"What are the symptoms of asthma in dogs?
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"What are the symptoms of asthma in dogs?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Asthma is a respiratory disease that is common enough within the human population that most of us know at least one person who is asthmatic, but not everyone knows that the condition can also affect our four-legged friends too. While asthma in dogs is not as common as it is in people, the condition can be serious when it does present-and also, because not all dog owners know about it, the condition often goes undiagnosed until it is quite pronounced.

In order to be able to identify asthma in the dog, or to assess how badly it is affecting a dog that has already been diagnosed, it is important to be able to spot the main symptoms of the condition, as well as understand how an attack can be triggered, and how asthma presents and affects the body.

In this article, we will look at the symptoms of asthma in dogs in more detail, including some of the factors that can contribute to an attack in the dog too. Read on to learn more.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the airways within the lungs, with symptoms ranging from very mild to life-threatening depending on the dog and the severity of the condition.

Asthma attacks and flare-ups tend to come and go, meaning that the dog’s condition may be under control and have little to no effect on them most of the time, but at times, they will suffer rather more with the condition and have problems breathing comfortably.

When an asthma attack strikes, the airways within the lungs (bronchi) fill with a thick, viscous mucous that makes it hard for the dog to breathe naturally and comfortably. Additionally, the airways themselves become irritated and inflamed, causing them to narrow and exacerbate the problem.

Such a sensation is of course frightening as well as dangerous, and can lead the dog to panic, worsening the issues and making it even harder for them to draw breath. However, not all attacks will be so severe and acute-for some dogs, the symptoms may be relatively mild, and rarely quite so serious.

What causes asthma in dogs?

The root cause of asthma in any given dog will usually remain a mystery, but generally a combination of environmental factors and genetic factors together cause the presentation of the condition.

However, there are a range of things that can worsen asthma in dogs or that can in themselves trigger an attack, and the most common of these include:

  • Inhalant allergies, such as grass and pollen.
  • Dust mites and generally dusty surroundings.
  • Mould, particularly black mould which can often be found in damp homes.
  • High levels of environmental pollution.
  • Anything that your dog is allergic to.

Generally, such factors will exacerbate an existing condition or make attacks more acute, rather than such factors causing the development of asthma itself.

What are the symptoms of asthma in dogs?

The symptoms of asthma in dogs can be very variable in terms of their duration and severity, and it is important to note that an attack might not be obvious to the observer. Additionally, some of these symptoms may be identified as present at times when your dog’s breathing is not particularly easy, but they are not undergoing a full-blown attack.

Some of the most common symptoms of asthma in dogs include:

  • A persistent cough, and/or bouts of severe coughing fits.
  • Laboured breathing that is accompanied by a whistling, wheezing or crackling sound.
  • Fast, shallow breathing.
  • Panting.
  • Gulping or gasping for breath with an open mouth, unrelated to exercise and exertion.
  • The tight feeling that asthma can cause in the chest may lead to the dog showing signs of discomfort in this area.
  • Exercise intolerance.
  • A dog having an asthma attack or that is unable to get enough air may also begin to panic, and will display wide eyes and stiff body language. They may also paw at their face and chest in distress.

It is important to have your vet examine your dog and run some tests to properly diagnose the condition, and rule out other illnesses that often present with similar symptoms. For instance, dogs with brachycephalic faces with a high degree of exaggeration may suffer from narrow nostrils and noisy or laboured breathing, which in itself can be a problem-but that requires a different approach to canine asthma.

If you own a brachycephalic dog like the French bulldog, it is important to ask your vet to check out their conformation and respiratory system to identify any potential problems.

Once your vet has diagnosed asthma in your dog, they will work with you to determine the best way to proceed with the management of the condition, which may involve lifestyle changes, steroidal medications, a canine asthma inhaler and various other measures to minimise the impact of the condition and help to control attacks.

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