Most pet owners are familiar with the term ‘asthma’, either because they are a sufferer or because they have a friend or relative who is. But what might be less clear is whether our canine companions can also develop this condition. The answer to this isn’t straightforward. While asthma in dogs is not the same as the condition in humans, they can suffer from a similar condition called canine bronchitis.

We are going to take a look at bronchitis in dogs, as well as the treatment options.

What is asthma and can dogs get it?

Asthma in people is a condition that causes constriction (narrowing) of the airways, due to inflammation. This inflammation can occur at random or in response to an environmental trigger such as dust, smoke, and aerosol sprays. When the airways become sensitive and narrowed in this way it can make it difficult for air to pass smoothly down to the lungs. This means sufferers experience breathlessness, the sensation of a tight chest and coughing when they are having an asthma attack.

Some other animal species, such as cats, also suffer from asthma in the same way. However, asthma in dogs is a little different. While they can react to environmental irritants, their airways do not become constricted when triggered, so they don’t suffer from classic asthma attacks. Instead, their condition is known as canine bronchitis (bronchitis in dogs) whereby these environmental triggers cause inflammation alone leading to coughing or wheezing. If this condition is ongoing, it can also be termed  canine chronic bronchitis.

What are the signs of allergic bronchitis in dogs?

Dogs with allergic bronchitis may show the following clinical signs (or symptoms):

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Gagging or retching
  • Faster breathing rate
  • Increased breathing effort (more abdominal movement can be noted when breathing)
  • Panting or open-mouth breathing
  • Tiring easily when exercising, or not wanting to exercise at all
  • Decreased appetite, which may lead to weight loss
  • Pale gums
  • Episodes of lethargy or collapse

Any age can be affected, though bronchitis in dogs is most commonly seen in adults and elderly pets. Being overweight can make symptoms worse in affected animals.

How is bronchitis in dogs diagnosed?

The signs (or symptoms) seen with canine bronchitis are not diagnostic for the condition, so your vet may need to perform some tests to rule out other disease processes. Dogs affected with lungworm, cardiac (heart) disease, tracheal collapse or kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) may show some very similar signs.

Your vet will start by examining your dog and discussing their symptoms with you. They will check the colour of your dog’s gums, listen to their chest, and check their temperature. Depending on their findings the next step might include a blood sample. This can help to identify markers of inflammation and infection, but also checks your pet’s overall health status, looking at their organ function. More specific blood tests may also be performed to indicate whether there is an underlying cardiac (heart) problem.

Your vet may then suggest some diagnostic imaging. X-rays will give an overall picture of your dog’s chest and can help rule out other issues like heart enlargement, tumours or tracheal collapse.

Bronchoscopy (passing a small camera down the airways) can also be used to visualise the inside of your dog’s airways. A bronchoalveolar lavage is often performed, to collect samples of the cells from inside your dog’s airways. This involves flushing sterile saline into the airways and drawing it back out to examine it for any inflammatory cells or bacteria.

On some occasions, a CT scan may be recommended as a way of visualising the lung fields differently, depending on your vet’s initial findings.

What is the treatment for canine bronchitis?

As the underlying cause of bronchitis in dogs is often similar to that found in asthma (an allergic reaction to an environmental trigger), the treatment is similar. It is primarily aimed at avoiding any known triggers (such as cigarette smoke or air fresheners), a weight-loss regime for overweight animals and using medication that controls the inflammation in your dog’s airways. While canine chronic bronchitis may never be cured, it can be successfully managed.

Steroids are the most commonly used medication for this. Steroid tablets or injectables are available, and while effective, these are not without side effects. So, if your dog needs to be on a long-term steroid medication then your vet may recommend an inhaled steroid instead. This has the advantage of targeting the specific area that needs treatment (the airways) while minimising the effects steroids have on the rest of the body.

Inhaled steroids are usually administered via an inhaler similar to human treatment, however, dogs require a spacer (aerosol chamber) with a facemask. The inhaler is attached to one end of the spacer, the steroid is puffed into it, and the drug is inhaled through the mask which sits comfortably over the dog’s nose at the other end.

Why choose an AeroDawg® Chamber?

The AeroDawg® Chamber is vet approved and easy to use. It is designed specifically for use with dogs, unlike generic/human versions. This means that the silicone mask fits well leading to enhanced drug delivery. Your dog receives effective doses of medication with minimal wastage. The patented Flow-Vu® system also shows when your dog is actually inhaling the medication so that you can accurately count the number of breaths their pet is taking. This helps to ensure that they are receiving the correct dose of their medication.

While it can be tempting to buy a cheaper generic alternative, this is a false economy. It can lead to drug wastage and reduced compliance. If introduced to your dog with positive reinforcement, AeroDawg® can help effectively manage long-term respiratory conditions, including bronchitis in dogs.


While dogs don’t get asthma, they do suffer from other respiratory conditions including allergic bronchitis. While this doesn’t cause narrowing of the airways it does cause inflammation which requires treatment, usually in the form of steroids. Inhaled steroids are often recommended for long-term use to minimise potential side effects on the rest of the body. The vet-approved AeroDawg® Chamber is designed to effectively administer this medication and can help you successfully manage your dog’s respiratory condition.

You can find out more, about the AeroDawg® Chamber here.

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