Aldie Veterinary Hospital
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Respiratory Problems

Respiratory distress is an emergency. See your veterinarian immediately so your pet will receive enough oxygen to maintain normal organ function. 

Respiratory issues in your pet can be very scary and should be taken seriously. If you believe your pet is experiencing respiratory problems, take him or her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Early treatment is key to preventing the progression of symptoms.

Lower respiratory issues are usually associated with some type of coughing. This coughing can be dry, produce mucous or sound somewhat muffled. Your pet could also have upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, nasal or eye discharge, whistling or wheezing noises produced while breathing, and/or swelling to the nose or face.

The most common causes of upper respiratory issues are generally viral. Viruses in dogs are kennel cough (bordetella), distemper, or parainfluenza. In cats the most common viral causes include Feline Herpes Virus or calicivirus.

See a veterinarian if your pet coughs frequently, especially if he or she has other symptoms, such as discharge from the eyes and/or nose, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s lungs and heart. In some cases, radiographs will be needed to assess the clarity of your pet’s lungs. Your vet will then decide the best course of treatment for your pet. Further diagnostics may be indicated to determine the cause of respiratory issues.

Panting is a normal function of dogs to lower body temperature and shouldn’t be confused with breathing problems.

Symptoms of Respiratory Distress in Dogs

  • Cyanosis – This occurs when the dog’s blood cannot carry oxygen effectively.  A blue or purple coloration of the gums, lips and tongue are symptoms of cyanosis and require emergency care.
  • Fast Shallow Breathing – This is a normal way for dogs to bring more oxygen into their bodies; however, if it occurs without cause (physical exertion) it could be a serious symptom of respiratory distress.
  • Noisy breathing – Some dogs are noisy breathers, especially brachycephalic breeds (including English Bull Dog, Pug, French Bull Dog, Shih Tzu and Pekingese.)  However, an abrupt change in the sound of your dog’s breathing could signal a problem. If your dog suddenly becomes a noisy breather, you should consult a veterinarian.

Symptoms of Respiratory Distress in Cats

  • Open-mouthed breathing – Cats do not pant like dogs and open-mouthed breathing is a sign that your cat is not getting enough oxygen.
  • Cyanosis – Cyanosis occurs when oxygen is not carried in the blood effectively. Blue or purple tint to the lips, tongue or gums of your cat are symptoms of cyanosis.
  • Increased Respiratory Rate and Effort – If these symptoms occur without cause your cat should be seen by a veterinarian.
  • Wheezing – Acute changes in the sound of your cat’s breathing or wheezing should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

If you have questions or need to make an appointment, please call us at (703) 327-0909 or schedule one online!