Can dogs have asthma?

April 13, 2012

An asthma attack is an uncomfortable and difficult condition. An asthma attack hampers the breathing pattern of the sufferer. Oxygen is a very important element in a human’s existence thus being deprived of this life support can be very dangerous. Contrary to popular belief that asthma is only an ailment of humans, this condition that is characterized by the inflammation of the airways afflicts pets too. Asthma is more common in cats but dogs are not totally free from this debilitating illness. Although asthma is not a very common canine ailment, this condition is often seen in small breeds and in middle aged dogs. If you have asthma, you will know how a dog will feel during an asthma episode.

A dog can have asthma at birth. This condition can also develop like any other canine ailments. Asthma is also known as allergic bronchitis. Similar to human asthma, dog asthma is caused by an allergic reaction to allergens from foods and from molds and pollen. These allergens will cause the inflammation of the bronchi causing the constriction of the tiny airway passages. The breathing pattern of the dog is further impaired when mucus obstructs the airways. During an asthma attack the dog will start to cough and wheeze. A severe asthma attack can turn the dog’s tongue to blue due to the insufficient supply of oxygen. Dogs with asthma will have a miserable existence. Physical exertion, a change in temperature can trigger an attack. Allergic reaction cannot be totally prevented as it is rather impossible to pinpoint the allergens that trigger the inflammation of the airway passage. Asthmatic dog would commonly lose weight because of inappetance. We know dogs to be very active animals. However, asthma will make the dog lethargic. Physical exertion can trigger an asthma attack.

Asthma attacks can be treated but further attacks cannot be totally prevented as it is quite difficult to determine the exact allergen that causes the attack. Moreover, the symptoms of asthma can be similar to the symptoms of other canine diseases. Severe coughing and breathlessness can be associated with kennel cough or to heartworms. It is therefore imperative to have the dog’s condition diagnosed by a professional. Apart from a thorough physical examination, the vet would require the dog to have chest x-rays. The dog may have to undergo bronchoscopy as well if x-rays cannot fully diagnose the condition of the pet. Once the asthma is fully diagnosed, simple medications can be given to alleviate the discomfort of the dog. Because an asthma attack is usually triggered when the body releases histamines to fight allergen invasion, antihistamines are typically given to the dog. As mucus blocks the airway passage, the vet would usually prescribe medications that will dissolve or loosen the mucus. Bronchodilators and steroids are administered as well. Inhalation medication can be difficult to administer but it will provide the dog will immediate relief from the breathing difficulties. In severe cases of asthma attacks the vet may give the dog injections that will reduce the inflammation of the lungs so that the pet can breathe easier.

Asthmatic dogs commonly require lifelong treatments. However, this does not mean that the dog cannot have a normal life. It would be the owner’s responsibility to prevent the dog from being exposed to conditions that will trigger an attack. Vigorous physical exertion must be avoided as this will trigger an attack. It is necessary to keep the dog’s medication at hand so that immediate relief can be given to the dog should an attack occur.

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