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Help! I think my dog is having an asthma attack! What should I do?

Canine asthma, also known as allergic bronchitis or allergic airway disease, is a condition that affects your dog's' ability to breathe. Today, our Tucson vets explore the causes, symptoms, and management of asthma in dogs.

What is asthma in dogs?

When we think of asthma, we often picture friends or family members reaching for inhalers to manage their respiratory symptoms. But for many pet parents, it's surprising to learn that our canine companions can also suffer from asthma.

Asthma in dogs, also known as allergic bronchitis or allergic airway disease, is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways in the lungs.

How can I tell if my dog has asthma?

Symptoms of asthma in dogs include:

  • Wheezing 
  • Heavy panting with mouth open
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing (often sudden)
  • Persistent cough 
  • Loss of energy 
  • Bluish gum color
  • Loss of appetite

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet immediately. Although asthma may be the cause of these symptoms, there are also a number of other serious conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Veterinary diagnosis is key to understanding the cause of your dog's breathing difficulties.

What could be triggering my dog's asthma attacks?

Triggers of asthma in dogs can vary widely. In fact, your dog's asthma may be set off by many of the same things that can trigger asthma in people. Some common culprits include:

  • Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, and even certain types of pet dander.
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke and fumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Strong odors or perfumes
  • Cold or humid air

How do vets diagnose asthma in dogs?

There is no specific test for diagnosing asthma in dogs. When asthma is suspected, vets focus on ruling out other possible causes of the symptoms such as heart disease, bacterial infections, and heartworm disease. Following a full physical examination, your vet may recommend other diagnostic tests such as X-rays or heartworm testing to determine your dog's overall state of health. 

How is asthma in dogs treated?

Depending upon the severity and frequency of your dog's asthma attacks, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory steroid to help control your dog's asthma symptoms and prevent long-term damage to your pet's lungs. Permanent lung damage can result from asthma attacks, which is why you should always take symptoms seriously and contact your vet if your dog appears to be having an asthma attack.

Can dogs have inhalers to help with asthma symptoms?

In some cases, inhalers may be prescribed for a dog with asthma. Albuterol sulfate, (common brands include Proventil and Ventolin) may help to relax the dog's airway muscles to improve breathing. That said, you should never give your dog medications without consulting your veterinarian. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.

How can I help my dog avoid having an asthma attack?

Some of the most common triggers of asthma attacks in dogs are cigarette smoke, cleaning products, pollen and mould. If you and your vet are able to determine the cause of your dog's asthma, avoiding the allergen entirely is the best thing you can do to help your dog breathe easier. The less exposure your dog has to the irritant, the fewer attacks your dog is likely to have.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pet is experiencing breathing difficulties immediate veterinary care is required. Contact Veterinary Specialty Center of Tucson right away. Our emergency vets are available on weekends and holidays to care for your furry family member.

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Our board-certified critical care specialists and skilled emergency veterinarians are here for you and your pet. If your dog or cat needs emergency care, get in touch with us right away.

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