What are Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs?
The respiratory system and lungs have both large and small airways and when your dog takes a breath, the air is supposed to go down the trachea and into the bronchi (large airways) and to the bronchioles (small airways) inside the lungs. With pneumothorax, your dog is not getting enough oxygen into the blood so the dog will be more tired than usual and breathing will be faster and stronger. This also triggers a response in your dog to contract the spleen to get more red blood cells out, causing the heart, kidney, and liver to work harder.
The five types of pneumothorax: closed, open, tension, spontaneous, and traumatic. Each may have different symptoms, but no matter what is causing it if your dog is having trouble breathing it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. This is a medical emergency, so if you cannot get an appointment right away you should take your dog to an animal clinic or hospital.
Accumulation of air between the chest and lungs (pneumothorax) is described as an accumulation of air in the chest cavity, but outside of the lungs, which prevents the lungs from working properly. This is more prevalent in large dogs with deeper chests, but it can happen to any breed. There are five kinds of pneumothorax, which are closed, open, tension, spontaneous, and traumatic. It is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment.
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Symptoms of Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs in Dogs
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Blue or purple tint to skin and mucous membranes
- Inability to exercise
Open pneumothorax happens when air from outside gets inside the space between the chest wall and the lungs. This usually happens from something piercing the chest in an accident.
Closed pneumothorax is when air has gotten into the space between the chest wall and lungs but it has closed and no more air can enter.
Tension pneumothorax will happen if your dog has a one-way valve disorder that lets air into the chest cavity every time your dog breathes.
Spontaneous pneumothorax is when there is air in between the lungs and chest wall for no apparent reason.
Traumatic pneumothorax is caused by a traumatic injury to the chest that lets air in between the lungs and the chest wall and can be an open or closed pneumothorax.
Causes of Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs in Dogs
There are some dogs that are predisposed to pneumothorax, such as Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, and other large breeds with deep chests. There are many causes of air between the chest and lungs and each type has its own suspected causes:
- Knife injury
- Bite wound
- Car accident
- Car accident
- Severe impact
- Physical abuse (usually from owner)
- Tears in the lung
- Damage to airways
- Rips in chest wall
- Foxtail seed (grass awn) penetration
- Porcupine quill penetration
- Heartworm infection
- Lung abscesses
- Bacterial pneumonia
Diagnosis of Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs in Dogs
The first thing your veterinarian will do is to get the condition under control so your dog can breathe. Oxygen therapy and sedation will be necessary while the veterinarian performs a thoracentesis to get the air out from between your dog’s lungs and chest wall. The veterinarian may also place a chest tube to get the air out faster. In the case of an open wound, the veterinarian will have to clean and place a bandage on the area to be surgically repaired as soon as your dog is stable enough.
Your veterinarian will need to know your dog’s complete medical history, symptoms that may have been present before the pneumothorax happened, and if your dog has had any injuries recently. Once your dog is stable, some tests will need to be done to determine the cause if possible. Those tests are:
- Digital radiographs (x-rays)
- Ultrasound if the images are needed fast
- Complete blood count (CBC)
If the veterinarian finds suspicious shadows on the x-rays, a surgical examination and biopsy may be necessary. However, usually the decision has to be fast with any kind of pneumothorax, so tests may be done during whatever procedure the veterinarian decides to perform.
Treatment of Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs in Dogs
A spontaneous or traumatic open pneumothorax will need hospitalization and surgery in most cases to repair the injury and be sure there is no further damage to the lungs. The veterinarian will explain what is needed and do the surgery as soon as possible. Your dog will probably need to stay overnight at the hospital for monitoring, but allowed to go home the next day if there are no complications.
If your dog has a traumatic closed pneumothorax, the veterinarian may want to keep your dog overnight for observation to determine whether there is any internal damage. Once your dog is stable, you can both go home with instructions to return if there are any further developments.
In the case of a tension pneumothorax, the veterinarian will have to hospitalize your dog and do surgery right away to repair the tears or damage to the lung, airways, or chest wall. You will probably be able to take your dog home the next day.
Spontaneous closed pneumothorax has many different treatments depending on the cause. Neoplasia is a mass of tissue (tumor) that is not part of the normal surrounding tissues. It may or may not be cancerous and will need further testing before a treatment plan can be made.
Heartworm infection requires hospitalization and a series of injections to kill the heartworms and eggs in your dog’s body. Although the injections have to be done over several months, your dog will only have to be hospitalized for 24 hours after each injection because there are some risks with the medication. However, without medication heartworm infection is usually fatal.
Lung abscesses will be treated with a chest tube and IV fluids while hospitalized. Antibiotics and oxygen treatment may be necessary as well. Your dog will be able to go home once stable, although the antibiotics will need to be continued for at least one month. Bacterial pneumonia is treated with oxygen therapy and IV antibiotics in the hospital until your dog is stable. The veterinarian will let you go home with antibiotics and bronchodilators as soon as possible.
Recovery of Accumulation of Air Between Chest and Lungs in Dogs
If the cause can be fixed with treatment in the office or surgery, your dog has a good chance of recovery as long as there are no complications.
Lung abscesses and bacterial pneumonia are both easily treated and your dog will have a good chance of recovery if you follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Follow-up appointments are essential to the success of your dog’s treatment so be sure to make it to any future appointments.
Neoplasia is only a problem if the tumor is cancerous, which will require chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and possibly surgery. The prognosis depends on the type and location of the cancer.
Heartworm infection can be troublesome to cure because it is tough to kill the heartworms without it being fatal to your dog. If all of the heartworms are gone after the treatments, the veterinarian will want to see your dog every few months to be sure they do not return. After one year, if there is no reinfection of heartworms, your dog’s prognosis is very good.