Oxygen Therapy in Dogs

Oxygen Therapy in Dogs - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
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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. 

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).

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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


Shih Tzu



Fourteen Months


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My pet has the following symptoms:
Noisy Breathing
I want o have a 2nd opinion regarsing my dog. At d same tym home remeddy. My dog is havibg a hard time breathjng during his sleep. And excessive panting during car ride. What to do?

Sept. 24, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. With out being able to see or examine your dog, unfortunately, it is difficult to say why he may have heavy breathing. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 25, 2020

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Bichon Frise



Thirteen Years


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0 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Short Of Breath
Could you elaborate on the statement in this article, "It is not generally considered practical or ethical for a pet to receive oxygen therapy at home."?

July 28, 2020

Answered by Dr. Sara O. DVM

0 Recommendations

Hello, Dogs who need to have oxygen all the time are best kept at a veterinary clinic. The oxygen cages that pets stay in can cost thousands of dollars. Many people do not want to buy these cages to keep their dogs in at home. Dogs cannot wheel around an oxygen tank and usually will not tolerate oxygen tubes going into their nose as people do.

July 28, 2020

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