Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs: Diagnosis and Treatment
This disease affects middle-aged dogs
of both sexes. It is characterized by an acute inflammatory reaction of the
interior of the smaller airways. Chronic bronchitis should be considered
whenever a cough persists for more than
In most cases the cause is unknown. Although some cases are preceded by kennel cough, infectious agents
usually do not play a role except as secondary invaders. House dust, cigarette
smoke, and other atmospheric irritants contribute to bronchial
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The hallmark of chronic bronchitis is a harsh, dry cough that may or may not
be productive. Coughing is triggered by
exercise and excitement. Episodes often end with gagging, retching, and the
expectoration of foamy saliva. This can be mistaken for vomiting. The dog’s appetite
and weight are well maintained.
Unchecked chronic bronchitis damages the airways and leads to the
accumulation of infected mucus and pus in dilated bronchi. This is
called bronchiectasis. Chronic coughing can also lead to enlargement of the
alveoli (lung air sacs), a condition called emphysema. These two diseases are
not reversible and gradually progress to chronic lung disease and congestive heart failure.
The diagnostic work-up for bronchitis is the same as that described in
Diagnosing a Cough.
Treatment: General measures include eliminating atmospheric pollutants such
as dust and cigarette smoke. Minimize stress, fatigue, and excitement.
Overweight dogs should be put on a weight-loss diet. Walking on a leash is good
exercise, but don’t overdo it. To avoid pressure on the larynx, switch from a
collar to a chest harness or head halter.
Medical management is directed toward reducing bronchial inflammation. Your
veterinarian may prescribe a course of corticosteroids for 10 to 14 days. If
this is beneficial, the dog may be placed on a maintenance dose given daily or
every other day. Bronchodilators such as theophylline or albuterol relax the
breathing passages and reduce respiratory fatigue. They are beneficial for dogs
with associated wheezing and airway spasms.
If the cough gets worse there is probably a secondary bacterial infection.
Seek veterinary attention, because antibiotics will be required.
Cough suppressants are beneficial for episodes of exhaustive coughing, but
should be used only for short periods, as they interfere with host defenses and
prevent the elimination of purulent secretions. Expectorants can be used as
often as needed.
The response to treatment varies. Some dogs make a near-normal recovery,
while others require frequent medication adjustments.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"