If your dog sounds like he’s been “hacking up a lung” lately or has a persistent wheeze, he may have bronchitis. Although your dog’s breathing problems may sound alarming, bronchitis is usually treatable.
“The hallmark of chronic bronchitis is a harsh, dry cough that may or may not be productive,” according to pets.webmd.com. “This disease affects middle-aged dogs of both sexes. It is characterized by an acute inflammatory reaction of the interior of the smaller airways.”
In your dog’s respiratory system, his bronchioles are the tubes where air flows to the lungs, allowing your dog to breathe. Bronchitis develops when the bronchioles are inflamed or irritated, making it harder for him to breathe and causing a persistent cough. Though bronchitis causes a mucus buildup in your dog’s lungs, your dog’s cough will usually be dry and won’t get rid of the mucus.
While some cases of bronchitis are preceded by kennel cough, the root cause is still unknown. Some household allergens such as dust or secondary smoke can trigger an onset or worsen the condition.
There are three types of bronchitis that can occur in dogs:
- Acute Bronchitis – This is the most common type of bronchitis and is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. The onset of symptoms usually occurs rather quickly with acute cases.
- Chronic Bronchitis – When your dog’s cough lasts more than two months, he is considered to have chronic bronchitis. When left untreated, chronic bronchitis can actually damage your dog’s airways and lead to buildup of infected mucous in his lungs. It’s important to treat your dog’s chronic bronchitis before it develops into bronchiectasis or enlarged air sacs, both of which are non-reversable conditions.
- Allergic Bronchitis – According to vetinfo.com, “Allergic bronchitis in dogs is known to be a specific type of asthma.” Like asthma, allergic bronchitis is triggered by allergens or inflammation to the bronchial tubes. Unlike the other two forms of this condition, allergic bronchitis can cause life-thretening episodes.
What are the Symptoms of Bronchitis?
“The signs of bronchitis in dogs are typically very noticeable and begin almost immediately after infection,” says vetinfo.com.
These are the symptoms of bronchitis, according to pets.webmd.com and vetinfo.com:
- Dry coughing or hacking
- Mucus discharge after coughing
- Wheezing (allergic bronchitis)
- Gagging or retching
- Foaming saliva
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of energy
- Higher temperature
Vetinfo.com adds, “In addition, episodes of this condition are usually induced after exercise, exertion, or outdoor exposure. So, it is important for dog owners to take notice of when the episodes occur and what the dog was exposed to when they occurred.”
How is Bronchitis Diagnosed?
To diagnose your dog, you will first need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health. Your vet will then examine your dog’s cough very carefully. He may also perform a complete blood count test.
Your vet will also need to listen to your dog’s breathing to determine if there is any mucus in the lungs. In progressive cases, a chest X-ray or bronchoscopy may be performed to look closer at your dog’s lungs.
How is Bronchitis Treated?
If your dog is diagnosed with bronchitis, your vet will prescribe either antibiotics or corticosteroids to help your dog cough up the mucus in his lungs. However, to ensure your dog’s bronchitis doesn’t persist, it’s important to try and identify the root cause of his infection. The best way to do this is to eliminate household pollens such as dust or smoke.
“[Also] minimize stress, fatigue and excitement,” says pets.wedmd.com. “Overweight dogs should be put on a diet. Walking on a leash is good exercise, but don’t overdo it. To avoid pressure on the larynx, switch from a collar to a chest harness or head halter.”
Your vet may prescribe theophylline or albuterol to relax his breathing passages if he’s diagnosed with allergic or chronic bronchitis. Additionally, giving your dog a natural histamine-blocking supplement, such as i Love Dogs Reishi with Green Tea, can fight against the allergens and bacteria causing your dog’s bronchitis. The antihistamines in reishi can reduce the swelling in your dog’s bronchioles and help him breathe easy again.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.
Do you have a question about bronchitis? Submit it to i Love Dogs’ Ask a Vet here.