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 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:
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive panting
- Breathing with a wide mouth
- Mucus buildup
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.
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:
- Mold and dust mites
- Cat litter dust
- Cat dander
- Household cleaners
- Air fresheners, perfumes, or scented candles
- Fireplaces and wood stoves
- Pesticides and fertilizers
- Smoke from cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or vaping
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.
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:
- Purchase a room air purifier to help remove particles in the air that can trigger an attack.
- Bathe your dog regularly and dry them off with a soft towel afterward. Choose a safe, unscented shampoo made for dogs.
- If you have a cat, go with dust-free cat litter. You should also put the litterbox in a place where your curious pooch can’t get at it.
- Wipe your dog off with pet-safe wipes after going outside to remove pollen and other allergens from their coat.
- Vacuum often, including area rugs, carpeting, and any fabric chairs or couches that your dog likes to nap on.
- Consider removing area rugs and replacing carpeting with other types of flooring. Even with regular vacuuming, they can hold in allergens, such as dust mites and mold.
- Clean tile and hardwood floors using unscented products. You can also use a mixture of vinegar and water as a safe floor cleaning alternative.
- Avoid using scented air fresheners or deodorizers. You can place shallow bowls of baking soda around the house out of paw’s reach to absorb odors.
- Wash your dog’s bedding and blankets frequently using fragrance-free laundry detergents and fabric softeners.
- Keep your dog out of rooms or other places where people are smoking or vaping.
- Avoid burning wood in fireplace or stoves. You can use fake logs or battery-powered candles for a gentle glow that is safe for pets.
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.
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.
title: Does My Dog Have Asthma?
author: Dr. Wendy Hauser