Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Fluid in the Lungs in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Fluid in the Lungs in Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

While fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) is most often related to pneumonia in dogs, this can also occur due to other conditions. Today, our Greensboro internal medicine vet explains causes, symptoms and treatments for fluid in the lungs in dogs. 

What is pulmonary edema?

A buildup of fluid in a dog’s lungs is commonly referred to as pulmonary edema. This can be caused by a number of underlying health conditions, trauma or exposure to toxins.

The tiny clusters of air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) can become filled with fluid instead of air, causing pulmonary edema. Depending on the underlying cause, this fluid can build gradually over a period of time or very rapidly.

What causes pulmonary edema in dogs?

There are two distinct types of causes of pulmonary edema in dogs: cardiogenic pulmonary edema and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema means that a heart condition has lead to a buildup of fluid in the lungs of your dog. Issues related to cardiogenic pulmonary edema include:

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

Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

A variety of conditions can lead to noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs, including:

  • Electrocution
  • Heartworm
  • Pneumonia
  • Anemia
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Secondary diseases, including cancer
  • Toxins such as snake venom
  • Near drowning
  • Hypoproteinemia (insufficient protein in the dog’s blood)
  • Airway obstruction

What are symptoms of pulmonary edema in dogs?

Symptoms of pulmonary edema can vary based on the condition’s underlying cause. The most common symptoms in dogs include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Obvious effort to breathe
  • Weakness
  • Distended jugular vein
  • Wheezing
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Coughing
  • Crackling noises when breathing
  • Blue lips or tongue
  • Collapse

If your dog is displaying any of the above signs, contact your veterinarian immediately to schedule an appointment. If your dog’s lips have begun to turn a shade of blue, emergency veterinary care is needed. Visit your vet as soon as possible.

In the Greensboro area, you can bring your vet to see our emergency vets at Carolina Veterinary Specialists for urgent care.

How is pulmonary edema in dogs diagnosed?

If you can hear fluid in your dog’s lungs, your vet will concentrate on identifying the underlying cause after first looking for clear signs of electrocution such as burns around the dog’s mouth (perhaps from biting an electrical cord). He or she will also examine your dog’s airway for obstructions.

In many cases, your vet will take thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays). These will show the amount of fluid in your pet’s lungs, as well as help your vet identify any foreign bodies that may be causing an obstruction. In case of cardiogenic pulmonary edema, it will show signs of an enlarged heart.

Tests can be done on the fluid within your dog’s lungs, which may help to determine whether your dog’s protein levels are abnormally high or low. High levels of protein indicate noncardiogenic causes of fluid buildup, while low levels of protein point to cardiogenic pulmonary edema.

How is cardiogenic pulmonary edema treated?

If heart disease is causing the buildup of fluid in your dog’s lungs, your vet can prescribe diuretics to help eliminate the fluid. Your dog will also need rest and oxygen therapy.

Due to the chronic nature of heart disease, pulmonary edema may recur. Pup parents should watch their pooch carefully for early indications of fluid in the lungs so that early treatment can begin. This can prevent the condition from developing into a more severe problem.

Along with medications, a low-sodium diet may be recommended as a long-term treatment to address your dog’s heart condition.

How is noncardiogenic pulmonary edema treated?

Treatments for noncardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s condition, and its severity.

If a blockage is found, your vet will try to remove the blockage while your dog is sedated, although surgery will be required in many cases.

Diuretics, intravenous fluids, colloids, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics are all common treatments for dogs suffering from noncardiogenic pulmonary edema. Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your dog, and book followup appointments to monitor your pup’s condition as they recover.

Veterinary Internal Medicine in Greensboro

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

If your dog has been diagnosed with pulmonary edema, ask your vet for a referral to our internal medicine specialist to provide your dog with advanced diagnosis and treatment.

Our board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist provides advanced care for sick animals referred to us by their primary care veterinarians. Contact Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro for more information about advanced internal medicine care for your pet.

Caring for Pets in Greensboro

Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Greensboro accepts new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

Contact Us