Narrowed Bronchi in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 30, 2009

Bronchiectasis in Dogs

The trachea, or wind pipe, divides into two main bronchi, which further divide several more times into smaller bronchioles, forming the bronchial tree that feeds air into the lungs.

In bronchiectasis, bronchi are irreversibly dilated due to destruction of elastic and muscular components of airway walls, with or without accompanying accumulation of lung secretions. Dilatation and accumulation of secretions perpetuates lung damage, invite infections to settle, and compromise the lung functions in patient. American cocker spaniels, West Highland white terriers, miniature poodles, Siberian huskies, and English springer spaniels are predisposed to this condition. Bronchiectasis can occur at any age but commonly seen middle-aged or older dogs which chronic lung disease.

Symptoms and Types

  • Chronic cough (moist and productive)
  • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood) in some dogs
  • Intermittent fever
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise or work intolerance
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty in breathing normally, especially after exercise
  • Chronic nasal discharge


  • Primary ciliary dyskinesia (malfunction of the mucous clearing cilia in the lungs)
  • Long-standing infections
  • Inadequately treated infections or inflammations in the lungs
  • Smoke or chemical inhalation
  • Aspiration pneumonia (pneumonia caused by food, vomit, or other content being breathed into lungs)
  • Radiation exposure
  • Inhalation of environmental toxins followed by infections
  • Obstruction of bronchi due to a foreign body
  • Neoplasia of the lungs


There are variable causes which may lead to bronchial inflammation in your dog. Therefore, a detailed history and a complete physical examination are essential for diagnosis. You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog's health, the onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Standard laboratory testing will include complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profiling, and urinalysis. Blood gas analysis will reveal information about the functional aspects of the lungs.

These tests will be helpful in looking for infections or other changes related to the underlying disease. Your veterinarian will also take x-ray images of the chest, respiratory tract, and bronchial tubes, which may or may not show abnormalities in the architecture of the lungs, including dilatation of the bronchi.

It is hoped that x-rays will reveal characteristic abnormalities in the bronchi that are related to this disease, but that is not always the case. Other changes in the lungs pertaining to chronic infections typically can be visualized using x-rays. Long term inflammation will leave evidence that can be visually examined. More sensitive testing, like computed tomography (CT) scanning, can be used for some patients, and this test may reveal more detailed information about structural changes within lungs. Your veterinarian will also take samples of tissue and fluid from the bronchi for laboratory evaluation.

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In case of severe disease, your dog may need to be hospitalized for a few days. Emergency treatment, including fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, and removal of viscid fluid from lungs will be conducted to overcome the crisis. Antibiotics are often used to eradicate the infectious organism, and physiotherapy can be used to enhance the clearance of secretions from lungs. Your veterinarian will recommend minimizing any exposure to irritants such as dust, smoke, aerosol compounds, and air fresheners, which can further complicate the disease. Anti-inflammatory medications may help to reduce your dog's symptoms, making breathing easier. In severe cases, surgical removal of the affected lung lobe may be required.

Living and Management

If disease is affecting a small area of the lungs, the affected lung lobe will be removed in order to effectively resolve the underlying disease. Prognosis is excellent for animals that are treated early, before significant inflammation or permanent scarring has taken place.

Even in patients with resolution of the underlying disease or removal of the affected lobe, secondary infections are common. This is due to the diffuse nature of this disease, which often leads to complications. Or, some patients may take longer to completely recover due to the chronic nature of problem, the age or previous health condition of the dog, or because another underlying disease was not cured.

You will need to visit your veterinarian at regular intervals so that your dog's progress can be followed, and so therapy and medication changes can be made appropriately, depending on your dog's ongoing status. Follow-up care is of paramount importance in improving your dog's prognosis.

Your dog may improve better with some extra care and attention during the recovery period. Extra patience will be required, as you assist your dog in its daily needs, and keep it protected from undue stress. A calm and quite space, away from main entry ways, and protected from active children and pets, will help your dog to rest and heal. Pay strict attention to the medication guidelines and scheduling of doses in order to prevent further complications.

Do not use anything in the home that will place unneeded stress on your dog's bronchial airways. Fireplaces, air fresheners, cleaning products and chemicals are just some of the things that can irritate your dog's respiratory tract. A place set aside where your dog can be taken when you are using any of these products is the best measure for protecting your dog from recurring attacks on its bronchial tubes.

If you see a return of any of the symptoms described above, immediately call your veterinarian or take your dog to a veterinary hospital. Bronchiectasis makes the bronchia more vulnerable, so it is not uncommon for a recurrence of emergency crisis to occur in these cases.

The prognosis is highly variable depending on the nature of the disease, the areas of the lungs being affected, the diffuse or focal nature of the disease, and the presence or absence of concurrent infections in the body. If treated properly, these patients can live well for number of years.

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