Canine asthma is similar to human asthma in that the bronchial tubes become irritated and airways can become blocked, making it hard for your dog to breathe. Symptoms of asthma in dogs include coughing, wheezing and gasping during an attack. Between asthma attacks, your dog may have no outward symptoms at all. Chest X-rays can diagnosis asthma in dogs. Treatment for canine asthma follows the pattern set by people for human asthma, in the form of medications that reduce the inflammation of the airways.
Your pet’s veterinarian may prescribe several different medications to manage your dog’s asthma attacks. Antihistamines are often used to combat canine asthma, as they “dry up” your dog’s airways by decreasing the amount of mucous present. Steroids and bronchodilators are also available orally and reduce inflammation and open up blocked passageways, respectively. Taking medications for asthma does not cure the disease. Your dog may still have attacks, but hopefully they will be less frequent and less intense.
Steroids and bronchodilators may also be given to your dog as inhaled medications. Rather than using a small inhaler similar to the type people use to manage asthma symptoms, the process is a little more involved for dogs. Your vet will show you administer the drugs through a mask that covers your dog’s face. To be effective, your pet needs to be able to tolerate the mask and inhale the medication for at least 10 seconds, which can be very difficult. Speaking calmly to your dog and patting him may keep him calm during the treatment.
Some dogs may experience severe asthma attacks even while taking medication. If your dog falls into this group, your vet will show you administer a shot of epinepherine wherever you are. Inhaled and oral medications that are used as a management tool and a preventive measure can take time to get into the body and temper swollen airways. An injection is instantly effective and begins the anti-inflammatory process as soon as it is given during an asthma attack. Your pet may be prescribed a combination of oral drugs and an epi-pen to keep for the rare occasions that she needs it.
Sometimes pet owners would like to use a more natural approach to treating a dog’s asthma attacks, Herbal remedies are widely available in pet stores and contain ingredients that are thought to support respiratory health. Some of the elements included in homeopathic remedies are phosphorus, inula helenium, and marshmallow root (see Resources). These herbs are commonly used for human asthma treatment. Check with your dog’s veterinarian before giving her any type of supplement. Some supplements that are safe for humans may be toxic to dogs.
Prevent Future Attacks
Preventing future asthma attacks in your dog is also an effective treatment method. Preventive medicine in this case refers to the environment in which your dog lives. Irritants such as smoke, certain plants and dust can affect dogs and people alike. If your pet has experienced asthma attacks in the past, try to keep his living area free of irritants if at all possible. Use pump spray mechanisms rather than aerosol cans for hair products and air fresheners as well. A clean living space for your dog can help him recover from his asthma more quickly and hopefully put all his symptoms in the past.