Asthma is a common respiratory ailment among humans. What few pet owners realize is their furry friends can suffer from it, too. Asthma in dogs often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms look similar to a perfectly healthy panting dog.
Asthma is easy to overlook but can quickly become fatal when left untreated. Keeping a watchful eye on your dog can save their life. Pet parents should voice their concerns to a vet, no matter how mild the symptoms may be. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the signs of asthma in dogs and schedule a vet appointment the second they crop up:
- Heavy panting: It’s normal for dogs to pant when the weather is hot or they engage in rigorous exercise. Dogs have very few sweat glands, so panting is their ideal way to cool off. However, what’s not normal is a dog that excessively pants when they’re resting in a comfortable environment. Heavy panting in asthmatic dogs is usually accompanied by a strained wheezing sound. The combination of these two symptoms means your dog likely is suffering from asthma.
- Large chest movements: Dogs with asthma have great difficulty drawing in enough air. As a result, their chest muscles expand and contract a lot more than what you’d see in a healthy pup. Labored breathing is one symptom that pet parents overlook the most. They assume the dog is just tired from playing. Large, exaggerated chest movements are considered abnormal, even after an intense play session.
- Panting with a wide-open mouth: This symptom usually goes hand in hand with large chest movements. Dogs with asthma open their mouths wider in an attempt to increase their oxygen supply. Asthma triggers this behavior due to inflammation and swelling of the airways. A healthy dog wouldn’t have that much difficulty breathing, even after highly intense exercise. Again, panting with an open mouth is a subtle symptom that’s hard to notice. Closely monitor your dog to see how they respond to physical activity.
- Lethargy: Narrow airways significantly reduce how much oxygen the dog is bringing into their body. Asthmatic dogs have a lower oxygen supply compared to their healthy counterparts, which means they have less energy to run and play. A dog with asthma will resist the owner’s attempts to initiate play time or go for a walk. Even mild forms of exercise are difficult when asthma gets in the way. Notify a vet if your dog refuses to exercise, especially if the pup normally loves to play.
- Loss of appetite: This symptom might sound strange to some pet owners. After all, asthma causes inflammation of the airways, not the stomach. The lungs in an asthmatic dog become inflated in order to compensate for the restricted airflow. Since the lungs and stomach are located right next to each other, inflation places pressure on the stomach and limits the dog’s appetite. Loss of appetite means the dog isn’t absorbing enough nutrients, which further contributes to their lethargy.
- Coughing and rapid breath: Other respiratory problems may arise such as a persistent cough and rapid breathing while laying at rest. Coughing is too often dismissed as a cold that will clear up in a few days. However, pet parents should take mild symptoms seriously. There’s a good chance the dog has asthma if the cough has lasted for more than a week and no other cold-like symptoms are present. Pet parents can never know for sure what the real problem is, so bring your pup in for a vet visit to get a definitive answer as to whether or not they have asthma.
- Blue or pale gums: Healthy pups have gums with a pinkish hue. By contrast, a dog with asthma might display blue or pale gums if they’re having an asthma attack. The lips and gums turn pale because the body isn’t receiving enough oxygen. This symptom will only appear once the asthma has gotten severe. Asthma attacks are life-threatening, so bring your dog to an emergency clinic right away.
If your dog is diagnosed with asthma, it’s not the end of the world. Plenty of dogs live long, happy lives once they receive proper treatment from a veterinarian. A dog with asthma can still play, go for walks and enjoy everything life has to offer. They just need some assistance from their loving owner!