What is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy is the act of supplementing the air the dog breathes with extra oxygen. This is needed in many situations when the dog has breathing difficulties and struggles to absorb oxygen or transporting that oxygen around the body. Increasing the amount of oxygen the dog breathes in helps counteract the decreased availability of oxygen to the body tissue due to sickness or injury. 

Oxygen is vital to life and, depending on the severity of oxygen depletion, the patient may suffer cell death, organ failure, or death. Giving a patient struggling for breath an oxygen supplement can make the difference between life and death. In the critically ill, it is a vital life-saving therapy used to stabilize the dog and make them strong enough to undergo diagnostic tests. 

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Oxygen Therapy Procedure in Dogs

Although there are several different ways of providing oxygen therapy, they all have one thing in common, which is that it's crucial not to stress the patient. A dog that is fighting for breath could be pushed into a crisis if he struggles during administration of oxygen. With this in mind, the clinician may choose one delivery form over another in order to minimize stress. At all times, the aim is to use the least level of restraint possible. 

Options for delivery include: 

  • Flow by oxygen: This is simply allowing oxygen to flow from the delivery pipe into the airspace close to the dog's nose. This may be all that's possible in an extremely stressed patient. 
  • Nasal catheter: A fine tube is passed into the dog's nose and oxygen delivered directly into the respiratory system
  • Oxygen mask: This means holding a close fitting mask over the dog's face or muzzle. 
  • Oxygen chamber: The clinician may improvise a delivery chamber by fitting the dog with a cone with the wide open diameter sealed over with cling film. A tube feeds into the base of the cone, for higher oxygen concentration within the 'chamber'. 
  • Oxygen tent: This is a sealed chamber in which the whole dog rests and breathes in an oxygen-rich atmosphere

Efficacy of Oxygen Therapy in Dogs

Oxygen therapy can be life-saving and is an essential treatment in many circumstances. However, the very nature of the conditions for which therapy is given mean the patients are high risk and, therefore, some fatalities are inevitable. 

Oxygen therapy is a short term treatment, given in order to stabilize the patient so that a workup can be done without causing a crisis. This workup may include taking radiographs or drawing fluid off the chest so that the lungs can expand and breathing can improve. 

Oxygen therapy is effective at what it does, delivering oxygen, with some means of delivery being more potent than others. But as mentioned earlier, there is a degree of judgement required to balance the efficacy of the route of delivering oxygen against the risk of stressing the patient. 

Oxygen Therapy Recovery in Dogs

Oxygen therapy in itself is not likely to be curative, but a tool used to stabilize patients. Ultimately, their recovery will depend on identifying and treating the underlying cause of their respiratory distress. 

The majority of patients who received oxygen therapy do so only for a matter of hours, by which time medications have started to work or the pressure on the lungs has been relieved by other means such as draining fluid off the chest. 

It is not generally considered practical or ethical for a pet to receive oxygen therapy at home. Should this be necessary, the dog is unlikely to have a reasonable quality of life and serious welfare issues raised. While portable units for home use are available, this should only be undertaken after close discussion with the treating vet to ensure it is fair to the dog. 

Cost of Oxygen Therapy in Dogs

The cost of oxygen therapy varies depending on the method of delivery and how long the patient requires supplementation. Oxygen is often charged by the half hour, with an average fee being around $80 - $125 per unit of time. Extra fees may be incurred depending on the sophistication of the equipment, with an oxygen tent being classed as part of intensive care nursing which may be charge by the hour ($200) or by the time period (overnight care $600 - $900).

Dog Oxygen Therapy Considerations

Oxygen therapy is a short-term treatment used to stabilize patients with severe breathing difficulties. Unless the underlying issue is addressed, the dog is likely to relapse once the supplemental oxygen is removed. 

On the plus side, careful administration of oxygen can help deliver vital oxygen to oxygen-deprived tissues and protect them from damage. Oxygen therapy is widely available at most vet surgeries since the oxygen cylinder attached to an anesthetic machine can be used to deliver emergency oxygen as necessary. 

Oxygen Therapy Prevention in Dogs

Prevention involves avoiding trauma and ensuring your pet is up to date with routine healthcare and has regular checkups to monitor for ill health such as heart or respiratory disease. When a problem is detected early, it is often possible to treat and stabilize the patient, and prevent them going into respiratory distress. 

Also, keeping your dog on the leash near roads helps decrease the risk of a traffic accident. 

Be aware that flat-faced dogs such as pugs, pekes, and bulldogs struggle to breathe at the best of times and, in hot weather, are especially prone to collapse from heat exhaustion. Part of the treatment for heat stress is supplemental oxygen. You can avoid the need for this by keeping your dog in the shade, offering water at regular intervals, and exercise gently during the cooler parts of the day. 

Oxygen Therapy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

9 Years
Mild condition
-1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

elevated temperature

Thank you again. Of course life goes on. His Brother PB is alive and well and went blind after his Brother died. I bought two puppies to keep him company before he went blind.

Nothing is more distressing than to look back and know that veterinary services were not properly rendered, as you have explained to me what should have happened and I can assure you the steps you outlined were never followed, never monitored and just like the literature on humans who die from excessive oxygen, there is no doubt that animals can also die from excessive oxygen. He was not in distress at the time I took him in. I think that was lost in the form that you have on here that I repeated myself. Someone else thought he was having breathing issues and again, I didnt see it but I took him for a late night exam and in my opinion along with the information you have educated me about the proper procedures to use on MARKEE, they killed my dog. He was under the care of specialists, had just been seen about 3 weeks before, was taken off of all antibiotics and supposedly was doing very well. He was scheduled for a follow up within the next few days. I know its difficult for another VET to admit that a treating VET may very well have acted improperly as no doubt was the case here. That we shall leave for others to determine. Thank you very much for the information. I do appreciate it. All of us who hold licenses must be held accountable for our actions. MILTON F ATTORNEY AT LAW.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

All I can recommend is that if you feel that something wasn’t carried out correctly or there was negligence you should contact your state’s veterinary licensing board for further information which I am sure you are already aware of in your professional position. I wish the best for PB and your puppies. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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9 yesrs
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

elevated temperature
thought dog may have issue with breathing

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Dr. Callum Turner, DVM

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM

The foaming started after the pure oxygen was administered without a face mask during 2-3 hour period of time, and machine was broken no way to tell how much pure oxygen was given. Dog died a few hours after oxygen was administered. Dog did not exhibit any overt signs of breathing issues or choking before oxygen given, in fact dog slept on way to exam no noise whatsoever. Too much unmeasured pure oxygen??

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Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

Your question is: -
The foaming started after the pure oxygen was administered without a face mask during 2-3 hour period of time, and machine was broken no way to tell how much pure oxygen was given. Dog died a few hours after oxygen was administered. Dog did not exhibit any overt signs of breathing issues or choking before oxygen given, in fact dog slept on way to exam no noise whatsoever. Too much unmeasured pure oxygen??


Answer: -
If equipment doesn’t work correctly or gauges are not giving readings then they shouldn’t be used as it isn’t possible to determine the level of oxygen (or any other gas) being administered; flow rate needs to be monitored. The decision to administer oxygen may have been based on the colour of mucous membranes or a pulse oximeter reading indicating poor saturation of blood with oxygen. I wasn’t there and I didn’t examine Markee, so I cannot say whether the actions of the attending Veterinarian were correct or not; other factors such as other symptoms discovered during initial assessment may have also indicated oxygen therapy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

check up, elevated temp

Dr. Turner. I agree about your opinion reference equipment. I know you did not treat my Pet. He was 'put on pure oxygen immediately upon arrival. He was not gasping for breath when they took him from my arms. They administered pure oxygen before any tests. It took a very long time to get radiology results cause images had to be retaken cause radiology equipment was not working properly. This dog slept peacefully on way to exam. He had been treated very successfully for months at another facility for issues with lungs. A friend thought she saw him having breathing issues. I never did see this, but took him in. I think excessive oxygen could have been the direct cause of his death. The point I wanted you to understand was he did not have any foam at all in mouth before the tech started the oxygen. The vet did not give the oxygen, nor did bet monitor it. I dont think they should have used excessive unmonitored oxygen with broken machine. I didn't find out about this till months later.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

An animal (or human) does not need to be gasping for breath to require oxygen which is why I mentioned about the colour of mucous membranes and readouts from a pulse oximeter which can give concern that there is a low oxygen saturation in the blood. I do not want to pass judgement as I wasn’t present (and also from a liability point of view). I understand that Markee had no foam from the mouth when you arrived at the clinic and looked as if he was sleeping. I noted in an earlier answer some conditions which may cause foaming at the mouth; but if Markee has low oxygen levels in the blood (from a theoretical point of view) then oxygen therapy would have been required to keep oxygen saturation levels at a physiological level. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

seemed lethargic, elevated temperature

Dr. Thank you for the information. Just to be clear, I meant my dog was sleeping and in no plain on the way to exam. Totally alert. I was asked if I would allow oxygen, I said yes, they asked that because I stupidly bad called them and said he might have breathing issues, I NEVER SAW IT, they ran no tests as you referred to before or after they started oxygen. I think the unmonitored excessive oxygen with a broken machine killed my dog.

You have been very helpful and pointed out the proper procedures that should have been followed that were not.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

It can be distressing when a loved one passes away, especially when you believe that something was carried out incorrectly. Looking for answers can consume your life. Try to think more about the life you had with him rather than the last hours and his passing. We cannot say conclusively that the oxygen therapy was the cause of Markee’s death as there may have been underlying pathologies that may have contributed to Markee’s death. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Cocker Spaniel
9 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

lethargic, disnt want to walk but was not choking
but not making any breathing sounds.

How long is it safe to give pure oxygen a 37lb dog, if white foam starts to come out of the dogs mouth, what does that indicate and should pure oxygen use be immediately stopped or continue?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

Further to last weeks question. Foaming at the mouth may indicate a few different things including fluid in the lungs, seizures, poisoning, stomach problems or stressed induced. The quantity of foam and consistency may have an effect on the oxygen therapy efficacy which is why individual cases are handled differently. Oxygen therapy is usually a short-term therapy given to stabilise a patient until an underlying cause is identified. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

The foaming started after the oxygen was administered. The pure oxygen was given over 3 hours.that's when white foam came out, the oxygen machinee was broken and no one knows how much pure oxygen was actually given during a 2=3 hour period.

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9 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms


How much oxygen would you administer to a dog about 37lbs so you dont endanger his life? How do you know how much you are giving the dog? The dog didn't seem to have any breathing issues on way to ER. Can you kill a dog with too much oxygen therapy, pure oxygen? How long and how much can a small animal tolerate. If the animal started to foam at mouth would that indicate too much oxygen and would you or should you stop the oxygen as soon as you observed white foam coming from the dog??

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1506 Recommendations

The flow rate for a dog of 37lb would vary depending on the type of system being used but generally 100ml/kg/min (or around 50ml/lb/min) which may be increased in certain circumstances. Breathing is initiated by the level of carbon dioxide in the respiratory tract, in a pure oxygen environment a dog (or any animal or human) may not breathe due to a lack of carbon dioxide. Breathing problems can occur at any time, especially in a critical patient. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Can you recommend a service like http://oxygen4pets.com/ ?

What is the proper way to administer oxygen, 2) how long would it be safe to give pure oxygen? 3)if dog started foaming at mouth while oxygen was being given, what would that indicate and would you stop giving oxygen at that point and time or continue?

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