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Fibrotic Hardening of the Lungs (Pneumonia) in Dogs

Pulmonary Fibrosis in Dogs

Pulmonary fibrosis presents as a type of pneumonia that can afflict dogs. This condition unfolds with inflammation and scarring of the minute air sacs within the lungs and lung tissue. The resultant scarring prompts the accumulation of fibrotic tissue, thickening the tissue excessively and impeding the capacity of the affected sacs to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. Consequently, as the disease advances, the amount of oxygen transmitted into the body’s tissues diminishes when the dog inhales.

The exact triggers for pulmonary fibrosis remain elusive; nonetheless, hereditary factors and various micro-injuries to the air sacs are under suspicion. Recent findings also point to abnormal wound healing in the lungs as a mechanism for fibrosis. It can coexist alongside bronchitis in dogs. Typically, dogs affected by this condition are of middle-aged or elderly status.

Symptoms and Types

The indications and manifestations exhibited by the dog typically advance gradually and encompass:

  • Cyanosis
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Nonproductive cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Elevated respiratory rate and effort
  • Open-mouth breathing/panting
  • Exercise intolerance

Causes

West Highland White terriers and other terriers, such as the Staffordshire, Cairn, Border, and Norfolk, have a genetic predisposition to pulmonary fibrosis. Nevertheless, the root cause of this form of pneumonia typically remains idiopathic. Additional causes encompass:

  • Viral infections
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Toxins or drugs
  • Oxygen toxicosis (a pathological condition induced by oxygen)
  • Environmental damage (e.g., exposure to polluted air or cigarette smoke)

Diagnosis

Diagnosing and treating pulmonary fibrosis pose significant challenges, primarily because the disease may have progressed considerably before symptoms manifest.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination, which includes a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and chest X-rays. Additional diagnostic measures may involve echocardiography to assess potential heart enlargement, computed tomography (CT) scans for a three-dimensional view of the dog’s lungs, and biopsy samples from affected tissues for microscopic analysis.

Treatment

If your dog requires supplemental oxygen, hospitalization may be necessary. Pulmonary fibrosis is a life-threatening condition and can become terminal if not promptly and effectively treated. Therefore, treatment will prioritize supportive care and symptom management to improve the quality of life.

Obesity in the dog can complicate treatment by hindering ventilation (breathing). Weight loss can alleviate symptoms of respiratory impairment.

Initially, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory doses of prednisone, gradually reducing the dosage over a month if there is no underlying infection. Additionally, there are antifibrotic agents and bronchodilators available to help widen the air passages and relax the bronchial tissues, facilitating your dog’s breathing.

Living and Management

It is essential to reduce the dog’s exposure to dust or fumes. Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive condition with a cautious prognosis, typically leading to a survival period of 8 to 15 months for affected dogs.

Severe, chronic lung disease can often lead to the development of pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure. Your veterinarian may recommend repeating lung biopsies to monitor the dog’s progress and the effectiveness of its treatment. A favorable response to treatment will manifest in improved mobility.

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