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Can Dogs Get Bronchitis?


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We all experience bad chest infections from time to time, with many of us having particularly nasty bouts of coughing and breathing difficulties once every few years before making a fairly speedy recovery. These particularly bad illnesses are usually referred to as ‘bronchitis’, which is a catch-all term used to refer to a significant viral or bacterial infection of the lungs. However, does this same illness pose a threat to your household pets as well?

Can Dogs Get Bronchitis?


Dogs will frequently come into contact with microbes on the floor or carried by other animals that may prove harmful to their health. When dealing with a dog with bronchitis, it is important that you do not place the animal under any undue respiratory stress (such as that caused by heavy exercise), as this can easily cause complications or even end up with the problem getting worse.

Does My Dog Have Bronchitis?

If you suspect that your pet is suffering from a serious chest infection, there are several symptoms that can provide clues as to the severity of the condition. The first (and most obvious) of these is a pronounced cough. This is caused by the dog’s lungs producing excess mucus in an attempt to wash the bacteria or virus out of the body. The mucus then backs up in the lungs and airways, making it hard to breathe and forcing the dog to persistently cough. You may also notice the dog wheezing as it inhales and exhales and becoming unwilling to engage in any strenuous physical activity. Typically, these symptoms will continue for a week or more before they start to fade away or grow worse and necessitate a visit to the vet.

In many cases, bronchitis is transmitted via the dog coming into contact with an infected animal and inhaling the virus that is spread via coughing. Alternatively, the dog can accidentally inhale harmful bacteria whilst sniffing an object. In both cases, the onset of symptoms should be quite rapid. When the dog is brought to a vet, they will typically make a diagnosis via a physical inspection or via analyzing a saliva sample under a microscope. Once they have determined the nature of the infection (i.e. bacterial or viral), they will be able to come up with a suitable treatment plan.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Bronchitis?

Following diagnosis of the condition, the vet will, in most circumstances, advise you that the dog’s immune system will be able to get rid of the infection by itself within a couple of weeks. However, if the symptoms exhibited by the animal are especially severe, they will usually offer a solution in the form of antibiotic or antiviral drugs administered alongside anti-inflammatories. These will typically come in the form of a pill and will need to be given to the dog on a periodic basis to ensure that they work properly. Whilst this will also have the effect of speeding up your pet’s recovery time, you should take care to not allow the dog to over-exert itself in the following weeks and conserve the animal’s energy to help it heal. It should be noted that bacterial infections responsible for bronchitis can be highly infectious and transmitted between species, so you should be careful to avoid getting too close to the sick dog for longer than necessary (as this can help to further spread microbes around the house) and take care to keep the dog away from other household pets.

For more information on the methods used to treat bronchitis as well as firsthand testimony from pet owners and on-demand assistance from our in-house veterinarians, visit our Condition Guide: Bronchitis in Dogs.

How Is Bronchitis Similar in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Whilst the exact ways in which different species display the symptoms of bronchitis differ slightly, there are some startling similarities between animals that contract the illness.

  • The mechanism by which the illness can pose a threat to the host animal remains the same in all of its victims. Namely, the cilia in large portions of the lungs become so inflamed and coated with mucus that they become unable to absorb oxygen, causing the animal to have to breathe harder.

  • For many humans, the irritation of the lungs stems from an allergic reaction to airborne material such as pollen, which enters the body during normal breathing. Dogs can also become allergic to certain plants and can develop bronchitis as a result.

  • The treatment methods for bronchitis generally remain the same no matter what animal is afflicted, with rest and conservation of energy being the primary method for humans and canines alike.

How Is Bronchitis Different in Dogs, Humans and Other Animals?

Although the illness can have many superficial similarities no matter who or what has contracted it, there are some key differences between each species’ experiences that you should keep in mind.

  • The viruses that often cause the condition cannot jump between species, meaning that there is little risk posed by interacting with a dog that has viral bronchitis.

  • For humans, frequent washing of the hands can be used to speed up recovery times, as this prevents bacteria ejected from the body through coughing from being re-absorbed when the hands touch the face.

  • Dogs will typically be at a greater risk of developing complications such as dehydration during the course of the illness than humans. This is partly due to the amount of fluid that can be lost as mucus relative to the size of the creature, but is mainly because the animal may become highly sedentary and not actively seek out food and water at mealtimes.

Case Study

A 1990 study of 18 different cases of chronic canine bronchitis involved the vets taking oxygen level readings from inside the afflicted dogs’ airways. The purpose of this was to determine what type of bacteria would be a common factor in each of the cases. In turn, this information would enable vets to make faster diagnoses and prescribe better targeted methods of treatment. After collating the results, the researchers found no noticeable difference in the oxygen mixture being emitted by the infected dogs, meaning that aerobic bacteria could be eliminated as a common cause of canine bronchitis.

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