What are the main respiratory diseases in dogs?

Our friends the dogs are exposed to several respiratory diseases which directly or indirectly impact their respiratory system. While coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and difficulty breathing are often observed, symptoms vary depending on the disease involved. We offer you a brief overview of the main respiratory diseases likely to affect the dog, the signs to watch out for and the response to them.

What are the main respiratory diseases in dogs?

The dog can suffer from several respiratory illnesses. Here are the most common.

Lung infections

Several diseases of bacterial or viral origin can affect the bronchi, bronchioles and pulmonary alveoli of the dog.

  • Kennel cough : very contagious, kennel cough can be caused by bacteria or by several forms of virus. Very present in places where dogs live in communities (shelters, kennels, etc.), it causes significant respiratory problems. Nevertheless, it is possible to prevent it by having the animal vaccinated every year.
  • Distemper : this highly contagious viral pathology can also be prevented by vaccination. Distemper can affect several organs in dogs and thus affect the urinary tract, digestive system, nervous system or respiratory system. When it reaches the latter, it causes coughing and difficulty breathing.

Parasitic diseases

Some internal parasites nest in the dog’s respiratory system, such as the roundworm angiostrongylus which settles and develops in the lungs and heart, causing a chronic cough in the animal.

Microscopic fungi can also become lodged in a dog’s lungs, such as pneumicystis cariniis which causes breathing problems and pneumonia.

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This disease in its chronic form (lasting more than two months) occurs when the bronchi are inflamed. The latter causes swelling of the bronchial lining and excessive mucus production, causing a cough. Indeed, the animal seeks to evacuate these secretions by this means.

Bronchitis can also occur as a result of another bronchial disease or as a reaction to allergens (dust, pollen, chemicals in the air, etc.).


The dog rarely develops a respiratory response to asthma, but rather a skin reaction. However, this disease can cause coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and wheezing.

Pulmonary edema

In pulmonary edema, the dog’s lungs fill with fluid from the blood vessels which gradually takes the place of air. The animal therefore struggles to breathe and may suffer from lung damage.

Pulmonary fibrosis

This chronic disease is characterized by a progressive stiffening of the tissues of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It can be idiopathic and due to a genetic predisposition or secondary to another disease.

Lung tumor

The dog can suffer from lung tumors. These can be from cancer of another organ that has metastasized to the lungs. More rarely, it may be lung cancer (lung carcinoma), but it is rarely seen in dogs.

When should you consult?

As soon as you notice that your animal is suffering from respiratory problems, it is imperative to consult the veterinarian. Certain symptoms should alert you, such as difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, fever, or even faster or slower breathing.

Note all the signs observed and report them to your veterinarian in order to facilitate his diagnosis. He can then perform additional examinations to identify the disease in question, in particular a chest x-ray, an ultrasound or stool tests.

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The practitioner can then set up a treatment adapted to the respiratory disease in question. The treatments are multiple and can be prescribed over a long period depending on the form of the pathology.

Most of the time, treatment is aimed at reducing visible symptoms. However, sometimes antibiotics are needed. Aerosol therapy is a more and more popular method because it allows to better target the respiratory system and to act more quickly while reducing side effects. However, it is not suitable for all respiratory diseases.

As much as possible, take the initiative and protect your animal by vaccinating it every year against certain diseases, including respiratory diseases. Also, be sure to keep its environment clean and healthy, removing dust regularly and fighting pests. Finally, offer him a healthy and quality diet for his general well-being.

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