Diagnosing Asthma in Dogs

Asthma in dogs may be irritated by allergies, dust or smoke, exercise and even barking. Dog asthma causes your dog's breathing passageways to spasm, so that they become narrow, inflamed and filled with mucus. When your dog's breathing passages, or bronchial tubes, are thus constricted, it becomes difficult for him to breathe.

Dog Asthma Causes and Symptoms

A dog with asthma will suffer asthma attacks when he encounters something that triggers his asthma. Asthma triggers for dogs can include:

  • Dust
  • Smoke
  • Allergens
  • Exercise
  • Barking
  • Dry Air

When your dog's asthma flares up, his bronchial tubes become inflammed, constricted and blocked with mucus. This makes it hard to your dog to breathe; he may also refrain from eating and drinking, even if the asthma attack is mild. Symptoms of asthma in dogs include:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Blue gums
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Panting or open mouthed breathing

Diagnosing Canine Asthma

Your vet will need to perform a thorough physical examination in order to diagnose dog asthma. He'll want your dog's medical history and will also want to take chest X-rays. Blood tests can help your vet rule out conditions with similar symptoms, such as respiratory infection, heartworms and cardiac disease.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from canine asthma, keep a journal detailing the circumstances of each attack. Write down when and where each attack occurs, whether it is mild, moderate or severe in comparison with other attacks, and what your dog was doing when he had the attack. Remember that your dog's asthma might be triggered by dust, smoke, mold, pollen or other environmental factors, so make a note of any potential asthma triggers that might be present when your dog suffers and asthma attack.

Treating Asthma in Dogs

You and your vet will need to determine the cause of your dog's asthma before you can pursue treatment. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your dog's asthma attacks. Potential canine asthma treatments include:

  • Antihistamines, which work well on asthma triggered by allergies. Antihistamines block the autoimmune response that causes canine allergy symptoms.
  • Steroids reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes and reduce the chances of future asthma attacks. Canine asthma usually improves when treated with steroids.
  • Bronchodilators are the same kinds of medications used in human asthma inhalers. They treat the bronchial inflammation associated with an asthma attack, and reduce bronchial constriction, so that your dog breathes easier during an attack.
  • Oxygen therapy can help your dog recover from an asthma attack more quickly. When your dog is in the midst of a canine asthma attack, his body becomes quickly deprived of oxygen, which can cause your dog to panic. Panic raises your dog's heart rate and causes muscular tension, which makes it even harder for your dog to breathe. Oxygen therapy relieves this problem.

Asthma in dogs is usually an easy condition to manage in the long term, and with proper treatment and attention, your asthmatic dog can continue to enjoy a normal quality of life. You may have to try several treatments, however, before you hit on one that works.