Is your dog sniffling and sneezing? Is he or she showing symptoms of the dog flu? Just like their human companions, dogs can “catch a cold.” A virus like a cold can usually be treated at home with fluids and extra rest. But labored breathing, or dyspnea, is a medical emergency. So how do we know the difference? Dogs can’t tell us what’s going on but will give signs that they are not breathing easily.
One Sick Puppy
One of the first clues that your dog may be ill is behavioral changes. Fido may cling to you, following you wherever you go. You may notice irritability or anti-social behavior. Agitation and sudden increased sleep may be clues that your dog is coming down with an illness.
Is it the Dog Flu, or Something Worse?
There are some signs dogs will give that they are not just full and congested, but actually, are having trouble breathing. According to Brimley-Lawrence Animal Clinic, you might notice shallow, rapid breathing, increased panting, wheezing (a high-pitched whistle upon breathing), noisy breathing, frequent gagging, or a noisy cough that disrupts sleep. You may also see nostrils flaring, the chest and/or belly pulling with each breath, a posture where the dog holds his head and neck out and low to the ground, breathing with an open mouth, breathing while keeping the elbows pointed away from the body, and pale gums. These signs herald a possible medical emergency, and you should take your pet in for medical attention as soon as possible.
So what is the cause of labored breathing in dogs? There are many potential causes. A viral or bacterial infection, a foreign body lodged in the throat, asthma, allergies, and fever are among the possible causes.
What to Expect from the Doctor
Labored breathing is a medical emergency, requiring immediate care from a physician. The doctor will need a complete history of your dog’s health and a summary of the illness. The doctor will carefully observe your pet’s breathing, and give oxygen if appropriate. Your dog’s blood and urine may be tested. X-rays and ultrasounds are other possible diagnostic tests. Your dog may be admitted until the respiratory problem is under control. Your vet may prescribe medications or IV fluids.
When your dog is discharged, carefully follow the veterinarian’s advice. Give medication as ordered, and be sure to attend follow up appointments. Observe your pet for any problems.