Bronchiectasis in Dogs

Bronchiectasis in dogs is a condition that occurs when the bronchi, or major air passageways of the lungs, become permanently narrowed. Bronchiectasis can cause serious lung problems, including recurrent infections, in dogs. Treatment can be a long process. Read on to learn more about this debilitating lung condition in dogs.

Causes and Risk Factors for Bronchiectasis in Dogs

Bronchiectasis can occur due to infections, foreign objects in the lungs, inhalation of pollutants, exposure to radiation or certain lung conditions. Causes can include:

  • Inflammation or infection of the lungs that has not been properly treated, especially if the condition has been chronic
  • Inhalation of toxins, smoke or airborne chemicals
  • Tumors in the lungs
  • Inhalation of foreign objects, or infections caused by inhalation of foreign objects
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Primary ciliary dyskinesia, a condition that impairs the lungs' ability to expel mucus

Some breeds are more vulnerable to this condition that others. These breeds include:

  • Miniature Poodle
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Siberian Husky

Bronchiectasis usually occurs in middle aged and geriatric animals. Dogs with any history of chronic lung disease are at an especially high risk.

Symptoms of Bronchiectasis in Dogs

Bronchiectasis can cause dogs to cough up a lot of phlegm, or it can occur without excess phlegm production. Symptoms can include:

  • Cough, often phlegm-producing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Intolerance to physical activity
  • Labored breathing, especially with physical activity
  • Fever that comes and goes
  • Listlessness and fatigue
  • Runny nose
  • Rapid breathing

Bronchiectasis can make it hard for your dog to breathe, and make him more vulnerable to recurrent, serious lung infections. If left untreated, bronchiectasis can permanently damage your dog's lungs.

Diagnosing Bronchiectasis in Dogs

Since bronchiectasis can have so many different causes, your vet will need as much information about your dog's health history as you can give him. A number of tests might be necessary, in addition to a physical exam, in order to determine the cause of your dog's condition.

Blood and urine tests can help your vet determine if your dog has an infection, and they can also tell him something about how your dog's lungs are functioning. X-rays can help your vet evaluate the extent of any damage to your dog's lungs. CT scans can also help your vet identify lung damage, and your vet may want to take biopsy samples of your dog's lung tissue for the same reason.

Treating Bronchiectasis in Dogs

Your dog's treatment will depend on the causes and severity of his condition. If your dog's condition is particularly severe, he may need to be hospitalized until his condition it stable. If your dog has suffered irreversible lung damage, then he may need surgery to remove the affected tissue.

Determining the cause of your dog's bronchiectasis is often crucial to treating it. Antibiotics can help improve your dog's condition if he is suffering from infection. Removing environmental irritants, including smoke and aerosol chemicals like hairspray, can help relieve your dog's symptoms as he recovers. 

Your vet will need to monitor your dog's recovery closely. Keep your dog in a calm, quite setting, and keep the air he breathes as clean as possibly during his recovery process.