Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

Subcutaneous emphysema is a medical condition which consists of the presence of air and gas in the subcutaneous layer. It is usually localized in the chest area or around the neck and face. Subcutaneous emphysema can be caused by several factors such as punctures in the respiratory system, lung disorders, infections, but the most common cause is trauma. The condition is not life-threatening, but it can cause serious discomfort and pain. Therefore, when you spot unusual bumps on your dog’s skin, it is recommended that you go for a veterinarian checkup to have the condition diagnosed and treated.

Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

Subcutaneous emphysema in dogs is a disease which manifests through the swelling of the skin in different areas. Subcutaneous is a term that refers to the tissue situated beneath the surface layers of the skin: epidermis and dermis.

Emphysema is a lung disease which affects the breathing rendering the air sacs in the lungs unable to accomplish their function.

Subcutaneous emphysema consists of air or gas being present in the subcutaneous layer of the skin. Air can enter the skin tissue in various ways. Depending on the amount of air gathered under the skin, it can have a rice crispy look or it can give a bloated appearance to the dog.

Subcutaneous emphysema is not life-threatening but it can cause continuous pain, especially if there is a considerable quantity of air present in the dermal layer of the skin.

Causes of Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

Subcutaneous emphysema can occur due to a variety of causes. In dogs, the most common causes include puncture wounds caused by dog fights. Chest trauma, trachea or bronchial ruptures, lungs trauma or lung disorders can also result in air gathering under the skin.

Subcutaneous emphysema does not develop immediately after the dog has a fight or some other trauma. It may take even a week before the swelling becomes visible. Even minor bites can cause the air to gather under the skin and left untreated, the condition can become chronic.

In some cases, there might also be some underlying lung disease which causes subcutaneous emphysema.

Symptoms of Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

Dogs suffering from subcutaneous emphysema exhibit the following symptoms

  • Swelling of the skin
  • Bloated appearance in the chest area or around the neck and head
  • Swelling of mammary glands
  • Thoracic pain
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Pain when moving and refusal to move

Diagnosis of Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

In order to diagnose subcutaneous emphysema, the veterinarian usually performs a radiographic investigation. Based on the radiograph, the veterinarian can decide whether any further medical care is needed.

Treatment of Subcutaneous Emphysema in Dogs

Usually the treatment for subcutaneous emphysema consists of taking out the air from the under the skin. Basically, the veterinarian deflates the dog. This is usually performed through inserting syringe needles beneath the skin and letting the air out.

In some cases when the quantity of air is very small, it can dissipate within a few days without any medical intervention.