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Chronic Inflammation of the Bronchi in Dogs

Bronchitis, Chronic (COPD) in Dogs

Chronic bronchitis, also referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), manifests when the mucous membranes lining the bronchi, the airways responsible for transporting oxygen from the trachea to the lungs, become inflamed. Typically, this condition results in a persistent cough lasting two months or more, which cannot be attributed to other factors such as heart failure, neoplasia, infections, or alternative respiratory ailments.

Despite thorough diagnostic examinations conducted by your veterinarian, the precise cause of the inflammation is seldom pinpointed. Furthermore, it’s noted that toy and small dog breeds, such as the West Highland white terrier and cocker spaniel, are more prone to COPD, though occurrences are also observed in larger dog breeds.

Symptoms and Types

Aside from a dry cough, which is a primary indicator of COPD, additional symptoms linked to the condition encompass:

  • Gagging
  • Irregular lung sounds such as wheezing, crackles, etc.
  • Difficulty engaging in regular physical activities
  • Bluish tint on the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis), indicating critically low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope)


Chronic airway inflammation can be triggered by a range of factors.


To diagnose COPD in your dog, you’ll need to provide a comprehensive history of your pet’s health, detailing the onset and characteristics of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination along with tests including a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count. The results of these tests typically do not provide specific indications of COPD. However, in certain cases, the disease may lead to conditions like polycythemia or eosinophilia, characterized by an increased concentration of eosinophils in the blood.

Chest X-rays are valuable in assessing the severity of the disease and determining the extent of lung involvement. Dogs with COPD may exhibit thickened bronchi or, in severe instances, collapsed lungs. Bronchoscopy, an important diagnostic procedure, allows visualization of the airways to detect abnormalities such as tumors, inflammation, or bleeding. This involves the insertion of a bronchoscope into the airways, usually through the nose or mouth. The technique can also facilitate the collection of deep lung tissue samples for further examination in a laboratory.

Additionally, your veterinarian may employ echocardiography (ECHO) and electrocardiogram (ECG) to assess cardiac health and identify abnormalities like heart enlargement or failure. These tests can aid in ruling out conditions such as heartworm disease.


Unless severe symptoms necessitate hospitalization, the majority of dogs can be treated at home. In such cases, your veterinarian will likely advise medication and oxygen therapy to be administered at home. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators are frequently prescribed to alleviate airway inflammation and widen the air passages for improved breathing, respectively. Additionally, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat lung infections in dogs.

Living and Management

While there is currently no cure for COPD, proper management can help alleviate some symptoms. Maintaining weight control, adhering to a balanced diet, and ensuring compliance with medication can help mitigate the severity and progression of the disease.

Exercise plays a crucial role as it aids in clearing airway secretions, facilitating easier breathing for the dog. However, exercise should be introduced gradually to prevent excessive coughing. A balanced diet contributes to keeping the dog in good shape, thereby enhancing its breathing capacity, overall demeanor, and tolerance to exercise.

It’s important to monitor for signs of excessive coughing and promptly contact your veterinarian if it persists, as it could potentially lead to spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope).

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