Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

A white West Highland terrier dog looking rather sad, or possibly has pulmonary fibrosis

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Pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is a deadly lung disease where the lungs become scarred, stiff, and thickened, resulting in breathing problems and low oxygen levels in the blood.

It’s 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 vets can’t identify a cause, which they refer to as “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” though this condition likely has 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 twelve to 18 months, and treatment mostly aims at reducing symptoms to make dogs more comfortable.

If you see the signs in your dog, then get to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for pulmonary fibrosis in dogs.

Symptoms Of Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs

Bored and alone Black Dog lie waiting for food focus on nose

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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:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing (especially if bronchitis or another condition is present)
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lethargy
  • Crackles heard in the lungs while breathing (usually heard by a vet with a stethoscope)
  • Breathing with mouth open
  • Blue tongue
  • Dizzyness
  • Syncope (fainting)
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Causes Of Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs

Jack Russell Terrier, dog, sofa, yellow, lonely, cute.

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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 then results in breathing difficulties.

Sometimes, however, the cause is unknown, which is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. This condition likely has 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.

Here are several possible causes of lung damage that can lead to pulmonary fibrosis in dogs:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Viral infection
  • Dirofilaria and leishmania infections
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Exposure to environmental pollutants (chemicals, polluted air, cigarette smoke, etc.)
  • Tumors
  • Pancreatitis

Treatments For Pulmonary Fibrosis In Dogs

Depressed Cairn Terrier relaxing on couch with shallow depth of field.

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Pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is not curable, and treatment is mostly focused on reducing the symptoms and making dogs more comfortable.

Vets may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and they may provide oxygen therapy in cases where dogs are suffering from severe respiratory distress, though this is not a long-term treatment option.

Vets may also prescribe bronchodilators 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 vets actually prescribe Viagra to help treat pulmonary hypertension, which can appear in later stages of the disease.

Vets may treat underlying conditions that cause pulmonary fibrosis, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, to prevent further lung damage.

Owners should allow dogs to reduce their exercise load, though vets may prescribe dietary changes, as weight loss can help decrease difficulty breathing.

If your vet diagnoses your dog with pulmonary fibrosis, then it’s important to follow their instructions to improve quality of life.

Do you take steps to keep your dog’s lungs healthy? How can other pet parents make sure their dogs get the best care? Let us know in the comments below!