Dog attending a veterinary practice for a health check up

Does my dog have asthma? Diagnosing and treating dog asthma

Asthma isn’t just a debilitating condition for us humans – it can affect our pets, too. Canine asthma is a condition that affect the lungs and airways in dogs and puppies, often causing shortness of breath and wheezing.

If you suspect your dog has asthma, read on to find out what it is, and what your vet can do to help alleviate the condition.

What is dog asthma? 

Also known as allergic airway disease or canine allergic bronchitis, dog asthma occurs when mucus and inflammation make breathing hard for your dog. It’s a condition that can affect all ages and breeds of dog, though it’s more common in smaller breeds in middle to older age.

As in humans, dog asthma can be caused by an allergy such as pollen, household chemicals, dust, mould or mildew, or cigarette smoke. Any one of these triggers can cause excess mucus production and inflammation of your dog’s airways, making it hard for him to breathe. Occasionally, the cause of canine asthma is unknown. 

Identifying the signs and symptoms of dog asthma

Signs and symptoms of canine asthma include: 

  •  Heavy panting
  •  Wheezing 
  •  Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – sometimes sudden
  •  An ongoing cough 
  •  Loss of energy 
  •  Unusual gum colour compared to normal
  •  Loss of appetite
  •  Rapid breathing

Diagnosing dog asthma 

As the signs and symptoms of canine asthma are similar to a number of other conditions, your vet will want to rule out other possible causes before diagnosing your dog with asthma. For example, lungworm, bacterial infections, and heart disease all have similar symptoms. Once he or she has ruled out these conditions, your vet may recommend a chest X-ray or other procedure to investigate further before making a diagnosis. 

Dog asthma treatment

Most asthmatic dogs respond well to treatment, and go on to live a normal, healthy life. Your vet may recommend medication such as anti-inflammatory steroid tablets that can help to control the symptoms of dog asthma, and prevent any long-term damage to the lungs. Because permanent damage is a possibility, it’s important to get your dog checked out quickly if you have any reason to believe he’s suffering from asthma.

If you know your dog’s asthma is triggered by one of the irritants listed above, do everything you can to reduce exposure to that irritant. Stopping smoking (if you haven’t already), treating any mould or mildew in your home, or keeping your dog indoors when pollen levels are high can all help to alleviate the symptoms of asthma in your dog. 

“As the signs and symptoms of canine asthma can be similar to a range of other conditions, your vet will want to rule out other causes before diagnosing your dog with asthma.” 

Dog asthma treatment and advice

For expert advice on canine asthma, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.