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Uncommon Illness in Dogs: Asthma

By Colleen Williams
May 2, 2018 • 2 min. read
dogs with asthma

Reviewed for accuracy on April 14, 2020 by Sarah Wallace, DVM

Another human condition that is also present in dogs, asthma, is not common among canines. If your dog is diagnosed with asthma, with proper management and treatment, your dog can lead a normal life.

Smaller dogs and older dogs are more susceptible to having asthma, which is also known as allergic bronchitis.


Asthma is usually caused by allergens in the dogs’ environment. Inhaling the substance activates an asthmatic attack. The following are all potential triggers:

  • Air fresheners and perfumes
  • Cleaning chemicals and sprays
  • Cigarette, candle or fireplace smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Animal dander
  • Airborne pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Cat litter particles


The signs of an asthma attack are shortness of breath which can appear like your dog is taking short, shallow breaths, rapidly along with wheezing or coughing. During severe attacks, your dog’s gums may appear blue or purple in color – this is a serious sign of oxygen deprivation and veterinary care needs to be found right away. General signs of asthma include exercise intolerance (such as not playing as much as normal, or becoming tired in the middle of a regular walk), lethargy, lack of appetite, and weight loss.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A detailed medical history will be taken by your vet, including when symptoms began and progressed. A physical examination is next, followed by chest x-rays to rule out a heart condition, pneumonia, diaphragmatic hernia, or other injury or condition. A blood test may also be performed to exclude heartworm disease.

You may be asked to keep an allergy diary, documenting your dog’s symptoms and everything they came into contact with that day. Removing all potential allergens and then gradually reintroducing them can help to determine the cause of attacks. Medications and canine inhalers can help reduce the severity of attacks as well.


Removing any potential allergens from your dog’s environment is essential to managing asthma. Your vet can recommend strategies for eliminating natural allergens like mold, pollen, and dander from your house. Regular veterinary appointments are also necessary to determine if treatment methods are successful or need to be altered.

Although some dogs, especially small dogs can develop some asthma as they age, generally allergies are more common in cats. In any pet with asthma, proper management of the illness is extremely important in order to improve your dog’s quality of life. If you or anyone you know has asthma, consider their quality of life with and without medication. Medications and inhalers coupled with regular vet appointments can reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and therefore minimize fear, anxiety, stress and suffering. If your dog suffers from a severe asthma attack and their gums turn blue or they faint, seek emergency care.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical diagnosis, condition, or treatment options.

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colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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