Pulmonary oedema (the buildup of fluid in the lungs) is a serious condition that can cause permanent lung damage if it's not treated promptly. It occurs when pressure builds up in the lungs and prevents the normal flow of fluid from your dog's lungs into their body. Any dog can develop pulmonary oedema and it's not always possible to identify a cause for the condition developing, but those with pneumonia or a heart condition are at an increased risk. Other risk factors include anaemia, low blood protein levels and exposure to toxins, such as smoke.
Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for pulmonary oedema in dogs:
Common symptoms of pulmonary oedema include laboured and noisy breathing that may sound like crackling. Your dog will also have a dry cough and wheezing may be present, particularly when they are being active. Some dogs also develop rapid breathing or breathe with their mouth open, which indicates they are not receiving enough oxygen due to the fluid buildup putting pressure on the walls of their arteries. This can cause their jugular vein to protrude and their lips may turn blue. In this situation, your dog will require emergency treatment to prevent organ failure. It's also common for dogs with pulmonary oedema to become withdrawn and your dog may stop eating and drinking.
Diagnosis and Treatment Approach
Your vet will make their diagnosis by taking details of your dog's symptoms and conducting a thorough physical exam. A vet can carry out blood and urine tests to check organ function and look for signs of abnormalities, such as a raised white cell count, and your vet will rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms, such as bronchitis. A chest X-ray will also be carried out to check for signs of damage to the lungs and determine whether your dog has pneumonia.
Treatment for pulmonary oedema will be carried out on an inpatient basis and involves the use of oxygen therapy to help your dog breathe and diuretics to dispel excess fluid. Vasodilator drugs are sometimes used when diuretics on their own have not been effective. Additionally, anti-inflammatories are sometimes required and your dog will have to have a low-sodium diet to help control fluid levels in their body.
If your dog has symptoms associated with pulmonary oedema, or if you have any concerns about their breathing, take them to a veterinary hospital to prevent unnecessary suffering.