Does My Dog Have Asthma?

close-up of cream-colored French bulldog

Your dog starts coughing, wheezing, and having a hard time breathing. Is it asthma or something else? It’s helpful to know the symptoms and what to do when a dog has an asthma attack.

Can Dogs Have Asthma?

Asthma is more often associated with cats, but dogs can suffer from this health condition too. It’s usually seen in middle-aged and smaller dogs, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Maltese.

Asthma in dogs is typically caused by an allergic reaction that affects the airways. The bronchi, which are small air passages in the lungs, become inflamed and start to fill with mucus. They contract and spasm, making it hard for your dog to breathe.

Cat asthma is the most commonly diagnosed feline respiratory disorder. Veterinary epidemiologists estimate that it affects around 800,000 kitties in the US.

How to Know if Your Dog Has Asthma

The symptoms of asthma in dogs are similar to those of humans. They can include:

A dog having an asthma attack may seem panicked and unable to calm down. If they normally have a pink tongue and gums, they may also turn a bluish color, which is due to a lack of oxygen. If you notice this symptom, you should seek medical attention for them as soon as possible.

one-eyed beagle mix with a red color and gold tag on a leash in the middle of a field of yellow flowers

What Causes Asthma in Dogs?

Asthma in dogs is typically brought on by an allergic reaction to something in the environment. Some common allergens that can cause asthma include:

If someone in your household smokes, you should ask them to do so outside away from your dog to help prevent an asthma attack.

If your dog spends time at boarding facilities, your veterinarian may recommend they receive a vaccine for kennel cough. Learn more about vaccinations for dogs.

Diagnosing Asthma in Dogs

Unless your dog has an asthma attack in your veterinarian’s office, it can be a little tricky to diagnose the condition. Your veterinarian will rely on your description of the symptoms and your dog’s medical history. They’ll ask you about how and when the symptoms occurred as well as any history of allergies or previous asthma attacks.

They will also conduct a nose to tail physical exam and potentially order blood tests, urinary analysis, and chest X-rays. These diagnostic tools can help rule out other illnesses, such as an infection, kennel cough, or bronchitis. In addition, your veterinarian may test for heartworm disease since it can show similar symptoms to asthma.

How Do You Treat Asthma in Dogs?

Your veterinarian will likely recommend medications to treat your dog’s asthma. These can include bronchodilators to help open up the airways, antihistamines to reduce allergic reactions, and steroids to decrease inflammation in the airways. If your dog is having a severe asthma attack, they may need to be hospitalized and given oxygen.

Asthma in dogs is sometimes treated using a nebulizer. If you or a family member have asthma, you might be familiar with this medical device. It converts liquid medication into a mist so it can be inhaled directly into the lungs.

Your dog may not be too keen on using a nebulizer at first since it needs to be placed over their mouth and nose. But you and your veterinarian can help them get used to it with patience and rewards.

bulldog resting on a mans lap in a brown leather chair

What to Do When a Dog Has an Asthma Attack

It can be frightening to watch your dog have trouble breathing, but you should do your best to stay calm. Dogs have a remarkable ability to pick up on our emotional states, and they may get more upset if they see that you’re panicked.

You can try to calm your dog down by talking to them gently while you call your veterinary clinic for advice. Your veterinarian can offer recommendations over the phone, including whether or not you should bring them in for immediate medical treatment.

Research shows that dogs can understand our words and emotions. They also have stronger reactions to fear, anger, and happiness than sadness or disgust.

Caring for a Dog with Asthma

If your dog is prone to asthma, you’ll want to minimize their exposure to allergens that might cause an attack. For instance:

Does Pet Insurance Cover Asthma?

Complete CoverageSM includes illness coverage, which covers the costs of diagnosing and treating asthma. It also covers chronic conditions, so you can get reimbursed up to your annual limit each year if your dog needs ongoing treatment for asthma.

Keep in mind that asthma may not be covered if your dog had symptoms before enrolling in pet insurance or during an illness waiting period. This would make it a pre-existing condition, which is excluded from most plans. This is one reason it’s smart to cover your pet sooner rather than later.

Want to know more? Dig into the benefits of pet insurance for dogs or check out our buyer’s guide, which explains the ins and outs of coverage.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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