COPD in Dogs

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, occurs due to chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which help air move from your dog's windpipe into his lungs. COPD affects some breeds more than others, and usually strikes older dogs. Read on to learn more about his chronic respiratory illness.

Causes and Risk Factors for COPD in Dogs

COPD affects some breeds of dog more than others, particularly the West Highland White Terrier. Cocker Spaniels also seem to develop COPD more often than other breeds. This chronic respiratory disorder is most common in toy and small breeds, though it can strike larger dogs, too. Most dogs are middle-aged or older when they develop COPD.

COPD is usually a complication of allergies, or another respiratory disorder like asthma. It can occur due to environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, perfume or household cleaners. Obese and overweight dogs are more likely to develop COPD than other dogs. 

Symptoms of Canine COPD

Dogs with COPD develop a cough that lasts for more than eight weeks. The cough often gets worse when the dog becomes excited or exerts himself. The cough is also often worse at night than it was in the morning. COPD coughs are often dry and hacking, and they might cause your dog to gag, retch and even vomit up a little foamy, clear fluid.

Dogs with COPD might exhibit some of these additional symptoms:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lowered appetite and weight loss
  • Depression and fever

Dogs with COPD may have trouble getting enough oxygen, so their tongues, lips, and gums might take on a bluish tint. They might faint after a coughing spell, after exerting themselves or after becoming excited.

Diagnosing and Treating COPD in Dogs

There are a number of other conditions that could cause your dog's symptoms, including heartworm, lungworm, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. Your vet may need to run a number of tests in order to rule out these other conditions. X-rays, saliva cultures and other tests might be necessary.

Your vet will also physically examine your dog when diagnosing COPD. Your vet may ask questions about possible pollutants or irritants in your dog's environment, your dog's activity level, and his tolerance to exertion or excitement. If your dog has a history of allergies, asthma or any other respiratory problems, let your vet know.

Treatment for canine COPD varies depending on its cause. In some cases, COPD occurs as the result of an infection, and might require antibiotics or other medication. Corticosteroids, bronchodilators and other medications can help support your dog's respiratory function. Usually, COPD is progressive, so your dog might require more and more intensive supportive therapy as time goes by.

If your dog has COPD, walk him with a harness instead of a collar, since collars can put pressure on the windpipe. Don't allow your dog to exert himself, and try not to let him get too excited or stressed. A humidifier and air purifier can help your dog breathe more easily in the home.