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COPD in Dogs

COPD in Dogs

COPD can make breathing difficult for your fur baby and reduce your dog's enthusiasm for exercise and fun. Today we look at some of the causes of COPD in dogs, as well as the most common symptoms of the disease and how with treatment your dog could go on to live a happy, normal life.

What is COPD?

COPD in people is a progressive lung disease characterized by restricted airflow both into and out of the lungs. In dogs, COPD is an irreversible and progressive inflammatory condition affecting the pet's respiratory system and making it difficult for your dog to breathe. COPD in pets may also be diagnosed as chronic bronchitis. COPD is most often diagnosed in older dogs.

What causes COPD in dogs?

More research is necessary to determine the cause of COPD in dogs however inflammation of the respiratory system may be due to exposure to inhaled irritants such as tobacco smoke or air pollution, or as a result of recurrent respiratory infections.

Dogs with dental disease face an increased risk of developing lung inflammation due to bacteria which can travel from the mouth to other organs including the lungs. Once this bacteria reaches your pet's lungs a secondary infection may develop leading to respiratory inflammation.

COPD symptoms may be more severe in dogs who are obese.

How can I tell if my dog has COPD?

The early signs of COPD in dogs are typically a chronic and persistent dry cough that lasts for more than a month. In some cases dogs with COPD may begin gagging after coughing. 

In more progressed stages, COPD symptoms in dogs often include:

  • Exercise intolerance (tires easily)
  • Loud or noisy breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Fainting with exertion
  • Bluish tinge to gums

How is COPD in dogs diagnosed?

Although there are a number of diagnostic tests that may be used following an initial examination, your vet will begin by examining your dog to look for clinical signs of COPD. Symptoms that point to a diagnosis of COPD include chronic cough, crackling sounds in the chest as your pet inhales or exhales, a normal or low heart rate and sinus arrhythmia.

What is the treatment for COPD in dogs?

If your dog is experiencing severe breathing difficulties hospitalization may be required. While in hospital a combination of oxygen therapy and intravenous medications may be used to help stabilize your dog's condition.


In less severe cases your dog will be treated on an outpatient basis using a combination of treatments and medications. Medications that may be used to help treat dogs suffering from COPD include:

  • Corticosteroids to help decrease inflammation
  • Bronchodilators to help open up the airway
  • Antibiotics to fight any underlying infection
  • Cough suppressants to treat a dry and non-productive cough
  • Mucolytics to help suppress the excessive secretion of mucus

Other Treatments

  • If your dog is diagnosed with COPD your vet may also recommend helping your dog to lose extra weight by changing your dog's diet or adding gentle exercise.
  • For dogs with breathing difficulties, switching from a collar to a harness can help to avoid putting extra pressure on your dog's airway.
  • Having your dog's teeth professionally cleaned can help to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria in your pet's mouth and may help to prevent a number of serious health conditions.
  • Since exposure to inhaled irritants often plays a key role in COPD, avoiding these irritants may help your dog to breathe more easily and reduce the chance of your dog experiencing a relapse.
  • In some cases supportive therapies such as supplements and antioxidants may be recommended.

How long can a dog live with COPD?

Although COPD in dogs is an irreversible and progressive condition, with appropriate treatment and regular veterinary examinations, the symptoms of COPD can be managed successfully, allowing your pet to enjoy a normal life expectancy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is suffering from COPD, chronic bronchitis, or other ongoing breathing difficulties, ask your vet for a referral to our Veterinary Internal Medicine team. At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Charlotte, we offer advanced care for pets suffering from breathing difficulties and more. Contact us for more information.

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