Common Pet Health Conditions
Diagnosis and Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure in Pets
What is Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)?
Congestive heart failure is a disease that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It can result from an inherited defect in heart valves or muscle, or it can be caused by high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, and other conditions. Congestive heart failure occurs most often in middle-aged dogs and cats… read more in our full blog to learn about signs, symptoms, treatments and life expectency
Diagnosis and Treatment for Collapsing Trachea in Pets
What is Collapsing Trachea in Pets?
Tracheal collapse is a condition where the collagen rings that support the trachea are weakened, leading to the flattening or complete collapse of the trachea. The trachea allows air to pass from the lungs outwards, and where new air is brought into the lungs, so any restriction of the trachea can cause breathing difficulties. There is no known cause of tracheal collapse, but it is thought….read more in our full blog to learn about signs, symptoms, treatments and life expectency
What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition where the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries become constricted or blocked, preventing blood from flowing properly. The increase of blood pressure can cause damage to the heart and lungs.
There are many causes of pulmonary hypertension in pets. Congenital heart defects, kidney disease, pancreatitis, and illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and certain cancers can all be a cause of pulmonary hypertension. Living at high altitudes has also been linked as a cause of pulmonary hypertension in pets.
Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension may include:
- Rapid respiration rate
- Weight loss
- Exercise intolerance
- Blue or purple tinged gums, tongue, or skin
- Vomiting blood
- Syncopal episode (fainting)
- Distended abdomen
- Respiratory distress
Diagnosing pulmonary hypertension relies on the results of an echocardiogram (a cardiac ultrasound). Additional diagnostics such as bloodwork and chest x-rays may also help to diagnose the pet.
Treatment of pulmonary hypertension includes certain medications that help to lower the pulmonary blood pressure. Bronchodilators, diuretics, vasodilators, and oxygen therapy also aid in treatment and maintaining a good quality of life.
What Is Laryngeal Paralysis?
Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that affects an animal’s ability to breathe in deeply, as the sides of the windpipe collapse upon drawing breath, which causes difficulty breathing.
Laryngeal paralysis is diagnosed mainly in large breed dogs, but can be found rarely in small breed dogs and cats. There are many causes of the condition, including tumors or lesions in the neck or chest, trauma to the throat, hormonal diseases, and congenital issues. Many times however, pets are diagnosed with idiopathic laryngeal paralysis, which means that the cause of the condition is unknown.
Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis may include:
- Coughing, especially after eating, drinking, or exercising
- Exercise intolerance
- Change in the tone and pitch of the dog’s bark
- Hoarse sounding meow in cats
- Cyanotic episode where pets gums and tongue turn blue or purple
Diagnosing laryngeal paralysis can typically be done by examining the larynx with an endoscope or laryngoscope. Other diagnostics that may be helpful include chest x-rays, bloodwork, and a urinalysis to rule out conditions with similar symptoms.
Treatment for very severe cases of laryngeal paralysis may include surgery. Arytenoid lateralization, or tie-back surgery, is very effective at improving the quality of life for these pets. The narrow airway is surgically opened by placing sutures between the cartilage of the larynx to hold it in an open position.
Treatment for less severe cases or for pets who are not eligible for surgery may include anti-inflammatory drugs, sedatives, antibiotics, and supplemental oxygen to help reduce issues breathing.
What Is Bronchitis and Chronic Bronchitis?
Bronchitis is a disease where the bronchioles and bronchi of the lungs are inflamed, causing mucus to build up and lead to breathing difficulties.
Causes of bronchitis and chronic bronchitis can be anything that irritates the airway. Some common causes are bacterial and viral infections, tracheal collapse, heart failure, parasites (like lungworm or heartworm), foreign bodies (like pollutants in the air), and cancer.
Symptoms of bronchitis can include:
- Persistent coughing (can be wet, dry, or honking)
- Gagging, retching, or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
To be considered chronic, the symptoms must be present for at least two months.
Diagnosing bronchitis relies on the results of diagnostic testing such as chest x-rays, bronchoscopy, bloodwork, and a tracheal wash. A comprehensive exam will help as well, as hearing what the cough sounds like can often help in diagnosing the pet.
Treatment often includes the use of corticosteroids, bronchodilators, supplemental oxygen, and couch suppressants.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a condition that is characterized by an inflammation of the alveoli, or air sacs, of the lungs. The alveoli is where blood exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, so any inflammation can affect breathing.
There are four main causes of pneumonia in pets:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
- Breathing in foreign material – referred to as ‘aspiration pneumonia’
- Fungal infections
Symptoms of pneumonia may include:
- Respiratory distress
- Exercise intolerance
- Nasal discharge
- Coughing (often wet in nature)
- Weight loss
- Weakness or collapse
- Cyanotic episodes, where the gums and tongue turn blue or purple
- Fever, in some cases (typically with viral or bacterial pneumonia)
Diagnosing pneumonia is typically accomplished by performing chest x-rays and bloodwork. Other tests that may assist in finding the cause of the pneumonia (which can dictate proper treatment) include a pulse oximetry and blood-gas analysis, a culture and cytology, and possibly an MRI or CT scan.
Treatment of pneumonia depends on the cause of the condition and can include antibiotics, oxygen therapy, fluid therapy, nebulization and coupage, and ventilation (in severe cases). X-rays are typically taken every two to five days to make sure the treatment is effective.
What Is Feline Asthma?
Feline asthma is a condition caused by an allergic reaction to inhaled allergens. The irritant causes swelling of the airways and an overproduction of mucus, which causes difficulty breathing.
Causes of feline asthma attacks are typically irritants in the air, like dust, smoke, heavy fragrance, mold, and pollen, but stress can also be a contributing factor in asthmatic attacks.
Symptoms of feline asthma may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased respiratory rate or effort
- Hunched posture with neck stretched out
- Cyanotic episode where the tongue and gums turn blue or purple
- Persistent coughing
- Gagging, retching, and vomiting
- Increased swallowing
- Frothy mucus while coughing
- Open-mouth breathing
Diagnosing feline asthma relies on a combination of diagnostic testing and medical history, as there is not one specific test that can definitively diagnose asthma. Chest x-rays, bloodwork, a comprehensive exam, and a urinalysis can be helpful in coming to a diagnosis, as well as detailed explanations of the episode from pet parents.
Treatment of feline asthma typically includes bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and supplemental oxygen. There is unfortunately no cure for asthma, so the treatment is designed to limit the frequency and severity of the asthmatic events.
What Is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness arises when an animal is exposed to high altitudes too quickly or for too long, and the lower quantity of oxygen in the air causes breathing difficulties.
Symptoms of altitude sickness can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting and nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Dry cough
- Increased heart rate
- Pale gums
- Swelling of the face and limbs
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Nose bleeds
- Lack of coordination
Certain heart conditions and pets with breathing difficulties are not considered healthy enough for recreational trips to high altitudes. These conditions can exacerbate the symptoms of altitude sickness and may become life threatening quickly.
Diagnosing altitude sickness typically requires a comprehensive exam, blood pressure reading, blood tests, and chest x-rays. Providing your veterinarian with information for any recent trips will help your vet distinguish between altitude sickness and other possible diagnoses.
Treating altitude sickness requires immediately moving your pet to a lower altitude, preferably below 8,000 feet. Offer your pet water, and make plans to visit the veterinarian immediately if symptoms persist. Supplemental oxygen can be provided to assist with any breathing difficulties. Once at the vet, additional treatments may include the use of medications to lower blood pressure and reduce edema.
What Is Hypoxemia in Neonatal Puppies and Kittens?
This condition is caused by low oxygen levels present at the time of whelping, and can be life threatening if not treated immediately.
There are many causes of hypoxemia in neonatal puppies and kittens. Aspirating foreign material into the lungs, too much time spent in the birth canal, and birth defects can all be contributing factors to hypoxemia.
Symptoms of hypoxemia may include:
- Gasping for air
- Slow or weak heartbeat
- Silence at birth (not crying)
- Noisy or wet breathing
- Blue or purple tinged mucous membranes
Diagnosing the cause of hypoxemia will require a visit to the veterinarian’s office, as diagnostics will need to be performed. Typically, a comprehensive exam, x-rays, and bloodwork will assist in diagnosing the cause of hypoxemia.
Immediate treatment for hypoxemia must include providing supplemental oxygen once the airway has been cleared of fluid with a bulb syringe. Once oxygen has been provided, additional care may be needed if the puppy or kitten will not nurse, or if symptoms continue. Having supplemental oxygen on hand to transport the puppy or kitten to the veterinary office or ER will be crucial to making sure they arrive alive.
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