Rigorous play time outdoors can make any dog pant up a storm. However, other symptoms aren’t so commonplace. Many pet parents fail to take wheezing and coughing seriously, writing them off as a normal part of canine exercise.
Wheezing doesn’t come from exercise—it comes from puppy asthma, and outdoor allergens could be to blame. Learn to recognize the signs of asthma, then reach out to your vet for a proper diagnosis.
Symptoms of asthma in dogs
Asthma often goes unnoticed in dogs until allergens trigger a reaction. Asthma attacks occur when a dog comes into direct contact with environmental allergies such as pollen, dust, mold, household fresheners or cat dander. These flare-ups can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on your dog’s health condition.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Wheezing: Strained breathing is a broad symptom that covers many ailments, including dog asthma. Wheezing can occur either at rest or when the dog plays outside. Since this symptom can crop up anytime, exercise isn’t what induces an asthma attack in dogs. Rather, it’s the airborne allergens floating in their environment.
- Open-mouthed breathing: This symptom is a lot harder to notice. Any dog would breathe hard after a rigorous game of fetch. However, dogs with asthma take it one step further and open their mouths wide in an attempt to inhale more oxygen. Next time you two go for a long walk, monitor their breathing to see if this symptoms starts.
- Cough with no fever: Many pet parents overlook coughing because they believe it’s no big deal. Owners think the dog is just trying to clear their throat and the symptom will soon pass. Dog owners shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss coughing since it could indicate a mild allergic reaction. Coughing betrays the presence of asthma when it’s recurring and there are no other signs of a respiratory infection.
Diagnosing dog asthma is tricky
Many dogs with asthma go their whole lives without a diagnosis. That’s because symptoms are present only when the dog is having an asthma attack. Allergens are what trigger symptoms, so if your dog lives in an allergy-free environment, you might never see them struggle with asthma.
The symptoms of asthma seem to come out of nowhere. Mild allergic reactions pass on their own, but it’s still a good idea to promptly visit your veterinarian. Unless it’s a severe asthma attack, your dog’s symptoms will probably clear up by the time you arrive at the vet’s office.
Help the vet come up with a diagnosis by taking a video of your dog’s symptoms. That way, you both have a record of what’s going on with your pup outside of vet appointments. The vet might also order a heartworm test, because heartworms and asthma cause similar symptoms.
How to prevent asthma flare-ups
Living with asthma is all about prevention. Pet parents can’t make asthma go away forever, but what they can do is control factors in the dog’s environment to minimize the risk of an asthma attack.
Here are some steps you can take once your dog is diagnosed with asthma:
- Get your dog tested for allergies: Since asthma attacks in dogs are a type of allergic reaction, the first step you’ll want to take is figuring out what your pup is allergic to. Your vet can conduct a series of allergy tests to determine which environmental allergies the dog should avoid.
- Wipe down the dog’s coat: Outdoor allergens can follow your pup into the house. Grass and pollen cling to your dog’s fur and could aggravate their breathing hours after they’ve come inside. Clean off your pup with a baby wipe or clean, damp cloth to reduce the amount of allergens entering your home.
- Eliminate fumes from your home: Houses are filled with triggers for allergic reactions. Common ones include plug-in air fresheners, cat litter dust, perfume, candles and cigarette smoke. These all have the potential to set off an asthma attack, so replace them with alternatives like dust-free litter and essential oil diffusers.
Asthma in dogs is nothing to fret about. Once you learn their allergy triggers, an asthmatic dog can live a perfectly normal and healthy life. Management is key for spending less time at the vet and more time frolicking at the dog park. Any dog with asthma can run and play outside to their little heart’s content!