What is Emphysema?
Emphysema in dogs will lead to their having a very hard time releasing air from their lungs. This will cause them to have a more difficult time breathing, along with a variety of other symptoms. Treatment is possible and will vary based on the cause and extent of the dog’s emphysema.
Chronic respiratory diseases in dogs can lead to emphysema, which is an atypical collection of air inside a part of the dog’s respiratory tract, leading to breathing difficulty.
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Symptoms of Emphysema in Dogs
If your dog is suffering from emphysema, he may show the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Difficulty breathing/labored breathing
- An increased heart rate
- An increased respiratory rate
- Inability to exercise
Dogs with emphysema can experience severe respiratory symptoms which could require emergency hospitalization. Symptoms may appear suddenly, come on slowly, or be recurring.
There are two major forms of emphysema that are typically considered in dogs. These are:
- Alveolar emphysema - In alveolar emphysema, the alveoli (small air sacs that are deep in your dog’s lungs) become permanently enlarged and alveolar septal walls are destroyed with no visible build-up of excess tissue
- Interstitial emphysema - In interstitial emphysema air is present in the lung’s connective tissue
Causes of Emphysema in Dogs
Emphysema in dogs may be caused by the following:
- A wound, either internally or in the skin of the dog that allows air into the tissues from the movement of surrounding muscles
- Trauma to the lungs, trachea, esophagus or chest wall that cause ulcerations or lacerations
- Inflammatory lung disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis) where a lesion leads to air being able to enter the alveoli but not be released
- Lung parasites
- Congenital bronchial hypoplasia (airways underdeveloped at birth); this is noted in the Pekingese breed of dog
Diagnosis of Emphysema in Dogs
Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam of your dog and ask you for details regarding his history, as well as what you have noticed in regards to symptoms (what they are and when they began). It is likely that your veterinarian will request chest X-rays, which hopefully will identify the cause of your dog’s symptoms.
Your veterinarian will likely request routine blood work and conduct an arterial blood gas analysis on a blood sample. In emphysema, the sample will likely show hypoxia. A fecal exam will typically be conducted so that your veterinarian can rule out parasites that could be causing or adding to the respiratory problems that your dog is experiencing.
Surgical biopsy of tissue in the affected areas of your dog’s respiratory tract is the best way to confirm the diagnosis of emphysema. There are two types of surgical procedures that your veterinarian may consider to conduct the biopsy; a thoracoscopy or a thoracotomy. The tissue samples from either procedure will be sent to a diagnostic lab for histopathology.
While CT scans and MRI’s are tools that can be used to observe the lesions that are linked to emphysema, they are not available at most facilities. In addition, they are expensive, and they have not yet been proven successful in diagnosing the cause of emphysema in a dog.
Treatment of Emphysema in Dogs
Treatment will depend on the severity of your dog’s respiratory problems. If the problems are severe, your dog may need to be hospitalized, where he may spend time in an oxygen cage or receive oxygen from a mask or from a nasal oxygen catheter.
Treatment for the primary disease that has led to the development of emphysema; for example, airway obstruction may be reduced by bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory medication. For continual atypical air accumulation, thoracostomy tubes may be put in your dog’s chest through surgery in order to provide ongoing suction.
Damaged areas of the lungs may be surgically removed (partial or complete lobectomy). Supportive care will include a lot of rest and restriction on your dog’s activity. Should your dog require a lobectomy, your veterinarian may recommend that all or part of a damaged lobe in the lung be removed. In most cases, dogs recover well after the lobe has been taken out.
Recovery of Emphysema in Dogs
Should your dog experience emphysema, follow up appointments are likely. Your veterinarian may recommend significant rest in a cage for your dog, along with restrictions on activity. Dogs that have a portion or full lobe removed typically recover well, as long as there is enough healthy lung tissue available. Management without surgery is possible, however without surgery, dogs often have ongoing respiratory issues.
Recovery time from emphysema will vary based on whether your dog has a lobectomy and how severe the damage to the lung is. You will want to follow the instructions of your veterinarian regarding follow-up care whether or not your dog undergoes surgery.
Emphysema Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi I have a Yorki and they diagnose him with emphysema he is very ill and I would like to know he is on 24h oxygen he really struggle to breathe on his own we are going twice a day to the vet for his injections he drink water reacts when I speak to him.... will he get better and when will he start healing I really can't loose him what can I do more for him. Sorry if there is mistakes I am afrikaans and from upington I really hope you can help me... thanks Ansu-0714565319
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