May 06, 2021 5 min read
A long-term condition for many people which causes the airways to narrow and swell, resulting in difficulty breathing, persistent coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, asthma can be very frightening at times.
With the rise in pollen count, pesticides and fertilizers circling the air during the spring and summer months, asthma awareness starts to climb because people are now exposed to more airborne irritants than any other time of the year.
Although it’s more common in people and cats, dogs can still develop asthma which can cause a range of breathing difficulties and exhibit asthmatic symptoms. During this time of year, it’s important just to keep a closer eye on your dog’s breathing because this acute condition can quickly become chronic in animals.
We are going to cover everything you need to know about asthma in dogs from the causes, signs and symptoms, how to treat it and some very simple steps to help prevent it in the first place so your dog has the best chance of being asthma-free.
Called allergic bronchitis in canines, asthma is defined as a allergenic disease because it’s an allergic reaction to something in your dog’s environment. When your dog is exposed to an allergen, their immune system becomes activated and produces a protein called histamine.
As part of the body’s defence system, this natural occurring protein increases blood flow in the body which in turn, causes inflammation in the areas where the allergen was detected in the first place which is the mouth, throat, airways and lungs.
Consequently, these areas which are responsible for carrying air in and out of the body become restricted due to inflammation which causes breathing difficulties. Excess mucus is also produced by the body which often becomes blocked in the bronchial tubes causing more restriction on the airways.
Asthma is usually seen in middle-aged dogs and some younger dogs, with research also suggesting that small dogs are more likely to develop the condition than larger dogs.
This is due to the smaller airways they have than larger breeds which is why you often see flat-faced breeds with narrowed nostrils and smaller palates like Pugs, French Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas, often suffering with windpipe issues and breathing problems because they already have partially obstructed airways in the first place.
Asthma attacks in dogs are triggered by the inhalation of allergens and there are a number of possible causes which cause a response from the immune system but typical allergens include;
Not all dogs will have the following symptoms and the same goes for if a dog experiences several of the symptoms below - it doesn’t mean they necessarily have asthma because they may just have breathing difficulties of their own because of the type of breed they are.
Signs and symptoms of an asthma attack include;
If you noticed a combination of any of the symptoms above, you should take your dog to the vet to get a diagnosis and to rule out any other underlying health issues. An early diagnosis for asthma is vital to prevent a severe asthma attack in the future which can be fatal.
Asthma can be difficult to diagnose since they can seem fine when they are not having an active asthma attack. That’s why it’s so important to take your dog to the vet if you notice your dog experiencing a combination of the signs and symptoms above.
It would also be a good idea to take a video of your dog having an active asthma attack so your vet can easily see the attack for themselves and make a diagnosis.
The most important part of a diagnosis is to figure out what is triggering your dog’s asthma in the first place, so the trigger can be removed from your dog’s environment. Since there’s no cure currently for asthma, avoiding the allergy all together would be the most effective way to prevent asthma in dogs. As long as the source of your dog’s asthma is found, your dog can live a normal, happy life with the help from treatment to help ease symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your dog’s asthma, there are many different types of treatment your vet will perform.
If your dog is having an acute asthma attack which is considered an emergency, your dog will be hospitalised and placed into an oxygen cage to help them breathe and given a IV catheter to deliver medication and fluids.
This is the worst case scenario and the least likely so don’t worry, the most common is mild asthma and your vet will firstly test them for allergies and if it came back positive for having an allergy to one or more irritants, your vet may prescribe antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics or bronchodilators which relaxes the bronchial muscle to allow more air through.
However, the most effective way would be to remove the allergen from your dog’s environment, preventing triggers and asthma attacks in the future.
There are many tips and tricks you can do at home to prevent your dog developing asthma in the first place, especially if they are prone or sensitive to new things in their environment.
Preventive measures you can take to avoid your dog developing asthma include;
Asthma can be very uncomfortable for dogs and unpleasant at times so it’s important to just keep an extra eye on your dog over the next couple of months when there more airborne irritants circling the air.
If you notice any combination of the asthma signs and symptoms listed above, be sure to contact your vet immediately or take a video to show your vet of the asthma attack.
Think your dog may have hay fever? Click here to discover everything you need to know about hay fever in dogs and how to help your sneezy fur ball.
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