What If My Dog’S Bronchitis Is Not Going Away?

What is Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs?

Chronic bronchitis in dogs is defined as a cough that lasts for at least 2 months, with no other underlying lung disease identified (Canine Chronic Bronchitis: A Review and Update). It is characterized by long-term inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the lungs.

The most common symptom of chronic bronchitis in dogs is a persistent, dry cough that can occur daily for months (Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital). Other symptoms include wheezing, exercise intolerance, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, dogs may cough up phlegm or mucus and have difficulty breathing.

Chronic bronchitis can be caused by allergies, air pollution, infections, heart disease, and inhaling irritants like cigarette smoke. It is more common in middle-aged and older dogs. Certain breeds like terriers and toy breeds are also at higher risk (Canine Chronic Bronchitis).

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Consult a veterinarian immediately if your dog’s cough persists for longer than a few weeks. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough that lasts for more than 2 months. According to the AKC article, the key sign of chronic bronchitis is a persistent cough and this why a visit to the vet is needed if it continues.(1)

Some other signs indicate an immediate need for veterinary evaluation, including breathing difficulties like labored breathing, wheezing or rapid breathing, fever, lethargy, reduced appetite or weight loss. These can signal complications or a worsening of the condition, requiring treatment. As Trudell Animal Health states, take your dog to the vet before chronic bronchitis gets worse.


Diagnostic tests like x-rays, bloodwork and cultures of lung secretions can check for underlying infections or other causes. Your vet will also listen to your dog’s chest for congestion, wheezes or crackles which point to bronchitis. Proper treatment and medications can then be prescribed to help alleviate your dog’s chronic cough and improve their breathing.

Diagnosing Chronic Bronchitis

Diagnosing chronic bronchitis in dogs begins with a thorough medical history and physical examination by the veterinarian. The vet will ask about the dog’s symptoms, when they started, and any potential environmental exposures or previous illnesses. During the physical exam, the vet will listen to the dog’s chest with a stethoscope for any abnormal breathing sounds. Imaging tests like x-rays or CT scans of the chest may be recommended to look for indications of bronchitis and rule out other lung conditions. These tests can reveal thickening of the bronchi and other structural changes consistent with chronic bronchitis.

The vet may also collect samples of lung fluid or tissue for analysis. Cytology looks at the cells under a microscope for signs of inflammation and infection. Cultures can identify bacterial or fungal infections causing secondary problems. Other laboratory tests assess lung function and oxygenation levels in the blood to determine the severity and monitor disease progression. Specific tests like bronchoscopy allow visual examination of the airways’ interior, while bronchoalveolar lavage washes the lungs to collect fluid for analysis (Source).

Treatment Options

The main treatments for chronic bronchitis in dogs aim to reduce inflammation, open up the airways, treat secondary infections, and improve oxygenation:

  • Corticosteroids like prednisone or inhaled steroids are commonly used to reduce inflammation in the airways. They help decrease swelling in the bronchial tubes and make breathing easier (Source).

  • Bronchodilators open up the airways and help clear mucus secretions. Medications like theophylline or terbutaline are often prescribed (Source).

  • Antibiotics treat secondary bacterial infections that can develop. Doxycycline, amoxicillin, or clavamox may be prescribed (Source).

  • Oxygen therapy can help dogs having difficulty breathing or with low oxygen levels. This may involve an oxygen cage, mask, or nasal cannula (Source).

Home Care and Lifestyle Changes

There are several things you can do at home to help make your dog with chronic bronchitis more comfortable and reduce flare ups:

Avoid smoke, dust, and other air pollutants. Exposure to irritants in the air can trigger coughing fits and breathing difficulty in dogs with chronic bronchitis. Keep your dog away from cigarette smoke, fireplaces, dusty areas, etc.

Use an air filter or humidifier. Using an air purifier with a HEPA filter can remove allergens and pollutants from the air. A humidifier adds moisture to the air, which can soothe irritated airways. Keep these running in areas your dog spends time in [1].

Encourage gentle exercise. Going on short, gentle walks can help loosen mucus and improve airflow. But take care not to overexert your dog, as this could trigger coughing. Work closely with your vet on safe exercise limits.

Manage your dog’s weight. Extra weight puts more pressure on the airways and lungs. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight makes breathing easier. Follow your vet’s feeding recommendations.

With some simple lifestyle changes and care at home, you can greatly improve your dog’s comfort and quality of life while managing chronic bronchitis.

Prognosis and Outlook

The prognosis for dogs with chronic bronchitis can vary significantly depending on the severity of the condition. Many dogs respond very well to treatment and can go on to live happy lives. In milder cases, the condition may come and go, with flare ups during times of stress or other illnesses.

With appropriate treatment and management, studies show that most dogs with chronic bronchitis have a good long term prognosis, especially if caught early. According to one study, dogs treated with glucocorticoids had median survival times of 18 months to 2 years depending on severity.

However, in more serious cases that do not respond well to treatment, the condition may worsen over time leading to permanent damage to the airways. These dogs are at higher risk for complications and acute flare ups. Prognosis tends to be worse for dogs with recurrent infections or other underlying health conditions. According to vets, advanced cases may have a prognosis of less than a year.

Overall, while many dogs live happy lives with chronic bronchitis, it is a serious progressive condition that requires diligent monitoring and care. Working closely with your vet is key to ensuring the best possible prognosis.

When to Consider Seeing a Specialist

In some cases of chronic bronchitis in dogs, you may need to consider seeing a specialist for additional help. Some reasons to see a specialist include:

  • If your primary veterinarian has been unable to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s chronic bronchitis after standard diagnostics and treatment attempts.
  • If your dog’s symptoms do not seem to be improving despite medications and other treatments recommended by your regular vet. Persistent coughing, wheezing, lethargy, or other signs may indicate the need for more specialized care.
  • If your vet needs assistance determining appropriate medications or dosages to manage your dog’s condition. A specialist can provide more tailored drug recommendations and ongoing monitoring.

In these situations, your vet may refer you to a veterinary internal medicine specialist or criticalist. These specialists have advanced training in treating complex respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis. They may be able to identify underlying factors your regular vet missed or provide better management of your dog’s symptoms. Seeing a specialist provides the best chance of minimizing flare-ups and keeping your dog comfortable if standard treatments have not been effective.

New and Experimental Treatments

There are some promising new and experimental treatments being studied for dogs with chronic bronchitis, focusing on reducing inflammation in the airways.

Inhaled steroids like fluticasone or beclomethasone are showing positive results for reducing airway inflammation and improving breathing in dogs with chronic bronchitis. These inhaled steroids act locally in the lungs and have fewer side effects than oral steroids.1

Certain anti-inflammatory drugs like etodolac may also help reduce coughing and ease breathing issues associated with chronic bronchitis in dogs when used alongside other treatments. Etodolac can reduce prostaglandin production which contributes to airway inflammation.2

Supplements like fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve symptoms when used long-term for dogs with chronic bronchitis. Fish oil can reduce inflammation in the airways and lungs.3

Caring for a Dog with Chronic Bronchitis

Caring for a dog with chronic bronchitis requires diligent monitoring and care. Some tips include:

Monitor breathing and symptoms closely. Watch for increased coughing, labored breathing, or other signs of worsening condition. Keeping a log can help identify triggers or patterns (Bronchitis In Dogs: Symptoms & Treatments).

Give any prescribed medications as directed by your veterinarian. Bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and antibiotics may be prescribed to open airways, reduce inflammation, and prevent secondary infection (Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital).

Avoid known triggers for coughing episodes when possible. Irritants like smoke, dust, and strong scents can provoke coughing. Consider using an air purifier and limiting time outside on high pollution days.

Keep up with follow up veterinary appointments as recommended. Your vet may want to monitor progress through exams and testing.

When to Consider Euthanasia

Unfortunately, in some cases chronic bronchitis can severely impact a dog’s quality of life. If the condition is not responding to medications and treatment, and the dog is experiencing an increasing number of severe coughing attacks, euthanasia may need to be considered.

Some signs that a dog’s quality of life is being severely impacted by chronic bronchitis include:

  • Frequent intense coughing episodes with no relief
  • Difficulty breathing even with oxygen therapy
  • No longer enjoying activities due to respiratory distress
  • Not eating or sleeping well due to coughing
  • Exhaustion from near-constant coughing

Before making the difficult decision to euthanize, pet owners should consult closely with their veterinarian. However, euthanasia may be the most humane option if medications and treatments are no longer providing any relief for a dog with severe, chronic bronchitis.

While euthanasia can be an emotional decision, it may provide the most peaceful and painless option for a suffering dog whose chronic bronchitis is severely impacting their normal functions and quality of life. Pet owners should not feel guilty, as preventing prolonged suffering is the ultimate act of love when all medical options have been exhausted.

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