It is very common for older dogs, of all breeds, to experience breathing issues. Breathing issues are especially common in Brachycephalic breeds, or breeds of dogs with short noses such as the Pug, Boxer or Shih-Tzu.
Breathing issues may be signs of something easily treatable, but they could also be signs of a serious illness. Make sure you are familiar with your dog's breathing patterns so you will notice any sign of distress. If your dog's breathing problems persist for several hours, or more than a day, take your dog to a vet.
Signs of breathing issues in older dogs include: • Panting -- This is usually a normal breathing pattern as the dog's body attempts to cool down. However, excessive panting, especially if the dog has not exercised or the weather is mild, is not normal and may be a sign of heatstroke or pain. • Labored Breathing • Coughing /gagging • Sneezing -- Sneezing now and again is normal for dogs. Excessive sneezing is not normal. • Wheezing • Nasal Discharge • Reverse sneezing -- Reverse sneezing occurs when a dog inhales air through its nose rather than exhales as with a normal sneeze. It results in a snorting sound. It is usually not a sign of anything more serious than sneezing. • Blue Gums - Also known as cyanosis, this symptom indicates a lack of oxygen, and is very serious.
Breathing issues in older dogs may indicate: • Congestive Heart Failure -- Signs of congestive heart failure including coughing and difficulty breathing. Your dog may also appear lethargic. • Allergies -- Allergies often manifest themselves with symptoms such as wheezing, runny eyes, nasal discharge and sneezing. • Nasal Tumor -- A bloody nose is often a symptom of a nasal tumor. Other symptoms include nasal discharge and sneezing. • Foreign Object -- A bloody nose, and difficult breathing, can also be a sign of a foreign object inhaled into the dog's nose.
• Fluid -- Fluid in the lungs, or chest cavity, can result in coughing and shortness of breath. • Bronchitis -- Difficulty breathing, accompanied by phlegm and coughing, may be a sign of bronchitis.
• Laryngeal paralysis -- Common in older large-breed dogs. Laryngeal paralysis can be fatal. The first signs are often a change in the dog's bark, and it may progress to labored breathing patterns, coughing and blue gums. • Obesity -- As dogs age they tend to gain weight. That excess weight puts pressure on their bodies and can result in breathing difficulties, especially in warmer weather or after exercise. • Kennel Cough -- If your dog has spent time in a kennel, or in close proximity to other dogs, it may be susceptible to kennel cough. That respiratory disease is highly contagious and easily passed from dog to dog.
Regular veterinary checkups will help catch any issues that may lead to breathing difficulties. It is also important that as your dog ages you monitor it for any changes to breathing patterns and report changes to the veterinarian. Treatment for the underlying causes may include a change in diet or exercise regime. More serious issues may require medication or surgery.
A change in your dog's breathing pattern, and any sign of breathing discomfort , is an indication that something is wrong. As our dogs age, they become more susceptible to disease and bounce back to good health less quickly than their younger counterparts. Take them to the veterinarian for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.