There’s something transformative about looking into your dog’s eyes.
I’m not sure what it is, but no other animal (in my opinion) emotes through their eyes the way dogs do.
However, while it’s typical to see joy and happiness radiating from your dog’s furry face, pet parents who have dogs with COPD must also live with seeing anguish.
The mortality of our beloved companions is never an easy subject to talk about, much less think about.
But, when your dog has COPD, it’s important to be aware of all of the options available.
In humans, COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
However, in veterinary medicine, a similar disease is called Canine Chronic Bronchitis (CCB). This progressive disease is irreversible.
Common symptoms of COPD/CCB in dogs
The symptoms of COPD in dogs are quite acute.
Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch for.
The main symptom will be a chronic “dry” cough.
This cough will be persistent within your dog for over a month or longer.
A dry cough does not produce mucus and will often make your dog start gagging.
In its advanced stages, COPD symptoms can include a reduced desire to engage in physical activity such as exercise and difficulty breathing.
Dogs will also develop wheezy breathing, and their gums will acquire a blue tenge (a condition caused by reduced oxygen levels in their body).
However, these symptoms can represent other health issues.
Therefore, your veterinarian will first try to rule out other conditions before diagnosing your dog with COPD.
That said, seeking medical treatment early is absolutely vital should your dog exhibit any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
When is it time to put a dog with COPD out of its misery?
Obviously, no dog parent ever wants to consider the possibility of putting down their loved one.
However, should your dog’s symptoms reach a point at which your pet can’t enjoy a comfortable quality of life, it may be time to end their suffering.
While the prognosis can vary in different dogs, the damage this disease causes within a dog’s lungs is permanent and will worsen over time.
That said, not every case of COPD in dogs requires the animal to be euthanized.
Some dogs with this illness can live a relatively normal, happy, and active life.
However, as we mentioned early, not all situations will be the same for dogs with this disease.
Main factors to consider before making your decision.
The biggest factor to take under consideration is how advanced your dog’s condition is upon diagnosis.
This is why it’s so important to catch this illness in its early stages, as this course of action will give you and your vet more options for treatments that can slow the damage caused to your dog’s lungs.
But, once again, any damage your dog’s lungs have already sustained will be irreversible.
And while CCB can be successfully managed with the right medical care, it’s still possible for your dog to suffer a “recurrence” or “relapse,” thus experience rapidly worsening symptoms in the process.
If your veterinarian informs you that your dog’s lungs have already sustained substantial damage due to COPD, these relapses can be more problematic as they often cause further complications.
These complications can lead to hospitalization, which often requires treatment such as oxygen therapy and IV fluids.
Your dog may also develop bronchiectasis due to the extensive scarring of the lung tissue.
Sadly, this condition also means that your dog will now be more susceptible to repeated episodes of pneumonia.
Dogs who suffer from this condition will need constant evaluation along with chest radiographs to detect pneumonia.
Once your dog’s COPD symptoms reach this stage, they will likely experience daily pain and run the risk of suffering a traumatic death.
This is the time that I would personally recommend talking to your veterinarian about the euthanization process.
Here’s something else to consider.
While the physical ailments caused by the disease are troubling, keep in mind that COPD in dogs can also dramatically impact your dog’s quality of life, possibly leading to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
However, once again, every dog’s situation is different, and one may want to consider their dog’s future quality of life issues, even if the disease has not yet progressed that far.
Some owners may feel that it’s best to spare their pets from future suffering while still relatively comfortable.
This, of course, is a very personal decision, and there is simply no right or wrong answer.
Ways you can help your dog live with COPD.
The good news is that there are things you may be able to do that will greatly increase your dog’s chances of living a relatively comfortable and happy life with COPD.
First, it’s imperative to keep in mind how sensitive your dog’s airways are because of this condition and take steps to remove irritants in their local environment immediately.
Improving your dog’s air quality can make a big difference.
Some steps may include creating a smoke-free environment in which your dog’s not exposed to harsh agents in the air.
Now, this doesn’t just mean substances such as tobacco but also smoke from cooking.
If possible, when cooking, you may want to take your dog into another room or outside until your home’s air quality returns to a comfortable level for your pet.
If you use cleaning solutions such as bleach, you may wish to seek alternatives that may not produce harmful fumes that can irritate your dog’s lungs.
The use of high-quality air purifiers can also help improve your home’s air quality.
Brush and floss those teeth
Another way to help your dog is to remain vigilant concerning their oral health.
This could mean cleaning their teeth once or more per day to help prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria that can cause secondary infections.
Help prevent CIRDC
You’ll also want to limit your dog’s contact with other dogs who may be suffering from respiratory diseases such as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC).
This disease is often called “kennel cough” and can be very easily transmitted.
Should a dog with COPD catch CIRDC, it may cause a severe life-threatening infection.
The risk of CIRDC transmission is high in areas where many dogs congregate, such as grooming, daycare, dog parks, and boarding.
However, it would be best if you also took care when taking your dog to the vet.
For example, if the lobby is filled with other dogs, you may wish to wait with your pet outside or in your vehicle with the A/C running and have the staff call or come and get you when it’s your turn.
Medical treatments for dogs with COPD
Your veterinarian will likely prescribe two types of medication to help combat the symptoms of CCB: bronchodilators and corticosteroids.
Bronchodilators relax the muscles surrounding your dog’s airway walls.
This makes it easier for your pup to breathe.
As for corticosteroids, these synthetic medicines mimic cortisol.
Cortisol is a naturally produced glucocorticoid hormone which is also known as a “stress hormone.”
It helps regulate different systems in your dog’s body, such as blood sugar and pressure levels.
And cortisol also works as an agent that reduces inflammation.
The inflammation of lung tissue is a common side-effect of COPD, which can cause your dog to cough more, leading to more lung tissue damage.
Your veterinarian will likely prescribe a treatment program based on your dog’s bloodwork and x-rays to help you better manage your loved one’s COPD symptoms.
For dog parents, deciding to end the life of their loved ones represents one of the most painful decisions that anyone can make.
Our dogs bring so much joy, comfort, and happiness into our lives that it may seem impossible to make such a choice.
However, it’s important to remember that your dog is counting on you, and it’s our duty as dog parents always to do what’s in their best interest.
Another matter to consider is what you should do during your pup’s final moments, should euthanization prove to be the best option.
Sadly, many owners choose not to be present during the process.
Many veterinarians say this is perhaps the most heartbreaking part of their jobs, as these poor pups are often in pain, confused, and scared with no familiar face to guide them.
It’s important to be brave for your dog and be there for them as they would be there for you.
I sincerely hope that you’ll never be called upon to make such a painful decision.
But should you find yourself in this situation, remember to be brave and fill your dog’s remaining time with as much love as you can offer.
Because, in the end, it’s all about love.