Emergency conditions

Difficulty breathing in dogs and cats

The first steps in stabilizing urgent patients are checking the patency of the airways and establishing a normal breathing pattern. If these parameters are not within the physiological limits, the intervention of a veterinarian and emergency help to the patient is necessary. Regardless of the reason for the difficulty in breathing, the patient needs oxygen therapy in order to stabilize himself and in order to enable further examination and diagnosis.

dog on oxygen

If the reason for the difficulty in breathing cannot be quickly determined and eliminated, oxygen therapy “buys” us time so that the consequences of a lack of oxygen in the body are as small as possible until the primary cause is removed.

Difficulty, rapid, slow, shallow, abdominal breathing are just some of the descriptions we use to describe an abnormal breathing pattern in animals. Disorders of the respiratory tract in animals are divided into disorders of the upper and lower respiratory tract. When we talk about disorders of the upper respiratory tract, it is often about obstructions of the upper parts of the respiratory tract, as well as inflammatory, neoplastic and neuromuscular disorders. In diseases of the lower parts of the respiratory tract, we distinguish between changes that occur on the bronchial tree and the lung parenchyma, then changes in the pleura, changes in the neuromuscular system that controls the work of the respiratory system.

If you notice that your animal breathes differently from what you are used to at home, that breathing is fast or slow, difficult, shallow, that there is effort when inhaling and / or exhaling, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. Manipulation of an animal in a state of respiratory distress should be as small as possible, with as little restriction as possible. Cats are especially sensitive to changes in the respiratory organs, and if you transport your cat to a veterinarian, it is advisable to put it in a transporter or box with openings, in order to minimize stress and prevent worsening of symptoms.

Only after the stabilization of the patient, it is possible to further approach diagnostic procedures in the form of laboratory analyzes, chest X-rays, as well as the implementation of adequate therapy. In a state of acute distress caused by pleural effusions or the presence of gas in the pleura, procedures such as thoracentesis can greatly help stabilize the patient, as well as find the potential cause of the problem if thoracentesis collects some contents that can be examined. The development of science and veterinary medicine has given us new knowledge that enables us to use ultrasound in the examination of the thoracic cavity in dogs and cats. This method is non-invasive, animals tolerate it much better than X-rays. The TFAST (thoracic focused assessment with sonography for trauma, triage, and tracking) ultrasound examination of the thoracic cavity can answer questions about the cause of respiratory distress, as well as instruct us in which direction therapy and diagnosis should proceed.