Emphysema in Dogs
Definition of Emphysema
Emphysema is the abnormal accumulation of air inside an organ or tissue. In dogs, it usually refers to the build-up of air in some part of the respiratory tract. Air enters the lungs normally when the dog breathes in, but it gets diverted and becomes trapped in places where it doesn’t belong. Why this happens is not really well. However, inflammation, physical pressure and other forces somehow disrupt lung tissue, trapping inhaled air. Trauma to the lungs, windpipe, esophagus or chest wall can trigger emphysema. Inflammatory lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchitis, can also cause the condition, as can cancer and lung parasites. Emphysema is seen mostly in middle-aged dogs. Symptoms can come on suddenly or slowly; some dogs never act sick. More commonly, affected animals cough, develop breathing difficulties and become weak, lethargic and depressed. The symptoms can become severe, requiring emergency hospitalization.
Emphysema in domestic dogs is commonly caused by a skin or internal wound, which allows air to be brought into tissues through the movements of muscles surrounding the laceration. Trauma, either blunt or penetrating, to the lungs, trachea (windpipe), esophagus or chest (thoracic) wall, can cause ulcerations or lacerations that lead to emphysema. Inflammatory lung illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic sterile bronchitis, can contribute to emphysema, as can cancer (neoplasia)
Dogs with emphysema may show no observable signs of illness. When visible symptoms do occur, they may come on suddenly, slowly or intermittently. The exact mechanisms leading to the abnormal accumulation of air in respiratory tissues are not well understood. However, it is suspected that inflammation, physical pressure and other as yet unknown forces cause disruption and breakdown of essential lung tissues, which in turn causes inhaled air to be diverted to and accumulate in
When presented with a dog in respiratory distress, the veterinarian will take a history and perform a physical examination. He probably will rather quickly recommend taking thoracic radiographs (chest X-rays), which may or may not identify the cause of the dog’s condition. Routine blood work (a complete blood count and serum biochemistry profile) and urinalysis are usually unremarkable and unaffected by emphysema. Performing an arterial blood gas analysis on a blood sample is likely to
The goals of treating emphysema in companion canines are to relieve the dog’s immediate distress and improve and manage its overall respiratory function.If a dog is in severe respiratory distress as a result of emphysema, it may need to be hospitalized and either placed in an oxygen cage or provided concentrated oxygen with a mask or through a nasal oxygen catheter. Thoracostomy tubes can be surgically placed into the animal’s chest to provide continuous suction