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What is Fluid in the Chest?

Many problems with respiratory function can result from fluid buildup in your dog’s chest. Examples of complications can include lack of room for lungs to expand, which causes restricted breathing, or lung collapse. On occasion, pleural effusion is found at a regular check up. Most often the issue is diagnosed at a time of respiratory distress. If you start to notice laboured breathing in your dog, or if your dog is having trouble keeping up his normal activity level, a veterinary visit is advised without delay.

Fluid in the chest in dogs is known in veterinary terms as pleural effusion. It's expected that there is a normal amount of fluid in the pleural space; but if there is a problem with drainage or an excess of production, the accumulation of fluid can cause a crisis situation for your pet.

Fluid in the Chest Average Cost

From 9 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Fluid in the Chest in Dogs

Fluid in the chest is a somewhat common reason for abnormal respiratory function in dogs. Often resulting from an underlying condition, pleural effusion can exhibit the following symptoms:

Early pleural effusion

meaning only a small amount of fluid has begun to accumulate:

  • Showing a low tolerance to activity and exercise
  • Lethargy and lower energy level than usual

Increasing pleural effusion

as respiratory affliction is proliferating:

  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Extension of neck as if trying to reach air
  • Sitting or lying in an unusual position in an attempt to ease breathing
  • Blue or pale gums, lips, or tongue (cyanosis) due to lack of oxygen in the blood
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia
  • Shock

Depending on the underlying cause of the fluid accumulation, you may see fever, weight loss, mental dullness, depression, a pale nose, or other symptoms that accompany the disorder.

Types

The types of fluid in the chest in dogs are classified in the following ways:

  • Hydrothorax

    - (noninflammatory transudate) due to increased hydrostatic pressure, brought on by an elevated cell and protein content or decreased oncotic pressure, brought on by low albumin in the blood.

  • Chylothorax

    - milky lymphatic fluid and chylomicrons containing a high concentrate of triglycerides accumulate.

  • Hemothorax

    - blood accumulates in the pleural cavity.

  • Pyothorax

    - accumulation of fluid due to an infection or growth.

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Causes of Fluid in the Chest in Dogs

Fluid in the chest in dogs is a relatively common complication. There are a plethora of reasons that can be attributed to the accumulation of fluids; some of which are listed below:

  • Hydrothorax

    - liver disease, malnutrition, malabsorption, right-sided heart failure, burns, chronic hemorrhaging, protein-losing nephropathy (kidney disease), protein-losing enteropathy (intestinal disease).

  • Chylothorax

    - cancer, chronic vomiting, diaphragmatic hernia, twisted lung lobe, blood clot in chest veins, congenital defects.

  • Hemothorax

    - trauma, lymphoma, pulmonary and chest wall tumors.

  • Pyothorax

    - penetrating wounds, fungal or parasitic infection, pancreatitis, pulmonary thromboembolism, heartworm, pneumonia, esophageal disease, complications from an underlying condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

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Diagnosis of Fluid in the Chest in Dogs

The veterinarian will begin the process of diagnosis after requesting a brief history from you in regards to your pet’s recent behavior and apparent health. Be sure to be as accurate and complete as possible in relaying information to the veterinarian. There are many diagnostic procedures used to identify this condition, and any information you can initially provide is extremely helpful.

Chances are, the veterinarian will hear muffling sounds in the lungs through the use of a stethoscope. Palpitation of the abdomen may show pain is present. She may then decide to perform additional tests in order to pinpoint the cause of the problem.

A chest x-ray can reveal an accumulation of fluid in the thoracic cavity, and may show possible lung collapse. Fluid may be obtained from the chest with the use of a needle, which is necessary when proceeding to identify the type of fluid in the chest. An ultrasound of the chest, and often including the abdomen, will be done to show the condition of the lungs and other organs. An ultrasound is also helpful when determining where the needle should be placed for removal of fluid.

A complete blood count, chemistry profile, and fungal titers test may be done, as well as a heartworm test. Results may show abnormalities in glucose, albumin or liver enzyme levels, for example. Urinalysis may show proteinuria. A coagulation profile may be done as well. Information from all of the completed tests will be used to determine the type and cause of the fluid buildup.

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Treatment of Fluid in the Chest in Dogs

In order to resolve the issue of fluid in the chest, the cause, whether it be sudden or due to an underlying disease, must be determined. As an example, cancer will be additionally treated with chemotherapy and radiation after the fluid in the chest has been treated. Another example would be the need to treat and eliminate an infection through the use of antibiotics.

To start treatment for pleural effusion, the veterinarian will provide oxygen therapy in order to make your dog more comfortable. The chest will be drained by the insertion of a needle, along with suction through the placement of a chest drain. This may need to be in place for a few days.

Intravenous fluids may be required if your pet is dehydrated. At times, a surgical exploratory thoracotomy may be necessary to investigate the cause of the fluid buildup. A thoracotomy may be necessary for draining, or to perform a correctional procedure. Radiographs will be part of the treatment because it will be important to monitor how the chosen therapy is working.

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Recovery of Fluid in the Chest in Dogs

The prognosis of recovery will range from good to poor, depending on the cause and whether a serious underlying disease is found. If surgery was part of the treatment, your dog might remain in the hospital for 3 to 5 days, and the chest tube will need to remain in place until the fluid accumulation problem is under control.

When released from the hospital, your pet may require additional pain medication and/or antibiotics. Follow up appointments are an important part of the treatment for pleural effusion; radiographs and ultrasounds are often repeated to ensure that recovery is continuing.

The veterinarian will recommend any dietary changes required(such as a low fat, low sodium diet), and will advise you on exercise restrictions and how long leash only outings are mandatory.

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Fluid in the Chest Average Cost

From 9 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Fluid in the Chest Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chocolate lab

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Seven Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid On Abdomen

Our puppy is at the vet with parvo. We got him on Saturday. Took him to the vet on Monday. He was given dewormer. He couldn’t keep anything down. Took him back to the vet on Wednesday and they diagnosed parvo. He’s been at the emergency vet since Wednesday. Getting IV fluids and antibiotics. Now he has fluid on his chest. Vet is doing a plasma transfusion to up his protein levels. We just don’t know what to think. So worried. Is he going to be ok?

Aug. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, and I'm sorry your puppy is having these problems. I cannot comment on whether he's going to be okay, unfortunately, but it sounds like you were doing all that you can for him. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 1, 2020

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Miniature Schnauzer

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12 1/2

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing

My dog has a sack under each of her front legs ( very close against her body) that feels like they have fluid inside. She has always been a big water drinker and her appetite is good. She is over weight (27lbs) but she runs and plays a lot! A few times in the past few weeks she would start to cough as though she was going to vomit but never did. It only lasted maybe 20-30 seconds then she was fine. Any ideas?

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. She may be a perfectly healthy 12 year old dog, but exercise intolerance and coughing is a concern in older animals. It would probably be best to have a good physical examination with your veterinarian for her. They can listen to her heart and lungs, assess her circulation, see what those lumps might be, and see if there's anything to worry about. We typically recommend Health examinations every 6 to 12 months and older animals, anyway, and that would probably be a good idea for her. I hope that she gets a clean bill of health and that all goes well.

July 29, 2020

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Cash

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Chihuahua

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10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

I have a 10 yr old terrier/ chihuahua diagnosed with Chf 10 months ago. On heart meds and lasek. Tonight his chest cavity seems larger, he’s shaking, very quiet and not doing well. Can I wait to take him to the vet in the morning? Is this part of the chf? What else could be going on.

June 27, 2018

Cash's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The symptoms of congestive heart failure may vary in severity and even the most well managed case may increase in severity without warning; if Cash is struggling to breathe or is in discomfort you should visit a Veterinarian immediately (emergency or general) for an examination and to determine whether any emergency care is needed or a change in treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 27, 2018

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Ollie

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Boxer great Dane mix

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3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Coughing
Labored Breathing

My 3 year old boxer mix is hacking and gagging, but not projecting anything. I can hear static in her lungs with a stethoscope. And she's been treated for lime disease in the past. Could this be related? Or am I looking at a cancer or some other serious issue?

May 16, 2018

Ollie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Increased lung sounds and hacking can be caused by bacterial disease, fungal disease, cancer, asthma, and many other conditions. Without examining Ollie, I don't have any way to know what might be causing her signs, although I am not aware of a respiratory component to Lyme disease. It would be best to have her examined by a veterinarian, and possibly have x-rays taken of her lungs, to determine what is going on and how best to treat her.

May 16, 2018

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Lilly

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Kelpie

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Hi my 13yr old dog has just been diagnosed with pericarial effusion & plueral effusion due to likely cancerous lesions throughout lungs. Dog still has quality of life & is on pain meds, Carprofen, gabbapentin. My question is why havent diaretics been suggested for the plueral fluid? Could they be of any help to keep her comfortable? I know theres no cure, just keeping her happy as I can. Thankyou

May 9, 2018

Lilly's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any treatment given is at the discretion of your Veterinarian, diuretics are not always prescribed in cases of non-cardiogenic pleural effusion (NCPE) as some studies have indicated they may be contraindicated; as covered in the article quoted and referenced below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM “The use of diuretics is controversial. The author rarely uses diuretics due to the theory that pulmonary edema in cases of NCPE resulted from a vasoconstrictive process with elevated pulmonary hydrostatic pressure that was transient and typically resolved by time of presentation; further diuretics will contribute to hypovolemia.” http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/non-cardiogenic-pulmonary-edema-proceedings

May 10, 2018

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Leo

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Lethargy
Coughing
Pale Tongue
Wheezing
Barely Breathing
Crackling

My dog has been coughing for a month. First time we took him to the vet they said it could be allergies. After a few other vet visits and different doctors, it worsened and said it could be collapsing trachea. They did xrays. We but him on some meds to help him calm down and another more strong to help him bc the other one wasn’t working as well. But today. He was coughing and it was fluid in his lungs and crackling noise. Gagging and coughed up fluid. His tongue became a little pale and he had a hard time breathing. He’s on oxygen now at the vet and he’s tested negative for any heart disease so they’re testing for tumor or cancer. Does anyone know what this could be, and anything we can do? He was coughing but happy and alert yesterday, now he’s in critical condition and having a hard time breathing.

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Castle

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Sheltie

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Panting
Can'T Sleep

My uncle took his 3 year old sheltie to the vet yesterday because he had been panting. Other then that he is still very playful. The vet told him that Castle's one lung collapsed and the other one has fluid in it. He is a full breed sheltie. What is wrong with him and what caused this to happen and what can we do for Castle? My uncle can't even afford insurance for himself. It's not right we can't afford expensive treatment but obviously want him to live and be ok. Help please

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Champ

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Listless
Dyspnea

Three months ago I rescued an adult German Shepherd is approximately 6 or 7 years old. The person I got him from only had him for one month and claimed she had absolutely no history on this dog. I noticed that he had a slight swelling under his rib cage, more on one side than the other. I dewormed him a few days later and the swelling seemed to go down a little bit. I brought him to banfield vet for a routine checkup and was told he was in decent condition and he also received his vaccines. But here we are 4 months after I got him and I happened to notice that the swelling under his rib cage is getting worse. He is not very active and I don't know if that is just his temperament. Again, I have absolutely no history on this dog other than my own perception that he wasn't very well cared for. I'm going to be taking him to the vet either tomorrow or Friday to have him examined. This time he will be going to my regular veterinarian. I also noticed occasionally when he goes to lay down he's kind of slow moving and he breathes through his mouth, but that's not all the time. He does not show any obvious signs of discomfort or pain. I'm wondering if this could be pleural effusion or one of the other conditions mention regarding effusion.

dog-name-icon

Sassy

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Scratching

My dog is 13 she went to the vet last week for a wellness check, there was nothing wrong with her, she is in great shape. Today 1 week later I have notices a bubble under the skin on the chest cavity, what could this be? No abnormal breathing, eats fine, drinks plenty of water. She is on apoquel for scratching. Could someone email me at phillipsnine@yahoo.com

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Rodon

dog-breed-icon

Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

7 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty
Loss Of Appetite
Nausea
Breaths Faster At Rest

I have a 7 year old Maltipoo. About a year ago I left him for 2 weeks with dog sitter, when I came back I noticed that his breathing is labored and he was a little slow. In a few hours we had to rush to ER because his shortness of breath worsened. They told me that he had tamponad and tapped the fluid, I requested the echo images and later was told that it was actually plural effusion. Cytology was inconclusive. In 24 hours he started to feel better and the day after he was back to being playful and completely asymptomatic. In about 6 months later, again when I was out of town, he developed the same symptoms, we tapped him and he was back to normal in 48 hours. This time we saw a cardiologist who assured me, there is nothing wrong with his heart (echo and ECG and exam was totally normal). 4 months after the second event, about a month ago, again after me being out of country he developed another episode of pleural effusion, 3rd time, this time was after 2 weeks of random hacking cough. Will his vet recommendation, I started him on prednisone, deworming medication, antibiotics, frusemide, appetite stimulant and anti-nausea but he did not get better. CT scan did not show a mass, all together we pulled 650 cc out of his chest in 2 days interval and cytology this time showed clusters of epithelial cells with mild to moderate aplasia. Not a definitive diagnosis of cancer but suggestive. I have to add that all his lab work so far has been normal, the only abnormality was trace proteinuria in latest urine analysis. The tapped fluid was chylous. I am taking it day by day, he is doing better now but he is not completely back to himself yet. My question is, if this is cancer, why he has been so symptom free in intervals between each episode. Could separation from me and anxiety be a triggering factor for these episodes? Could Addison's disease be a in differential diagnosis?

Fluid in the Chest Average Cost

From 9 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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