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Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments for Fluid in the Lungs in Dog

Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments for Fluid in the Lungs in Dog

While fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) is most commonly associated with pneumonia in dogs, fluid can build up in the lungs as a result of a number of other conditions. Today our Huntersville internal medicine vet explains more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for fluid in the lungs in dogs.

What is pulmonary edema?

Pulmonary edema is characterized by a buildup of fluid in the dog's lungs that may be due to a variety of underlying health conditions, exposure to toxins, or due to trauma. 

Pulmonary edema occurs if the tiny clusters of air sacks within the lungs called alveoli fill with fluid instead of air. Depending on the cause of your pet's pumonary edema, the fluid can build up in the dog's lungs slowly over a period of time or very rapidly.

What are the causes of pulmonary edema in dogs?

There are two distinct groups of causes of pulmonary edema in dogs, cardiogenic pulmonary edema and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema means that your dog is experiencing a heart condition which is leading to a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Issues linked to cardiogenic pulmonary edema include:

  • Thickening of heart walls
  • Incorrectly functioning heart valve
  • High sodium diet
  • Enlarged heart

Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

There are a range of conditions that can lead to noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs, such as:

  • Hypoproteinemia (too little protein in the dog's blood)
  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Secondary diseases such as cancer
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Electrocution
  • Near drowning
  • Toxins including snake venom
  • Pneumonia
  • Anemia
  • Heartworm

What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema in dogs?

The symptoms of pulmonary edema will vary based upon the underlying cause of the condition, however the most common symptoms in dogs include:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Crackling noises when taking a breath
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Weakness
  • Obvious effort to breathe
  • Blue tongue or lips
  • Collapse
  • Distended jugular vein
  • Rapid breathing

If your dog is showing any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet immediately to book an appointment. In cases where your dog's lips have begun to turn blue, emergency veterinary care is required. Visit your vet as quickly as possible, or in the Huntersville area bring your pet to see our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists for urgent care.

How is pulmonary edema in dogs diagnosed?

If fluid can be heard in your dog's lungs, your vet's focus will be on identifying the underlying cause. Initially your vet will look for obvious signs of electrocution such as burns around the dog's mouth (from biting an electrical cord), and check your dog's airway for blockages.

In many cases thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays) will be done. X-rays will show the extent of the fluid in your pet's lungs as well as help detect any foreign bodies that may be causing an obstruction, and show signs of an enlarged heart in cases of cardiogenic pulmonary edema. 

In some cases tests on the fluid within your dog's lungs can help to determine high or low protein levels. High levels of protein point to noncardiogenic causes of fluid buildup, whereas low levels of protein indicate cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

How is cardiogenic pulmonary edema treated in dogs?

If your pet has fluid in their lungs stemming from heart disease, diuretics will typically be prescribed to help remove the fluid along with oxygen therapy and rest. That said, due to the chronic nature of heart disease pulmonary edema may be a recurring issue. Pet parents should watch their dog carefully for early signs of fluid in the lungs so that treatment can begin early, before the condition becomes more severe. A low sodium diet along with medications to address the heart condition may be recommended for your dog as a long-term treatment.

How is noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs treated?

When it comes to treating noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs, the treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of your dog's condition.

If a blockage has been detected your vet will attempt to remove the blockage while your dog is sedated, although in many cases surgery is required.

Antibiotics, intravenous fluids and colloids, diuretics, and anti-inflammatories are all common treatments for dogs suffering from noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your dog, and schedule followup appointments in order to monitor your pet's condition as they recover. 

Veterinary Internal Medicine in Huntersville

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, our veterinary internal medicine specialists are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the immune, cardiovascular, pulmonary, urinary, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems in a compassionate and gentle way. If your dog has been diagnosed with pulmonary edema speak to your vet about a referral to our internal medicine specialists to provide your dog with advanced diagnosis and treatment.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our veterinary internal medicine specialists provide advanced care for sick animals referred to us by their primary care veterinarians. Contact Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville for more information about advanced internal medicine care for your pet. 

Caring for Pets in Huntersville

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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