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 if necessary for patients with persistent abnormal air accumulation. Cage rest, and of course activity restriction, are important parts of supportive care for dogs with acute episodes of emphysema. Longer-term treatment often involves surgical resection (removal) of the damaged areas of the lung by a procedure called a partial or a complete lung lobectomy. The left lung has three lobes (cranial, middle and caudal), and the right lung has four (cranial, middle, caudal and accessory). Most dogs do just fine after all or part of an affected lung lobe is removed.
The prognosis for dogs with emphysema following surgical resection of damaged lung tissue is very good to excellent, provided that sufficient healthy lung tissue remains to carry out the essential functions of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. While some animals can be managed non-surgically, the best outcomes seem to result from early lung lobectomy of affected tissue. Dogs managed only medically for emphysema tend to have recurrent or persistent respiratory symptoms.