Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs

Chronic bronchitis in dogs occurs when the bronchi, or breathing passages that allow air to travel from your dog's windpipe into his lungs, become inflamed. Vets don't fully understand what causes this respiratory ailment, which can cause coughing, wheezing, gagging, shortness of breath and other symptoms. Here's what you should know about chronic bronchitis in dogs.

Risk Factors for Dog Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is most common in medium sized and small dog breeds. Adult dogs are more likely to suffer from idiopathic bronchitis, or bronchitis for which there is no obvious cause. Dogs younger than one year of age are more likely to suffer from chronic infective tracheobronchitis, or chronic bronchitis that occurs as a result of infection. Both male and female dogs appear to suffer from bronchitis at the same rates; obesity seems to increase a dog's chances of developing bronchitis.

Symptoms of Dog Bronchitis

Bronchitis in dogs typically causes:

Besides the obvious respiratory symptoms, your dog may experience additional symptoms, including depression and lethargy, anorexia, and, in the case of infection, fever.

These symptoms often worsen with exercise. They may seem better or worse depending on the time of day. If bronchitis is severe, your dog's gums and tongue may take on a blue tint, especially with exercise. Dogs with severe bronchitis may faint after a coughing spell.

Diagnosing Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs

Your vet will need your dog's complete medical history in order to diagnose bronchitis. Your vet will perform a physical exam, and will listen closely to your dog's heart and lungs to evaluate their function. If your dog's lungs seem to be functioning abnormally, while his heart function appears to remain normal, then your vet may suspect chronic bronchitis.

Your vet may ask a lot of questions about your dog's medical history, especially about his history of previous illness and his response to treatment for those illnesses. Your vet may take chest X-rays and examine your dog's breathing passages. If your vet suspects infection, he may take cytology samples for culture in the lab.

Treating Bronchitis in Dogs

Chronic bronchitis in dogs often gets worse with time, and it can lead to severe breathing problems. Your vet will want to keep track of your dog's response to treatment, and will be especially concerned about the worsening of your dog's condition, perhaps by the onset of more severe conditions like pneumonia.

Bronchitis in dogs can be hard to cure, but most dogs experience significant improvement with treatment. Antibiotic and corticosteroid therapy is often used to manage symptoms and combat infection. Supportive respiratory care, including cough medications and bronchodilators, can help ease your dog's symptoms.

If your dog has chronic bronchitis, respect his limitations. Don't ask him to overexert himself. Your dog should never need to exert himself so much that he becomes out of breath, coughs, gags, or wheezes.

Walk your dog with a harness instead of a collar, control his weight, and consider using a humidifier to ease his breathing in the home. Keep the air in your dog's environment as clean as possible. Treat any dental infections or conditions as soon as possible, to prevent worsening of your dog's condition.