthma involves repeated episodes of inflammation and narrowing of the lower airways. We often diagnose this condition in other species like cats and horses, but actual asthma in dogs is much less common. 

When the bronchi in the lungs are irritated, they try to heal themselves by creating inflammation. This inflammation itself can narrow the airways, but it can also stimulate mucus production, which in turn can cause a cough which then worsens the inflammation. 

Airway irritants often include things like cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, perfume, dust or other airborne allergens. 

Asthmatic patients will have recurring episodes of this inflammation, whereas more chronic airway inflammation results in bronchitis.

Coughing and other respiratory symptoms in dogs may be caused by a variety of conditions including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Heartworm disease
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Fungal disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Airway irritation
  • Asthma

Patients affected by asthma and other similar respiratory conditions may cough, wheeze, pant, or experience fast or labored breathing. Typically, diagnostic testing including things like a veterinarian examination, radiographs, and blood tests are needed to diagnose the cause of the respiratory symptoms. 

When Breathing Trouble Becomes an Emergency

Any time a pet is having trouble breathing, we recommend giving us a call and bringing them in for evaluation. Breathing problems can become urgent very quickly, and it is best to err on the side of caution when they occur. Definitely do not hesitate if your pet:

  • Has blue or grey gums/tongue
  • Seems to have a hard time getting enough air
  • Can’t perform normal tasks without trouble
  • Is not eating or drinking normally
  • Is having heavy wheezing
  • Cannot seem to stop coughing
  • Collapses or faints

Some pets may need supplemental oxygen or other therapy to be able to get enough air.

Most of the time asthma in dogs and other similar conditions caused by irritation of the airways are manageable. You can help your pet by avoiding things like air fresheners, perfumes, and cigarette smoke in your home.

Using HEPA filters and minimizing dust is also helpful.

There is also growing information that pet obesity can exacerbate respiratory problems. Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight is a helpful step in managing respiratory disease.

Some pets may also need ongoing medications or inhalers to manage their airway inflammation. Our team will work with you and your pet to create the best treatment plan possible for your pet.

Asthma in dogs and other lower airway diseases do happen, but by being vigilant and knowing your pet’s normal behavior and habits you can do a lot in the way of detecting trouble. Call us at (704) 334-4684 to learn more.