Can Dogs Get Asthma?

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You probably know several people who rely on an inhaler to help them breathe when they suffer an asthma attack. But, can you imagine having to use an inhaler on your dog? Is it possible for dogs to get asthma?

Since human and canine anatomy have so much in common, it should come as no surprise that your favorite four-legged friend can also contract asthma. Just as asthma can make life difficult for humans (inability to exercise or perform tasks that require a lot of exertion), it can also make life very challenging for your pet.

Can Dogs Get Asthma?

YES!

The simple answer is a resounding “Yes!” But at the same time, wheezing, coughing, and difficulty in breathing can also be related to several other medical conditions according to a study conducted at Washington State University. Remember, since it is technically possible for your dog to have asthma, you should have him examined by your vet if he starts to show signs of having this condition.

Does My Dog Have Asthma?

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of asthma in dogs are very similar to those in humans. These include repeated episodes of wheezing, difficulty breathing, and coughing. Oddly enough, this condition is more prevalent in dogs with flat faces known as brachycephalic breeds.

Causes

Canine asthma is also known as allergic bronchitis and may be the result of an allergy to pollens, grasses, smoke, aerosol sprays, and many other inhaled substances. There are also a few specific allergens that are known to cause asthma in dogs. These include wood smoke, cigar and cigarette smoke, floor and carpet cleaners, air fresheners, and deodorizers.

Diagnosis

Part of the problem is that the same symptoms that might indicate your dog has asthma can also be indicative of several other serious conditions including:

  • Allergies

  • Something stuck in his throat

  • An infection

  • Acute or chronic bronchitis

  • Parasites

  • Pneumonia

  • Tumors

  • Tracheal collapse

  • Heart problems

  • Kennel cough

If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms of canine asthma, it is vital that you take him to his vet for a full diagnosis including a chest x-ray. The vet may also perform a transtracheal wash to retrieve a sample of his lower airway cells. He may also perform a bronchoscopy, which involves lowering a camera into your dog's lungs and then retrieving a sample of his lung tissues. You can read more about this condition by reading our Condition Guide.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Asthma?

There are several treatments for canine asthma ranging from those administered by your vet to those you can do on your own at home.

Treatment

If your dog is in the middle of a full-blown asthma attack, your vet will give him a shot of epinephrine to stop the attack in its tracks. He will also put him on 100 percent oxygen while he recovers from the attack.

The vet may also recommend the use of a range of anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators, and steroid based inhalers. He may start with one of these or a combination of them to achieve the best results.

Recovery

Typically, once the medications have been administered the symptoms of the asthma attack will begin to subside almost immediately. If you have never experienced a canine asthma attack, you may want to read what other owners of dogs with asthma have done to ease their dog's condition and improve their quality of life.

The best source of information regarding your dog's asthma is your vet. He has the training and experience to diagnose this condition and to help provide the best possible treatment. Never be afraid to ask your vet questions about your dog's condition.

How Is Asthma in Dogs Similar to Asthma in Humans and Other Animals?

No matter whether we are talking about asthma in dogs, cats, people, or many other animals, the symptoms are very similar.

  • Wheezing that sounds like a high-pitched whistle

  • Pale mucous membranes, such as gums that appear bluish in color

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Inability to exercise

  • Breathing through an open mouth

  • Weight loss

How is Asthma in Dogs Different from Asthma in Humans and Other Animals?

While there are several similarities in how asthma manifests in dogs, cats, and humans, there are a few differences that you need to be aware of as well.

Cats

  • Symptoms may not be an indication of the severity of the condition

  • Asthma in cats may lead to anorexia and fatigue

Humans

  • Asthma is not always an allergic reaction

  • Asthma-related anaphylactic shock can cause a human to turn purple

Case Study

In July of 2015, Lucky the male Labrador was taken to the Temple Terrace Animal Hospital with a mysterious cough. He was a rescue dog who had already been treated for heartworms, who continued to have an occasional cough that no one worried too much about. When he suddenly developed a strong persistent cough, his owners became worried and took him to the hospital.

Treatment including using a camera to examine Lucky's lungs under anesthesia where it was discovered he did not have an infection but did, in fact, have inflammation in his bronchi. He was taken off the antibiotics and placed instead on steroids.

Lucky made a full recovery, however, the results of this show just how important it is to have a proper diagnosis when your pet's condition suddenly changes. Always be ready to take your dog to the vet any time he or she seems to be exhibiting any signs of being in medical distress.