Jump to section

What is Pneumothorax?

Atmospheric air can gain entry into the pleural cavity from trauma caused by other animals, car accidents, and other puncturing wounds, and is called open pneumothorax. Air accumulation caused by an internal problem, such as lung disease, tumors, or infections, is considered to be a closed pneumothorax condition. One or both lungs could be affected at one time. While many cases can be successfully treated, the condition can be fatal if medical assistance is not sought promptly.

Pneumothorax is defined as an abnormal amount of free air in the pleural space, or in the tissue that wraps around the lungs. This can cause considerable respiratory distress that can lead to a life threatening condition. The most notable symptoms include many types of breathing difficulties, but you may also notice bluish gums, lethargy, or an obvious penetrating wound.

Pneumothorax Average Cost

From 396 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Pneumothorax in Dogs

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Short of breath
  • Respiratory distress
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Labored breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dull breathing sounds
  • Coughing
  • Hypoventilation
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Bluish skin and mucous membranes
  • Poor pulse
  • Pain
  • Presence of a chest penetrating wound

Types

The condition of pneumothorax can be divided into these categories:

  • Traumatic pneumothorax - This is the most common form, resulting from a chest injury; it is characterized by a wound that creates an open channel between the outside air and the chest cavity

  • Spontaneous pneumothorax – This is a relatively rare form, and does not result from trauma; primary spontaneous pneumothorax results from the rupture of bullae or blebs, or pockets of air and secondary spontaneous pneumothorax can develop from a pre-existing lung condition
  • Iatrogenic pneumothorax – This is a condition that results from medical care that has damaged the tissues covering the lungs; unfortunately, such invasive procedures may be necessary if a dog is in a life threatening situation
  • Tension pneumothorax – This refers to a situation that creates a closed channel, meaning that air can enter and accumulate in the pleural space, but cannot leave; the pressure this creates can lead to severe cardiovascular and respiratory problems
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Pneumothorax in Dogs

Causes of air accumulation in the pleural cavity can include:

  • Blunt trauma, such as car accidents, falling from a height
  • Penetrating wounds, such as stabbing, gunshots, and bite wounds
  • Medical procedures, such as a thoracotomy or thoracocentesis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Infectious diseases
  • Ruptured lung abscess
  • Lung conditions, such as pneumonia and various emphysemas 
  • Heartworm disease
  • Paragonimus infection 
  • Roundworm infection
  • Cancer
  • Congenital bronchial abnormalities
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Pneumothorax in Dogs

If your dog is having difficulties breathing, it is an emergency and needs immediate treatment. Your veterinarian will observe and listen to your dog’s respiration, look at any symptoms present and physical characteristics displayed, and ask for a history of any trauma, vaccinations, heartworm, and flea and tick preventative medications. It is important to relate any and all information to aid your veterinarian in making a correct diagnosis. 

If pneumothorax is suspected, X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds of the chest can show the presence of free air, and may aid in a diagnosis. Further testing can help discern the cause of the air accumulation, and can include heartworm antigen testing, roundworm testing, fecal examination, and blood samples. A thoracocentesis or an exploratory thoracotomy may need to be performed, either to aid in an emergency situation, or to collect further data for a correct diagnosis. During this procedure, a culture of the lung may be taken and tested. Chest X-rays are generally taken after these invasive procedures are performed to further assess any damage.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Pneumothorax in Dogs

Treatment of the pneumothorax itself will depend on the source of the air, the amount of air accumulated, if it is an open or closed channel, and any other clinical signs your dog is presenting. If the air needs to be evacuated, this can be done through a thoracocentesis, a procedure that uses a needle to penetrate into the pleural cavity to extract air, fluid or tissue samples. It is used for both diagnostic exploration and as a treatment. It is always recommended when there is a penetrating injury. X-rays are always taken after this procedure. A thoracocentesis is only performed in cases where your dog’s respiration is compromised. Other procedures may include placing chest tubes and administering supplemental oxygen. 

Once your dog is stabilized, the cause of the pneumothorax will be treated. If there was a blunt trauma or penetrating injury involved, surgery to repair wounds may be needed. Wounds are then sealed with dressings, and your dog is monitored. Any lesions or tumors identified in the lungs, lung diseases, or parasitic or bacterial infections will be treated appropriately as needed. If blebs or bullae are present, a pleurodesis may be performed to eliminate the space between the membranes surrounding the lungs.

If the pneumothorax does not resolve after treatment, further exploratory procedures may be needed.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Pneumothorax in Dogs

The recovery is good for many cases of spontaneous pneumothorax, as long as treatment is prompt. You should see an immediate improvement in your dog’s breathing after treatment, although there can be a reoccurrence. Other types of pneumothorax have variable rates of recovery. Reoccurrence can also depend on the successful treatment of the underlying condition.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Pneumothorax Average Cost

From 396 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

arrow-up-icon

Top

Pneumothorax Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Whippet

dog-age-icon

Seven Years

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

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing At Times

Hello my dog had a series of tests done including 2 sets of xrays, 2 CTs, a thoracenthesis to remove fluid. A pulmonary bulla was seen on last CT. Does this necessarily have to be removed if my dog has no clinical signs whatsoever? Every blood test was normal. He has a consolidated right lung lobe and He is being treated for pneumonia as well.

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Ellen M. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for writing in. I'm sorry to hear that your dog has been having some lung issues! I'm not sure why your dog had all of the testing in the first place, but I would assume he had clinical signs to warrant the extensive testing that found the pulmonary bulla and if he had fluid in his chest, that is quite serious. A pulmonary bulla does need to be addressed medically. If it is not addressed, it could rupture, leading to the free air in the chest cavity. This is called a pneumothorax and is very serious. I recommend following the veterinarian's recommendation that is treating his case currently as far as how to address the bulla. It sounds like they are being very thorough and doing a very good job addressing your dog's lung disease. I hope that your dog starts feeling better soon!

Aug. 3, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Chow Chow

dog-age-icon

Three Months

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

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

I think my dog has pneumothorax what happens if this goes untreated? He got his with a soccer ball going fast so I’m not sure if that could have caused it.

July 22, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Jessica N. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. Pneumothorax can be very serious so if he is having respiratory changes it would be recommended to have him seen by your veterinarian immediately so that he can be examined and have radiographs performed to confirm whether pneumothorax is present or if a different disease process is occurring. I hope he feels better soon.

July 22, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Princess

dog-breed-icon

German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Restless
Bloate

Should an emergency vet hospital be able to treat pneumothorax or would they refer you to another facility? Is the treatment of trying to expel the air considered a speciality vet procedure?

March 8, 2018

Princess' Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Any Veterinarian in the majority of cases would be able to manage pneumothorax; emergency clinics would probably have more experience in seeing a larger number of cases due to the emergency nature of their work. You should visit your Emergency Veterinarian immediately if you haven’t done so already. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 8, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Abby

dog-breed-icon

Samoyed

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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

Fair severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Cough

My Samoyed was operated on 2 1/2 weeks ago, opening her chest and three Bullae were removed. I rushed her to emergency vets. They took a few liters of air from around her lungs. Prior to this happening, she had a cough that got progressively worse. She is 8 years old and never had any other problems. She had her stitches taken out a few days ago and the surgeon said she was good. She started coughing again and I’m worried. It’s not all the time but here and there. Should I be concerned? She’s active and her appetite is back but this cough has me concerned

Dec. 25, 2017

Abby's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

In this case I would suggest you return to your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian and have Abby checked over since medication may be useful to suppress the cough to be on the safe side; however if there is an infection or any other issue you this would need to be addressed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 25, 2017

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Colbie

dog-breed-icon

Goldendoodle

dog-age-icon

9

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Short Of Breath
Shor

My 9 year old Golden doodle had a freak accident at the dog park. She was playing with another dog and fell very hard on the pavement. She has pneumothorax. We took her to the vet and the tapped her pleural space and withdrew the air...she did not re-accumulate air for a few days. We took her home and it reoccurred. Back at the vets she got a chest tube. Non air now for a few days. Her CT scan showed either a tear or a bulla..I know it's a tear. We are taking her home either today or tomorrow to try it again. What do we do if this reoccurs? I don't see that there is a great mortality rate with dogs and the surgery. Need advice. Thanks so much

Sept. 26, 2017

Colbie's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Generally the mortality rate is lower with surgical treatment than with medical management alone; each case is different and blunt trauma pneumothorax may be treated medically in many cases. If there is a constant recurrence of pneumothorax, you may need to consider a surgical lobectomy. Your Veterinarian will be the best one to guide you regarding Colbie’s individual case and whether they believe medical management alone is sufficient. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Sept. 26, 2017

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Bronko

dog-breed-icon

Siberian Husky

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Short Of Breath

In September of last year our dog started to have problems breathing. We took him to the emergency room and they took x-rays. They found air around the lungs and it was leaking from his lungs. They could not say what was causing it. They started would need to have a CT scan done to determine the cause. After they did it was diagnosed with possible spontaneous pneumothorax do to possible bullas. Although were not able to see where they were or if it was that. They advised to extract the air and do a blood patch for the moment. This treatment worked and now it came back after 3 months. They still can't tell us where or what is causing it. We had a HDVI CT done and they could not find the cause. After the scan we came out worse with his breathing that were forced to take him to the Emergency again. He was stabilized but recommended a costly surgery with no hope it would cure him for ever. Because it could come back. Can you please give me an advice and percentage of permanent recovery. Thank you

dog-name-icon

Yukio

dog-breed-icon

Japanese Chin

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Severe Coughing ,Bleeding And Clots

I put down my 12.5 yr old Japanese Chin today. Xrays showed he had a collapsed lobe and was leaking into chest cavity. 2 options given euthanasia or take to CT specialist for immediate scan and hospitalization for several days. I didn't understand why hospitalization after scan?

dog-name-icon

Gold

dog-breed-icon

teckel poodle

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fatigue
2 Holes In The Chest
Snoring Sound From The Holes

My puppy got attacked by a larger dog which caused him to have two holes in his chest from which we can hear a "snoring" type of sound when he gets up, we took him to the veterinary after 12 hours of the accident because we weren't able to find an emergency one, and all the doctor did was closing down the holes with surgery without extracting the air, when I tell the doctor about extracting the air and everything I read here, he just replies by "It's my job, I know what I'm doing", even though I feel like it is just because they don't have the Oxygen therapy devices. Please doctor tell me if I should be concerned that my dog still has some air trapped inside his skin? is air extraction always crucial during open pneumothorax surgery? can my dog have a normal life again? thank you very much for your time.

Pneumothorax Average Cost

From 396 quotes ranging from $1,500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$3,000

How can we help your pet?