Working in the medical field myself, I had heard of pneumothorax many times but never did I even want to hear pneumothorax in dogs. A collapsed lung is usually caused by a traumatic event, enough force to tear the lung and allow air to leak into the chest cavity. The air outside the lung prevents the lungs from inflating normally and can lead to lung collapse. However, when there is no trauma then what is the cause of the pneumothorax?
Unfortunately in dogs, it can happen very suddenly and the dog will be getting progressively worse if you are not paying attention to their breathing. Let me tell you my story. I had a beautiful male husky. We were at a friend’s house the night before and all the dogs were having the best time of their lives. We were watching them very closely and there were no accidents and no trauma. The next morning as usual woke up early to take my fur babies for a walk. We got all suited up and walked out the door.
Story of my baby
As per our usual walk, I gave the dogs their lead to go where they will. My three-year-old was lagging behind and I kept pulling the leash to make him go faster. About halfway through our walk, I noticed him panting. I started paying a bit closer attention to him and noticed his panting was not normal. It was during the summer months, but that early in the morning there was no reason for the weird panting. We rushed him to the vet and by the time we arrived he looked like he was about to collapse.
At the vet
They took him in right away and that is when they told me he had a pneumothorax! They drained quite a bit of air from him and he was marginally better. I always wonder what would have happened if I left him at the vet overnight? We opted to take him home so I could keep an eye on him. I was pretty warm that day and traffic as usual in Atlanta was a nightmare. By the time we got home, he was pretty stressed and was having trouble breathing again. We tried to keep him cool and calm, but it was not working. We packed him in the car and rushed him back to the emergency vet. But he passed in my arms on the way there. My baby did not make it that night. It is so hard to lose one, and it is even harder when they lose their battle before their time.
If the pneumothorax in your dog is small enough, it might heal on its own. It is possible for your pet to recover if they receive treatment right away. There should be some improvement after the drainage as was the case in my dog, but as it happens sometimes it can occur again.
Causes of spontaneous pneumothorax in dogs are:
Cancer, Bacterial pneumonia, Pulmonary abscess, Fungal infection, Heartworm disease, Pulmonary thromboembolism, Grass awn migration. We all know what cancer is so no point in explaining that evil disease that seems to have exploded in the pet population. Bacteria most commonly known as strep causes bacterial pneumonia in the lungs.
When part of the lung tissue dies and turns into a liquid, it is a pulmonary abscess caused by a microbial infection. Fungal infection is exactly that, an infection caused by a fungus in the lungs. Heartworm disease, believe it or not, starts with a bite from a mere mosquito. It causes severe lung disease among other things. Even death! Heartworm is exactly what the name suggests. A parasitic worm that matures into adult worms that live in the heart, lungs, and blood vessels that are associated with them. They mate and reproduce while living in your precious pets. So make sure you keep your pet on the heartworm medications where necessary. Mosquitos are everywhere!!!
When an artery or more gets blocked by a blood clot, it is called a pulmonary thromboembolism. Last but not least is Grass awn migration. This happens when grass awns and plant materials travel through the dog’s respiratory or gastrointestinal tract.
I think this last method is what caused my baby to have a spontaneous pneumothorax. You see the night before he was perfectly fine and running with his friends at my friend’s home of two acres full of weeds, grass, and stuff. Of course, at the time, we thought he might have had some trauma or injury to make it happen, but now that I have the info it seems like the awn migration might have been the culprit.
How to treat a spontaneous Pneumothorax in dogs?
How to treat depends on how severe the problem is. Part of the treatment is draining the extra air out from around the lungs so that they can function and expand. This would be called a thoracocentesis, usually done with inserting a small needle into the chest area to draw out the extra air around the lungs so breathing becomes easier. The Veterinarian first has to determine the cause of the pneumothorax to make the best decision for the treatment. Supply extra oxygen to treat this medically, but more than likely surgery is recommended.
Surgical intervention is to remove the entire lobe of the affected lung. Your veterinarian will decide which way to do the surgery once he decides on which lobe he needs to take out.
Long term the prognosis is excellent when surgery is performed and the cause of air leakage is removed. However, in some instances, surgery resection is not recommended and the pet’s future depends on the severity and extent of the disease.
At the end of all this, I say pay close attention to your pets. Be familiar with their neurosis, their behavior, and general health. Remember “Their lives are in our hands. We are their guardians. We are their voice. Speak up and be heard.” Quote from www.madpuppymills.com. Hug your pet, your best friend, and companion a bit longer tonight!