Fluid in the Lungs of Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Fluid in the Lungs of Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) is most often associated with pneumonia in dogs, but it can also accumulate due to numerous other conditions. In this post, our Rock Hill internal medicine vet lists the causes, symptoms and treatments for fluid in the lungs in dogs. 

What is pulmonary edema?

Pulmonary edema is marked by a buildup of fluid in a dog’s lungs, which may be caused by numerous underlying health conditions, trauma or exposure to toxins.

If the tiny clusters of air sacks within the lungs (alveoli) fill with fluid instead of air, pulmonary edema occurs. Depending on the cause of this condition, the fluid may build up gradually and slowly, or suddenly.

What causes pulmonary edema in dogs?

The two distinct groups of causes of pulmonary edema in dogs are cardiogenic pulmonary edema and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

With cardiogenic pulmonary edema, your dog suffers from a heart condition that leads to a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Many issues are linked to cardiogenic pulmonary edema, including:

  • Enlarged heart
  • Thickening of heart walls
  • High-sodium diet
  • Incorrectly functioning heart valve

Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Several conditions can lead to noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs, including:

  • Heartworm
  • Electrocution
  • Hypoproteinemia (too little protein in a dog’s blood)
  • Near drowning
  • Airway obstruction
  • Pneumonia
  • Anemia
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Secondary diseases such as cancer

What are the symptoms of pulmonary edema in dogs?

Depending on the underlying cause of the condition, symptoms of pulmonary edema. The most common symptoms in dogs include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Crackling noises when taking a breath
  • Weakness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Distended jugular vein
  • Blue tongue or lips
  • Collapse

Contact your vet immediately to schedule an appointment if your dog is showing any symptoms listed above. If you notice your dog’s lips turning blue, emergency veterinary care will be needed. See your vet as soon as possible. In the Rock Hill area, bring your pet to see our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists for urgent care.

How is pulmonary edema in dogs diagnosed?

If your primary care veterinarian is unable to diagnose or treat your pet’s condition, he or she may refer you to our board-certified internal medicine specialist. After you are referred by your regular veterinarian, our internal medicine specialist can perform a comprehensive physical exam for your pet. A diagnostic plan can then be developed and a thorough treatment plan created, tailored to your pet’s needs.

If fluid can be heard in your dog's lungs, your vet's focus will be on identifying the underlying cause. Initially your vet will look for obvious signs of electrocution such as burns around the dog's mouth (from biting an electrical cord), and check your dog's airway for blockages.

In many cases, thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays) will be done. X-rays will show the extent of the fluid in your pet's lungs as well as help detect any foreign bodies that may be causing an obstruction, and show signs of an enlarged heart in cases of cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

In some cases tests on the fluid within your dog's lungs can help to determine high or low protein levels. High levels of protein point to noncardiogenic causes of fluid buildup, whereas low levels of protein indicate cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

How is cardiogenic pulmonary edema treated in dogs?

If your pet has fluid in their lungs stemming from heart disease, diuretics will typically be prescribed to help remove the fluid along with oxygen therapy and rest. That said, due to the chronic nature of heart disease pulmonary edema may be a recurring issue. Pet parents should watch their dog carefully for early signs of fluid in the lungs so that treatment can begin early, before the condition becomes more severe. A low sodium diet along with medications to address the heart condition may be recommended for your dog as a long-term treatment.

How is noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs treated?

When it comes to treating noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs, the treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of your dog's condition.

If a blockage has been detected your vet will attempt to remove the blockage while your dog is sedated, although in many cases surgery is required.

Antibiotics, intravenous fluids and colloids, diuretics, and anti-inflammatories are all common treatments for dogs suffering from noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your dog, and schedule follow-up appointments in order to monitor your pet's condition as they recover.

Veterinary Internal Medicine in Rock Hill

Our veterinary internal medicine specialist at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill is experienced in diagnosing and treating diseases of the immune, pulmonary, urinary, cardiovascular endocrine and gastrointestinal systems in a gentle and compassionate manner.

We take a comprehensive, collaborative approach to treating patients, working with not only your regular veterinarian but also with other specialists to ensure every pet receives the best care.

If your dog has been diagnosed with pulmonary edema, talk to your vet about a referral to our internal medicine specialist so your dog can receive an advanced diagnosis and treatment. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your pooch is putting on weight for no apparent reason be it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill to find out how you can schedule an appointment to have your dog examined by our Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialist.

Vet Care for Rock Hill Pets

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Rock Hill, accepts new patients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service welcomes all patients.

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(803) 909-8300