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What are Calcium Buildup in Lungs?

This condition can occur in just one localized spot in the lung or it may be diffuse in the whole lung and possibly the other lung or other vital organs. If the condition is diffuse, you will most likely start noticing that your dog is breathing heavier when walking and may refuse to exercise or even play. He may be coughing or wheezing as well. There are two types of calcium buildup, which are dystrophic (from injury or inflammation) and metastatic (from excessive calcium or phosphate).

Calcium buildup in lungs (pulmonary calcification or mineralization) is sometimes referred to as old dog lung because it usually occurs in dogs over 10 years old. Although this condition can happen as a result of injury or trauma, many times the cause is unknown. The symptoms of calcium buildup in lungs can be so mild that they are not even noticed or as severe as breathing difficulty and exercise intolerance. In fact, many cases are only found during routine examination or while being examined for other conditions. The calcium in the lungs is usually made of calcium phosphate and can happen at any time to any breed although it is more common in dogs over 10 years of age.

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Symptoms of Calcium Buildup in Lungs in Dogs

In many cases, dogs with calcium buildup in the lungs show no symptoms at all and the condition is found during routine examination, although the majority of dogs eventually start showing signs of breathing difficulties and not wanting to get up and play as much. Some of the most commonly reported signs include:

  • Loud breathing (wheezing)
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Intolerance for exercise
  • Not playing as much as usual
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Panting and coughing
  • Blue tint to skin (cyanosi
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased respiratory rate

 Types

  • Dystrophic calcification (localized) is also called degenerative calcification because it is a result of tissue inflammation or injury
  • Metastatic calcification (diffuse) is from a condition that affects your dog’s whole body, usually from metabolic disorders such as excessive phosphate or calcium in the blood

Causes of Calcium Buildup in Lungs in Dogs

Often, the cause of calcium buildup in the lungs is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by an injury, inflammation, or metabolism imbalance. Some of the predisposing issues are:

Dystrophic (Localized) Calcifications

  • Immune response to injury
  • Previous infection
  • Inhaled object

Metastatic (Diffuse) Calcifications

  • Increase in calcium
  • Increase in phosphate
  • Metabolism imbalance
  • Metastatic cancer

Diagnosis of Calcium Buildup in Lungs in Dogs

The first thing to be done is an in-depth physical examination to check overall health and vital signs. A thorough palpation and auscultation of all major organs and muscles will be done, with special attention paid to the lungs. A pulse oximetry and arterial blood gas analysis are usually done right away to see if your dog is getting the proper amount of oxygen. If not, oxygen therapy will be provided during the diagnosis. The veterinarian will also need to know what symptoms you have seen in your dog and if he has been ill or injured recently. 

It is also important to mention if you have given your pet any kind of medications in the last few days because it can alter the physical symptoms. Several chest x-rays will be needed to see if there is calcification in the lungs and whether it is localized or diffuse. Sometimes, a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound are necessary as well. The veterinarian will most likely do a tracheal wash or bronchoscopy with an endotracheal tube and suction catheter. In addition, a lung biopsy, done with a fine needle and guided by ultrasound is extremely helpful in this situation. Your dog will be sedated during these procedures. A fungal and bacterial culture will be done as well as blood tests to check for other abnormalities.

Treatment of Calcium Buildup in Lungs in Dogs

Treating localized calcium buildup is usually not necessary unless it is causing breathing trouble, which is uncommon. If it is in a large area, the veterinarian may decide to remove the calcification to help with breathing. Diffuse calcium buildup has no cure but supportive treatment and treatment of the primary cause are important in this case.

Cancer Treatments

Metastatic lung cancer is only treatable if it is not too large or has not spread too far but it is almost always fatal. Radiation or chemotherapy are the only choices for this situation.

Medications

Antibiotics or antifungals will be given depending on the infection. Corticosteroids are prescribed or injected to help with inflammation and breathing. Diuretics or glucocorticoids are used to balance the metabolism imbalance.

Recovery of Calcium Buildup in Lungs in Dogs

Prognosis depends on the cause of the calcium buildup. If it is a localized calcification, prognosis is good, but a diffuse calcification can be guarded to grave. If your dog has metastatic lung cancer, life expectancy may be three months to two years depending on the severity.