Diseases That Cause Breathing Difficulties In Dogs

The origins of breathing difficulties and other problems in dogs are quite varied. This means that both the owners and the veterinarian face a real challenge when it comes to avoiding complications.
Diseases that cause difficulty breathing in dogs

There are many diseases that cause breathing difficulties in dogs. The animal’s medical history, the dog’s symptoms, and a physical examination are usually sufficient to determine which areas of the trachea and lungs are involved. In this way, the veterinarian can be more effective in determining an appropriate diagnosis.

The airways are divided into several areas: the airways, the lung parenchyma (the tissue that forms the organ) and the pleural space. If you want to learn more about this world of canine pathologies, then read on.

Diseases that cause difficulty breathing in dogs

Next, we introduce a series of pathologies that affect the respiratory system and also lead to breathing difficulties.

Pathologies of the upper respiratory tract

The upper respiratory tract consists of the nasal cavity, oral cavity, sinuses and pharynx. Pathologies affecting these organs usually carry with them strong abnormal breathing sounds. These sounds are called battles or rattlesnakes, and you can hear them without the use of a stethoscope.

In general, respiratory distress in the upper respiratory tract results from a blockage. This causes the symptoms to worsen with exercise or tension, as it contributes to the narrowing of the airways. But during rest, breathing parameters can become almost normal.

Many patients with these pathologies arrive at the veterinary clinic with recurrent episodes of fever. The dog can then not thermoregulate effectively because the volume of air that passes over the tongue during panting is not sufficient. In addition, this temperature rise initiates a vicious circle. It stimulates increased respiratory rate and panting, which further narrows the airways.

A puppy with its tongue out of its mouth.

What are the most common causes of obstruction in the upper respiratory tract?

It is important to note that blunt-nosed breeds (such as bulldogs or pugs) are genetically predisposed to have upper respiratory problems. Some of the most common causes of these obstruction problems are the following:

  • Paralysis of the larynx
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Polyps or tumors of the upper respiratory tract
  • Aspiration of foreign material

Diseases that cause difficulty breathing in dogs: Pathologies of the lower respiratory tract

In this case, the larynx, trachea and trachea with the bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli may be involved. The most common clinical causes of lower respiratory tract problems come from abnormalities in the bronchi and bronchioles, are of inflammatory origin, and originate from coughing. Severe cases of coughing tend to aggravate the inflammation and thus create a new vicious circle.

Most often, an obstruction appears near the lung due to increased mucus production. This mucus accumulates and then weakens the rest of the respiratory system. Bronchial pneumonia is therefore often a complication.

Among the most common causes of these diseases are the following:

  • Chronic tracheal catarrh
  • A mass or foreign body in the lower respiratory tract

Pathologies of the pulmonary parenchyma

Every disease that affects the lungs will be accompanied by varying degrees of hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the blood) and therefore also difficulty breathing. This is due to an imbalance in the ventilation due to inflammation or closure of the alveoli.

Abnormal breathing sounds, such as rattles, are common during auscultation. It is also important to carefully check the dog’s heart for signs of heart failure.

Here are the most common causes of pathologies of the lung parenchyma:

  • Pneumonia, there are several types, such as aspiration pneumonia after vomiting.
  • Edema and pulmonary haemorrhage, an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Typically in, for example, heart failure.
  • Pulmonary thromboembolic disease.
  • Tumors.

Pathologies in the pleural space

The pleural space is the cavity between the chest wall and the lung. This space is only noticed in case it is a pathology. Then the pleural space is filled with an unnecessary accumulation of either fluid or air.

This will generate some degree of pulmonary dysfunction with increased respiratory rate and dyspnoea. In addition, when performing an oscillation of the breast, both lung and heart sounds will appear reduced or attenuated. Why does it happen? Well, it happens because there is now a foreign substance that takes up the cavity and thus moves the organs away from the chest wall.

Fluid outflow into the alveoli is classified according to the type of fluid content. One of the most common is bleeding in the alveoli (accumulation of blood) after an accident, or an accumulation of air in the alveoli, for example after a rib is broken and then crosses the chest wall so that air penetrates.

Dog at a veterinary examination.

To protect against diseases that cause breathing difficulties in dogs

The exact diagnosis of the cause of these problems is a real challenge for veterinarians. The possibilities are almost endless and often several things are going on at the same time, especially when it comes to infectious diseases. Therefore, supplementary tests, such as analyzes or X-rays, can be the best tools when it comes to identifying the causes of breathing difficulties in dogs.


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