Lung Disease in Dogs

Lung disease in dogs occurs in several different forms. Some of the most common lung diseases in dogs include asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer. However, less commonly, dogs have also been known to be susceptible to other pulmonary diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Because lung diseases affecting dogs requires immediate treatment, it is important that dog owners be able to recognize any symptoms which may indicate lung disease in their dog.

Lung Anatomy

The lungs are divided into lobes, and their overall function is to inhale oxygen from the air and distribute it to the bloodstream where it can be carried to cells and organs within the dog’s body. Cells and organs of the dog’s body require oxygen to live and function, so a lack of oxygen or a suboptimal oxygen supply can have detrimental affects on a dog’s health.

Asthma and Bronchitis in Dogs

Asthma and bronchitis in dogs are more common than most dog owners realize. In dogs, asthma is typically referred as allergic bronchitis. Both asthma and bronchitis result in inflammation of bronchioles, or airways; but allergic bronchitis occurs as the result of some environmental trigger or irritant that causes the airways to swell and reduce airflow.

Signs and symptoms of asthma and bronchitis in dogs include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Reduced activity
  • Lethargy

These types of lung diseases in dogs can be diagnosed by obtaining a chest x-ray, which may show infiltrates or areas of fluid contributing to the inflammation of the airways. In general, both asthma and bronchitis in dogs can be treated with bronchodilators or metered-dose inhalers which help relax the bronchioles so that air can pass freely. However, in cases of allergic bronchitis, it is extremely important to identify the irritant and eliminate it.

Dog Lung Cancer

Perhaps the most life-threatening of all lung disease in dogs is lung cancer. While veterinary science has not been able to identify the true cause of lung cancer in dogs, research does indicate that dogs exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for developing lung cancer than those that are not.

In dogs, lung cancer usually begins as a primary malignant tumor localized to and originating in the lungs. However, dogs can also be affected by metastatic lung tumors which are caused by cancerous tumors elsewhere throughout the body that grow and spread to the lungs.

Lung cancer is one of the most dangerous lung diseases affecting dogs, so early diagnosis and effective treatment is critical to the survival of the dog. Some of the signs of lung cancer in dogs include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lethargy and uncommon fatigue
  • Persistent cough, which may be productive of sputum
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath

In order to diagnose lung cancer in dogs, a chest x-ray will be necessary. However, further pulmonary testing with ultrasound imaging can assist with treatment by identifying the precise location of the tumor, its size, and whether or not there has been any infiltration of nearby structures.