Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing… any of these symptoms can range from uncomfortable to downright terrifying for someone with asthma. This condition occurs when our lungs don't allow air to flow in and out freely due to inflammation, and the same thing goes for our canine friends. When it comes to our four-legged friends, asthma is more common among cats, but dogs can experience this disease just like the rest of us, especially if they live among certain environmental triggers.
What is asthma?
According to the American Lung Association, asthma is a lung disease that makes the movement of air in and out of your lungs more difficult. This is because the airways are usually inflamed, which makes them extra sensitive to irritants like dust, dander, smoke, certain chemicals, and other things that can trigger a reaction often referred to as an asthma attack. These attacks usually result in symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, and often require intervention from a prescription inhaler to combat symptoms. While asthma is chronic and incurable, living with asthma can be managed, whether you're a person or a canine living with this condition.
Can dogs have asthma?
The short answer to this inquiry is yes, dogs can have asthma. Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pennsylvania states that, much like people, dogs can be sensitive to environmental allergens, which can result in asthma when inhaled over time. Rather than asthma, however, this condition in dogs is usually known as allergic bronchitis, because it's believed to be caused by inhaling an irritant, rather than something inherited from birth. While feline bronchitis is fairly common, allergic bronchitis in dogs isn't seen quite as often but does occur among some canines.
When dogs do experience asthma, their symptoms are similar to those in people, namely shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, hacking, and open-mouthed breathing for an extended period of time. Additionally, some dogs may refuse cardiovascular exercise like walking if their allergic bronchitis is bad, while others can be seen refusing meals, acting lethargic, or may even have pale bluish gums.
How to treat asthma in dogs
Since allergic bronchitis is caused by environmental allergens, the best course of treatment is going to be prevention. This will, of course, require you to pinpoint the exact allergen that's triggering the asthma-like reaction in your canine friend, so if you notice persistent coughing or difficulty breathing around certain things, like cigarette smoke or around certain types of plants that may distribute pollen, keep your dog as well-removed from those irritants as possible. If you suspect that your dog might have asthma, consult your veterinarian, who may be able to properly diagnose her after taking X-rays of her chest and lung area. Your doctor may recommend a change in your dog's diet if the allergens are attributed to food ingredients, or may move forward with antigen or anti-inflammatory shots, depending on your dog's specific needs.
One thing you should absolutely not to is give your dog puffs off of your own inhaler. A case reported by DVM360 states that albuterol poisoning in dogs can result in serious side effects like a rapidly increased heart rate. Albuterol, which is the active ingredient in asthma inhalers, is used for pets as a bronchodilator, but the correct dosage of between .02 to .05 mg/kg every eight to 12 hours is incredibly important in reducing the risk of a possible overdose. VCA Hospitals assures that there are albuterol sulfate options for dogs and cats on the market, like Proventil and Ventolin, which essentially work in the same way as an inhaler used by a person. As with any medication, you must consult your veterinarian in order to get a prescription for albuterol to use on your canine, and regular check ins will likely be recommended to make sure that the proper dose is being administered to your dog. Like human asthma inhalers, be sure to keep these well out of your dog's reach as the canister is very easy to puncture with a mouthful of teeth and can lead to medical problems if too much is ingested.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.