SlimDoggy Health Check: Respiratory Diseases

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It’s been a couple of months since we added to our SlimDoggy Health Check series. We got side-tracked by Maggie’s cancer diagnosis and devoted several installments to her cancer and her radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Last time we examined some general breathing problems found in dogs. Today we are going to delve deeper into a few more serious conditions of the respiratory system.
Infectious Tracheobronchitis (Kennel cough): We discussed this respiratory problem in our SlimDoggy Health Check: Bacterial Diseases post.

Lung Worms: We covered in our SlimDoggy Health Check: Parasites post.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is an acute condition affecting the respiratory system that includes sever inflammation and fluid retention making breathing difficult. It is typically caused by an injury which allows fluid (blood) to seep into the lungs. It is life threatening and requires immediate veterinary care. Symptoms would include: extreme difficulty breathing, coughing, discharge from the nose and cyanosis (blue coloration due to lack of oxygen). There are other cause beyond lung injury, including pneumonia, near drowning, inhalation of noxious gas, or other trauma. It is life threatening, so diagnosis and treatment are critical. In addition to blood work, urinalysis and blood serum tests, your veterinarian will likely order chest xrays and echocardiogram in order to get to the root cause. Treatment depends on the severity, but will include oxygen support and possibly a ventilator to assist in breathing. The prognosis is usually guarded because of the severity of the disorder and the likely permanent damage to the lungs.
Tracheal collapse: I’m willing to beat that many of us have bought ‘beef tracheas’ to give to our dogs as a treat, so you kind of know what the trachea looks like. It’s the windpipe and carries air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. It’s actually made up of cartilage that helps it keep it’s shape and muscle that prevent collapse. In tracheal collapse, this cartilage weakens and when the dog inhales, they collapse. It is most often seen in smaller toy breeds such as Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers and Toy Poodles. Symptoms include dry or honking type cough, difficulty breathing, and possible collapse. As with many health conditions, it is made worse by being overweight. A collpased trachea may be palpitated by the vet, or diagnosed with xrays or flouroscope. Treatment would include diet if the dog is overweight and then would depend on the severity of the collapse. It’s not something that is typicall treated with medicine although Cough suppressants, bronchodilators (to open or dilate the airways), corticosteroids, and antibiotics may be attempted. In addition, lifestyle changes to avoid over exertion and possibly using a harness instead of a collar that may constrict the airway would be recommended. Surgery would only be attempted in the most severe cases.
Lung Cancer: There are two types of lung cancer that may be found in dogs – primary cancer where the tumors originate in the lungs and metastatic cancer, where the cancer originated in another part of the body (leg, mouth, thyroid) and traveled to the lungs. Primary lung tumors are fairly uncommon and most typically are adenocarcimomas, malignant tumors. Symptoms of primary lung cancer are vague and many dogs will display no symptoms at all. They may have general malaise, decreased appetite and an unproductive cough. Chest xrays will uncover a mass and ultrasound may be used to aspirate the tumor to aid in diagnosis and treatment. Surgical removal is the most frequent treatment if there is a single mass and while the location or size may limit the complete removal, almost always a partial removal is possible. Chemotherapy is usually recommended, but there is limited evidence as to it’s efficacy. Radiation has not been properly tested in dogs. The prognosis for a dog with primary lung cancer is not optimistic.
Additional Readings:
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in Dogs
Dogs – Lung Conditions
Primary Lung Tumors in Dogs
Lung Tumors in Dogs
Introduction to Lung and Airway Disorders of Dogs

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  1. It is always good to be aware of these things and know when to get immediate attention for our dogs. Cocoa had kennel cough before and it was so scary to hear her cough.
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  2. thanks for a very informative post, it’s always hard to read and to imagine what we would do if… but it’s better to be prepared and to know where you can learn more and where you will find answers when something is wrong…
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  3. Mom was fearful Katie had some type of lung cancer with her heavy panting and her voice being so muffled, but we were relieved to hear it is a hear murmur which can be treated if it gets worse. That trachea collapse sounds terrible.
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  4. Great post, we’ve seen lung worms a few times in our clinic, not normally seen but it can happen.
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