What Helps Dogs With Copd?

What is Canine COPD?

Canine chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic, progressive lung disease characterized by persistent obstruction of airflow in the lungs (VetInfo). The main causes of canine COPD include chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which damage the airways and air sacs in the lungs over time.

The most common symptoms of canine COPD include a chronic cough lasting more than a few weeks, exercise intolerance, breathing difficulty, wheezing, and bluish gums. As the disease progresses, dogs may develop a barrel-shaped chest from overinflated lungs and have significant difficulty breathing (DoggySaurus). Canine COPD is a serious condition that worsens over time if left untreated.

Diagnosing Canine COPD

Veterinarians use several diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis of COPD in dogs. These tests help assess lung function and pinpoint areas of damage or obstruction (Carolina Veterinary Specialists).

Imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans allow vets to visually inspect the lungs and airways. X-rays can reveal emphysema, bronchial wall thickening, and mucus accumulation. CT scans provide more detailed 3D images to identify small airway disease (VCA Hospitals).

Lung function tests measure how well the lungs take in and expel air. Spirometry tests use a mask for the dog to breathe into, assessing airflow limitations characteristic of COPD. Blood gas analysis looks at oxygen and carbon dioxide levels for signs of impaired gas exchange (South Wilton Veterinary Group).

Treatment Options

There are several main treatment options for dogs with COPD:

Bronchodilators – These medications open up the airways and make breathing easier. Common bronchodilators used in dogs include theophylline and terbutaline. According to the VCA Hospitals, bronchodilators can significantly reduce coughing and ease breathing in dogs with COPD. They are often one of the first medications prescribed for canine COPD patients.1

Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids like prednisone help reduce inflammation in the airways. Reducing inflammation can open up the airways and improve breathing. Corticosteroids may be prescribed on their own or alongside other COPD medications for dogs. According to Carolina Veterinary Specialists, corticosteroids are a mainstay of COPD treatment in dogs.2

Antibiotics – If a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat it. Eliminating the infection can help open up the airways.

Oxygen Therapy – For dogs with severe COPD and hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), supplemental oxygen may be needed. This additional oxygen can help them breathe easier. Oxygen can be given at home with the guidance of a veterinarian.

Lifestyle Changes

Making some changes to your dog’s lifestyle can help manage COPD symptoms. Weight management is important, as excess weight can put more strain on the lungs. A veterinarian may recommend a reduced calorie diet and gentle exercise like short walks to help the dog lose weight (Cite COPD in Dogs | South Wilton Veterinary Group).

Exercise limitations may be needed if the dog experiences breathing difficulties with too much activity. Low impact exercise like swimming can be better tolerated. It’s best to avoid overexertion and stick to shorter, slower activities. Pay attention to signs of labored breathing or coughing during and after exercise (Cite Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital).

Avoiding irritants is also important. Things like dust, smoke, pollen, and strong fumes can trigger coughing and make breathing more difficult. Using air filters at home and limiting time outdoors when air quality is poor can help (Cite COPD in Dogs – Charlotte – Carolina Veterinary Specialists). Keeping your dog’s environment clean and irritation-free is key.

Dietary Considerations

Making some changes to your dog’s diet can be beneficial for dogs with COPD. Focusing on foods with certain nutrients may help reduce inflammation, improve respiratory function, and support your dog’s overall health.

Adding more omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation associated with COPD. Omega-3s are found in fish, some plant oils like flaxseed, and certain supplements. Look for dog foods with fish, fish oil, or flaxseed.

Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids can help reduce oxidative damage to the lungs and respiratory system. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and supplements contain antioxidants. Choose dog foods with added produce, berries, leafy greens, etc.

Feeding high quality proteins provides amino acids important for muscle maintenance and respiration. Look for meat, poultry, fish, and egg-based proteins. Avoid plant-based proteins as the sole source.

Consult with your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations to help support your dog’s respiratory health.


Certain supplements may help dogs with COPD by reducing inflammation, supporting respiratory health, and boosting immunity. Some supplements to consider include:

Turmeric – Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the airways. Look for a turmeric supplement formulated for dogs. Follow dosage recommendations based on your dog’s weight.

CoQ10 – This antioxidant supports cellular energy production and protects against oxidative damage. Some research shows CoQ10 supplementation can improve breathing and oxygen levels in COPD patients. Consult your vet on an appropriate dog dosage.

Probiotics – Probiotics support healthy digestion and immunity. Some studies indicate probiotic supplements may reduce inflammation and exacerbations in COPD. Choose a high-quality probiotic made for dogs and give as directed.

Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any new supplements, especially alongside prescription medications. Work closely with your vet to find the right supplements to support your dog’s respiratory health.

Home Care

There are a few important things you can do at home to help care for your dog with COPD:

Monitor your dog’s breathing closely, especially during activity or hot weather. Watch for increased respiratory effort, open-mouth breathing, or blue-tinged gums or tongue that could indicate difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian (Source).

Avoid having your dog exert themselves or be outside during the hottest parts of the day. Heat and humidity can exacerbate breathing difficulties (Source).

Be diligent about giving any prescribed COPD medications on schedule and at the proper dosages. You may need to use reminders to ensure you don’t miss a dose (Source).


There are some proactive steps dog owners can take to help prevent COPD from developing or worsening in their pets. Avoiding cigarette smoke is one of the most important preventive measures. Smoke is a major irritant for dogs’ respiratory systems, so keeping them away from environments with cigarette, cigar, or other smoke can reduce inflammation.Owners should also be aware of limiting their dog’s exposure to air pollution. Air quality can vary dramatically by geographic region, so understanding the air quality in your local environment and minimizing time outdoors on high pollution days may help. Treating any minor respiratory infections a dog experiences early and effectively is also key to preventing progression of COPD. Even minor infections can compound lung damage, so working closely with a vet to monitor symptoms and begin medication when appropriate aids prevention.


[Limiting exposure will reduce the chance of developing COPD](https://www.lakecross.com/site/blog-huntersville-vet/2020/12/18/copd-dogs)


The life expectancy for dogs with COPD varies depending on the severity of the disease and how well it is managed. With proper treatment, some dogs can live 1-3 years after diagnosis. However, in more severe cases, dogs may only live a few months after diagnosis.

The quality of life for dogs with COPD also depends on disease severity. Mild cases can often be well-managed so dogs have minimal symptoms and good quality of life. More severe cases often lead to breathing difficulties, exercise intolerance, coughing, and other distressing symptoms which negatively impact quality of life. Working closely with your vet is key to ensure your dog’s symptoms are well-controlled.

For dogs with end-stage COPD, palliative care options focus on relieving symptoms and improving comfort. This may include medications like bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and cough suppressants. Oxygen therapy can also help dogs struggling to breathe. Your vet can advise you on the best options for palliative care to help maximize your dog’s remaining time.

At some point, euthanasia may need to be considered to prevent further suffering when a dog’s disease is no longer medically manageable. Your vet can help advise you on when a dog’s quality of life is declining to a point where euthanasia may be the most humane option. While very difficult, many owners ultimately find this decision brings them comfort knowing their dog’s suffering has ended.

The Takeaway

Canine COPD is a progressive respiratory disease that can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life. Early detection and treatment are crucial to slow disease progression and manage symptoms. Key takeaways include:

– COPD involves long-term inflammation and damage to the airways and lungs. It makes breathing difficult for dogs.

– Common symptoms are chronic cough, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing, and crackling/wheezing sounds.

– Diagnosis typically involves chest x-rays, ultrasound, and tests of lung function.

– Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and opening airways through medications like bronchodilators and steroids.

– Lifestyle and dietary changes can also help ease breathing and improve quality of life.

– While not curable, early COPD treatment can extend and improve dogs’ lives. Catching it early optimizes outcomes.

– Work closely with your vet for ongoing monitoring and adjustment of COPD therapy for your dog.

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