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Breathe Easy: Holistic Treatments for Asthma in Dogs


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As with people, dogs can suffer from asthma caused by various environmental conditions. Asthma occurs when the air passages fill up with mucous due to an obstruction of the airways, causing difficulty in breathing. Asthma can occur in any breed of dog at any time, although puppies and middle-aged dogs are more prone to developing this condition. 

And like people, dogs can be given conventional treatments to address and ease the symptoms of asthma. But what if you don’t want to give your dog cortisones and steroids? There are holistic approaches you can investigate that might be worthwhile for you and your dog.

What are the causes of asthma in dogs?

There are a variety of environmental causes for asthma in dogs:

  • Dust mites
  • Air pollution (smog, smoke)
  • Smoke (tobacco, fireplace)
  • Pollens, ragweed, grasses
  • Pesticides and fertilizers
  • Mold and mildew
  • Aerosol sprays (like air fresheners)
  • Household chemicals and cleaning products
  • Home remodeling products (such as paint)

Some people also feel that the quality (or lack thereof) of a dog’s diet can lead to a compromised immune system, making asthma a condition more likely to develop. Because other health conditions (such as heartworm and heart disease) can have similar symptoms, take your dog to the vet to have these serious conditions ruled out and asthma confirmed.

What are the symptoms of asthma in dogs?

Like the causes of asthma in dogs, the symptoms are varied and can occur on a broad range of intensity. Here are the main symptoms that asthma induces in dogs:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Weight loss
  • Labored, shallow breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Pale mucous membranes, including bluish-colored gums
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Dramatic movement of the abdomen while breathing

With proper management, many of these conditions can be reversed. However, if your dog’s asthma becomes chronic, irreversible damage will be done to the sensitive tissue lining the air passageways in the lungs.

If at any time your dog shows a purple colored tongue or gums, this means there is a lack of oxygen reaching the blood. Get your dog to a veterinary or emergency clinic immediately. Acute asthma attacks can result in the suffocation of your dog.

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Why are conventional treatments problematic?

Many veterinarians will prescribe conventional treatments for dogs with asthma, and the levels of the treatments will depend on the severity of the condition and accompanying symptoms. 

Often bronchodilators and specially designed steroid inhalers are prescribed by veterinarians, but unless your dog has a severe, life-threatening case of asthma --- in which case they will need to be on medications for life --- you will want to wean your dog off of the steroids as soon as possible. Your dog’s immune system will be weakened over time if they remain on these conventional treatment methods, and long-term use of antihistamines can adversely affect some body systems.

If your dog is on steroid medications for an extended period, the following side effects may occur:

  • Excessive, frequent panting
  • Development of infections
  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Lethargy and loss of energy
  • Nausea and vomiting

Moving your dog toward more holistic methods to manage and eradicate asthma removes the likelihood of your dog experiencing these side effects. Discuss the possibilities of trying holistic treatments with your vet before stopping any prescribed medications.

Natural remedies for asthma in dogs

There is a multitude of natural, holistic approaches to addressing asthma in dogs. Here are some of the most popular and successful natural remedies for asthma in dogs:

Herbal remedies

Quercetin: This natural solution is located in the peels of certain fruits and vegetables. Quercetin is a flavonoid, a plant-based compound full of potent antioxidant properties. This particular flavonoid is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. 

Inula helenium: This herb has been used for centuries to treat breathing issues. Inula helenium is effective in treating asthma as well as bronchitis and coughs. It has a soothing and calming effect as well.

Mullein and licorice root: Both of these herbs fight inflammations and help reduce coughing.

Echinacea and Oregon grape herb: These two herbs contribute to strengthening the immune system, and a stronger immune system means a lower occurrence of asthma.

Environmental remedies

Run a humidifier: A humidifier will loosen and eventually reduce the amount of mucous in your dog’s lungs. A cold-moisture humidifier works best to add moisture to the air in your house. 

Oxygen therapy: This is an excellent natural remedy for us in emergency situations. A small oxygen cylinder is used to administer oxygen directly to your dog. For chronic asthmatic cases, having a vet-prescribed oxygen cylinder at home would be a good idea.

Acupuncture: This technique involves inserting needles into specific locations in the body to produce a healing effect. For 3,000 years, this practice has been used worldwide. Although it does not provide a cure, acupuncture can relieve some symptoms associated with asthma, particularly by stimulating nerves, increasing blood circulation, and causing the release of the natural hormone cortisol and endorphins.

Manage your dog’s weight and diet. Dogs with a mild case of asthma who are slightly overweight may find that losing a few pounds helps alleviate any impact on the dog’s respiratory system. Additionally, review your dog’s diet. Many dogs suffer from food-based allergens which can cause asthmatic occurrences. Improve your dog’s diet, and you may see a decrease in asthma difficulties and symptoms.

Asthma can be a challenging and scary illness to see in your dog, but with some education and footwork, you can use holistic methods to improve your asthmatic dog’s quality of life.

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