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Dog Asthma: Common Triggers, Symptoms, and Effective Treatments

Asthma is a common condition among humans, but can our pets get asthma? Yes! Learn more about how this condition presents itself in pups so you can keep your dog safe, happy, and breathing more clearly. 

Can a Dog Have Asthma?

Much in the same way many humans have asthma, many pets can develop this condition, too. Many cats are asthmatic, and though it's a little less common, this condition can also affect our sweet canine companions. 

It can be tough to watch our pups suffering, and their confusion about what's happening can quickly lead to panic and anxiety for them. 

You may suspect your dog has asthma if it's out of breath and having difficulty breathing beyond normal panting. There are simple solutions to keep your pup from having asthma attacks. 

Learn more below about the common asthma triggers and dog asthma signs – and learn our simple, effective methods to prevent asthma attacks!

What is Dog Asthma?

A dog with asthma experiences an allergic reaction that triggers allergic bronchitis, or asthma, in their body. It causes difficulty breathing, and the symptoms can range from relatively minor to life-threatening in the worst cases. 

Dog asthma usually occurs due to allergic reaction to something in their environment that causes fluid or mucus to narrow or fill their airways. This fluid causes the airway to constrict, making it hard for the dog to breathe. 

Severe asthma can cause hypoxia, a condition that deprives the body of adequate oxygen, and other life-threatening illnesses. Prolonged, untreated asthma can permanently damage a dog's lungs and airways. 

If you suspect your pup suffers from asthma attacks, it's crucial to get them diagnosed and treated correctly. 

Dog Asthma Triggers

Since dog asthma is an allergic reaction, the triggers are usually within their environment. 

These are the most common triggers for allergic asthma attacks in dogs:

  • Smoke from cigarettes or fire
  • Car and machinery exhaust
  • Household dust and mold spores
  • Aerosol sprays, like hairspray
  • Burning candles, with artificial fragrance
  • Cat litter particles
  • Air fresheners and highly-fragranced products
  • Pesticides and plant pollen
  • Certain cooking smells

Asthma Symptoms and Signs

Watching asthma attacks in dogs can be a scary and concerning experience. But how can you tell the difference between normal puppy panting and asthma?

Older, smaller dogs are the most likely to develop asthma, as they have smaller airways that become more easily blocked by allergic reactions. 

Here are the signs and symptoms of asthma in dogs:

  • Excessive panting. While some panting in hot weather and after exercise is normal, it should go away in a few minutes once your pup stops moving and reaches a more comfortable temperature. If the panting is prolonged or heavier than usual, your dog may be experiencing asthma. Look for dogs breathing with a wide mouth and large movements in their torso and chest. 
  • Low energy. If a dog isn't getting ample oxygen to their brain and cells, they won't have as much energy as usual. If your pup is struggling to keep up with their normal exercise levels or resisting exercise altogether, they may have asthma. 
  • Pale or blue gums. If your pup's gums change color, head to the vet immediately – this is the sign of a severe asthma attack, in which your pup's body, including gum tissues, aren't getting enough oxygen. 
  • Loss of appetite. Asthma in dogs can make their lungs larger or hyperinflated, taking up more space in their chest than usual. The lungs can push down on a dog's stomach and lead to a lack of hunger and issues eating. If your dog is eating much less than usual, they may be asthmatic. 
  • Coughing and wheezing. If your pup experiences shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, they may have a puppy cold or asthma. For prolonged, chronic respiratory issues, asthma is the likely culprit. 

Dog Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect that your dog has asthma, take them to the vet immediately for a proper diagnosis. 

A vet technician will give your pup a chest x-ray, so they can determine what the issue is with your puppy. They may also do a bronchoscopy to see inside airways using a small camera and collect any samples they need. 

If your pup is in the middle of an attack, the vet may give them a dose of epinephrine to stop the attack and pure oxygen to help them breathe well again. 

There are several ways you can prevent asthma in dogs by controlling their environment and using medicine as needed. Here are the best methods to use for dog asthma treatment at home.

Removing Allergens

The best way to combat your pup's asthma is to remove the allergens that are causing it from the environment. 

You can get your dog allergy tested at a specialist and then remove or avoid allergens as much as possible.

Moderating Mild Symptoms

You can help your pup during a flare-up by keeping them from overexerting themselves, which will cause even more trouble breathing. 

Get your pup some soft pillows to encourage rest, block off stairs if necessary, and prevent jumping with a dog ramp for couch, bed, and the car. 

Medicines for Chronic Asthma

Sometimes, the cause of your pup's asthma is unavoidable. For chronic asthma, your dog may be prescribed medication:

  • Antihistamines can block the allergic response in your pup's body
  • Bronchodilators dilate or open the lung bronchi, making it easier to breathe
  • Anti-inflammatories reduce swelling in the lungs and strengthen the lungs against triggers

Final Note: How to Tell the Difference Between Normal Panting and Dog Asthma

  • Behavior. If you suspect that your pup suffers from mild or chronic asthma, keep a close eye on their behavior and watch for the symptoms above! 
  • Breathing. Dogs often pant, but prolonged or excessively hard panting with an open mouth and a lot of chest movement are some signs that your dog is panting more than it should be. 

An at-home diagnosis is not sufficient if the problem persists – it's critical to get your pup to the vet so a professional can assess symptoms and help you decide on the best next steps to take in treatment. 

We hope your pup sees some relief in their symptoms soon!

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