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Health & Wellness

Can dogs have asthma?

The reason behind your dog’s coughing.

If your dog keeps experiencing coughing fits (especially when nothing comes up), you’ll want to pause before assuming it’s asthma. While asthma can affect humans and cats, it’s actually rare in dogs, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

Here’s what might be behind your dog’s constant hacking and how you can help them get some relief. 

Can dogs get asthma?

Dogs don’t experience asthma as humans or cats do, Dr. McCullough says. Instead, some dogs have allergic bronchitis, which is when their airways become inflamed after inhaling an allergen, like smoke, pollen, dust, mold or cigarette smoke (to name a few). Exposure to parasites and fungus can also cause allergic bronchitis, she adds. 

Dog asthma symptoms

A non-productive cough [which is a dry, hacking cough] is the most common symptom of allergic bronchitis in dogs,” Dr. McCullough shares. And if you’re wondering if dogs can experience reactions similar to asthma attacks, don’t worry. She says that it’s very rare. Wheezing, a constricted airway, signs that it’s harder to breathe and respiratory distress are uncommon, she adds. 

Symptoms of allergic bronchitis in dogs can mimic several diseases, Dr. McCullough explains. So it’s essential to take your pup to the veterinarian’s office as soon as you notice a cough. Most dogs are diagnosed with allergic bronchitis when they’re young adults or middle-aged. 

RELATED: Can dogs get COVID-19?

How do veterinarians diagnose allergic bronchitis in dogs? 

Suppose you bring your pup to the vet’s office. In that case, you can expect your dog to have a physical examination, blood work, respiratory fluids testing or chest X-rays. Sometimes a bronchoscopy, which is when a tube (with a light and camera hooked) is put in your dog’s airway while they’re under anesthesia, may be necessary. 

Treatment for allergic bronchitis in dogs

Allergic bronchitis is usually treated with an oral or inhaled steroid medication to reduce the inflammation in your pup’s airway, Dr. McCullough explains. Some veterinarians may recommend trying a dog-friendly inhaler to treat allergic bronchitis. 

“Pet parents should gradually introduce the mask, spacer and inhaler to their dogs using positive reinforcement,” Dr. McCullough recommends. “They can use a step-wise approach to getting the dogs used to them. Starting by allowing the dog to sniff and investigate these items from a safe distance and gradually moving them closer to the dog while rewarding the desired behaviors. 

Some lifestyle and environmental changes may need to be considered when combatting your pup’s allergic bronchitis. For example, you’ll need to remove any cigarette smoke or aerosol sprays, Dr. McCullough says. 

Unfortunately, dogs have no cure for allergic bronchitis, but with proper medication and minimizing allergen triggers, you can manage the condition.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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