Diagnosing Asthma (Allergic Bronchitis) in Dogs
How Asthma in Dogs is Diagnosed
The signs of allergic bronchitis, which typically include a dry, hacking cough, wheezing and shortness of breath, can be very frightening for dog owners and for their dogs. Fortunately, veterinarians have a number of tools to help diagnose this condition so that effective treatment can begin.
There is no single test that will conclusively confirm whether a dog has allergic bronchitis or some other type of respiratory disorder. A diagnosis of canine “asthma” is made based upon a number of things, including the dog’s presenting clinical signs, a thorough physical examination and history and ruling out other conditions that could cause or contribute to the symptoms. It can greatly help your veterinarian if you write down all the signs you notice in your dog and bring that list with you to your dog’s appointment. Include exactly what you notice about your dog that you think is abnormal, such as coughing, choking, gasping, wheezing, or whatever. Also document what it sounded like (dry cough, wet cough, wheezing, etc.), the frequency of the signs, how long they lasted and anything else you can recall about your dog’s abnormal behavior that caused you concern.
After discussing these signs, your veterinarian will perform a physical examination – including careful auscultation of your dog’s lungs using a stethoscope - and probably will take radiographs (x-rays) of your dog’s chest as well. With bronchitis, the chest films may show evidence of inflammatory lung damage, infection or scarring of lung tissue, or they may appear normal. Other tests that may help eliminate or confirm causes of acute or chronic coughing include transtracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchoscopy with specimen collection, heartworm and fecal tests for internal parasites, echocardiography to assess the heart and comprehensive blood and urine evaluation to assess systemic health and organ function. Sometimes, a positive response to medical treatment helps confirm a diagnosis of canine allergic bronchitis when other tests prove unhelpful. Fortunately, most dogs with this condition can be treated successfully.
Canine asthma, or allergic bronchitis, is not easy to diagnose. However, there are a number of medications that your veterinarian can discuss with you that can be quite effective in managing this condition.