Pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is a life-threatening lung disease where the lungs become scarred, stiff, and thickened, resulting in breathing problems and low oxygen levels in the blood. It is an inflammatory disease that happens when the lungs are damaged and healed repeatedly, as can happen when dogs suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, heart failure, or exposure to pollutants among other things. Sometimes no cause can be identified, which is referred to as “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” though this condition is thought to have a genetic link. Pulmonary fibrosis symptoms can improve, especially with proper treatment, but damage to the lungs is not reversible, and the progression of the disease will not stop. Average life expectancy for a dog diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis is 12 to 18 months, and treatment is mostly aimed at reducing symptoms to make dogs more comfortable. If you see the signs of pulmonary fibrosis in your dog, get to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for pulmonary fibrosis in dogs.
Symptoms Of Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs
Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis in dogs are mostly related to respiratory distress. Several other conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it is important to consult a veterinarian for a correct diagnosis. If you see the following signs in your dog, get to the vet right away.
- Coughing (especially if bronchitis or another condition is present)
- Increased breathing rate
- Exercise intolerance
- Crackles heard in the lungs while breathing (usually heard by a vet with a stethoscope)
- Breathing with mouth open
- Blue tongue
- Syncope (fainting)
- Pulmonary hypertension
Causes Of Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs
Pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is caused by chronic injury and healing of the lung tissue. This causes the tissue to become scarred and thick, which results in breathing difficulties. Here are several possible reasons pulmonary fibrosis might develop in dogs.
- Chronic bronchitis
- Viral infection
- Dirofilaria and leishmania infections
- Congestive heart failure
- Exposure to environmental pollutants (chemicals, polluted air, cigarette smoke, etc.)
Sometimes the cause is unknown, which is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This condition is thought to have a genetic link and appears more often in certain breeds, including the West Highland White Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Stafforshire Bull Terrier, and Cairn Terrier.
Treatments For Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs
Pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is not curable, and treatment is mostly focused on reducing the symptoms and making dogs more comfortable. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, and oxygen therapy may be provided in cases where dogs are suffering from severe respiratory distress, though this is not a long-term treatment option.
Bronchodilators may be prescribed to improve aeration in the lungs, and cough suppressants can help if dogs suffer from severe coughing episodes. Sedatives can help relieve the anxiety brought on by the condition, and sometimes Viagra is actually prescribed to help treat pulmonary hypertension, which can appear in late stages of the disease. Underlying conditions that cause pulmonary fibrosis, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, may also be treated to prevent further lung damage.
Dogs should be allowed to reduce their exercise load, though dietary changes may be prescribed, as weight loss can help decrease difficulty breathing. If your dog is diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, it is important to follow veterinary instructions to improve quality of life.