Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Dogs

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in dogs occurs when there is a sudden onset of respiratory failure caused by inflammation or fluids in the lungs. The condition is extremely life-threatening in dogs, with a very high mortality rate. ARDS may also be referred to as shock lung because it usually occurs after an incident that leads to shock, most likely an injury. Usually the injury has allowed fluid, blood and tissue to enter the barrier of the lungs and alveoli, which eventually causes them to collapse. Once this happens, breathing becomes extremely difficult, and treatment will be needed quickly or breathing will become impossible.

Symptoms of ARDS in Dogs

Acute respiratory distress syndrome may cause the following signs and symptoms in dogs:

  • Labored breathing
  • Coughing or hacking
  • Liquid discharge from the nostrils
  • High Fever
  • Blue discoloration of the skin
  • Other symptoms that may be related to the underlying cause

Causes of ARDS in Dogs

The following are some of the possible major causes of ARDS in dogs:

  • Near Drowning
  • Pneumonia
  • Smoke of gas inhalation
  • Extreme thermal burns
  • Gastric aspiration of contents
  • Infections of the bloodstream
  • Infections of the lungs
  • Trauma to the lungs
  • Other serious illnesses or diseases

Diagnosing ARDS in Dogs

Acute respiratory distress syndrome in dogs is a very serious medical emergency and will need immediate treatment. As soon as you notice any of the signs or symptoms of ARDS in your dog, or you suspect your pet has ARDS, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure a proper diagnoses and treatment. Your veterinarian should be informed on your pet's complete medical history, onset of symptoms, and any incidents or trauma that may have triggered the condition.

After your dog receives emergency treatment, your veterinarian will try to find the underlying condition or cause for the ARDS. Most commonly, laboratory tests will be conducted to decide what the cause is. Blood tests, biochemical tests, urine tests, blood gas analysis, and other various tests will be conducted on your pet.

Treatment for ARDS in Dogs

If your pet has ARDS, he will need emergency care in an intensive care facility. In addition to this, the initial causes needs to be found and treated properly in order to prevent any more complications as the result of it. Although the medical field has experienced a great deal or advances in recent years, ARDS still remains one of the most difficult conditions to treat and diagnose in dogs.

Oxygen therapy will be given to your pet immediately to reduce any distress to the respiratory system. If your dog doesn't respond to the oxygen therapy and still shows signs of labored breathing, he may respond better to a ventilator. ARDS may be treated with certain medications including pain killers, antibiotics, corticosteroids and fluid therapy. Your pet may require frequent temperature readings, pulse analysis, respiratory rate readings, and blood pressure readings in the first stages of treatment. In addition, your pet will be kept in a confined area during recovery.

Preventing ARDS in Dogs

The best way to prevent ARDS is to establish the initial underlying cause. If your pet develops ARDS and the underlying cause isn't treated, he may very easily get ARDS again, which may result in further complications or death.