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Fluid in the Lungs in Dog - Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

While fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can be a symptom of pneumonia in dogs, fluid buildup can also be the result of a number of other serious conditions. Today our Orange County internal medicine vets explain more about the causes, symptoms and treatments for fluid in the lungs in dogs.

Fluid in the Lungs - Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary Edema is characterized by the buildup of fluid in the air sacks within your pup's lungs. If your dog has been diagnosed with pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) it may be an indication of an underlying health condition, exposure to toxins, or trauma. Depending on the cause of your pet's pumonary edema, the fluid can build up slowly over a period of time or very rapidly.

Causes of Pulmonary Edena in Dogs

When it comes to pulmonary edema in dogs, the condition falls into two distinct categories; cardiogenic pulmonary edema and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema.

Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

If your pup is diagnosed with cardiogenic pulmonary edema, it means that your pet is suffering from an underlying heart problem which is causing fluid to build up in the lungs. Conditions linked to cardiogenic pulmonary edema in dogs include the thickening of the heart walls, heart valves that are functioning incorrectly, an enlarged heart, or a high sodium diet.

Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

The causes of Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema are much more varied in nature and include:

  • Too little protein in the dog's blood
  • Toxins (including snake bites)
  • Secondary diseases such as cancer
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Electrocution
  • Obstructed airway
  • Near drowning
  • Pneumonia
  • Anemia
  • Heartworm

Symptoms of Fluid in the Lungs

Depending on whether your dog is suffering from cardiogenic pulmonary edema or noncardiogenic pulmonary edema their symptoms will vary somewhat. That said, the following are some of the most common signs of fluid in the lungs in dogs:

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid, open mouth breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Blue tongue or lips
  • Distended jugular vein
  • Crackling noises when breathing

If your pet is showing any of the symptoms listed above contact your vet immediately to book an urgent appointment for your dog.

If your dog's lips have begun to turn blue, emergency veterinary care is required! Visit your vet right away, or bring your dog to see our Critical Care Emergency Vets at VMSG in Orange County for urgent care.

How Pulmonary Edema is Diagnosed in Dogs

If fluid can be heard in your dog's lungs, your vet's focus will be on identifying the underlying cause of condition. To begin, your vet will look for signs of electrocution such as burns around the dog's mouth (from biting an electrical cord), and check your pup's airway for blockages. X-rays may be done to help determine the extent of the fluid in your pet's lungs, to help spot any foreign bodies that may be causing an obstruction, and look for signs of an enlarged heart. 

Your vet may recommend a test to analyze the fluid from your dog's lungs to look for high or low protein levels. Low levels of protein indicate cardiogenic pulmonary edema, whereas high levels of protein point to noncardiogenic as the cause for fluid buildup in your dog's lungs.

Treatment for Cardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

If heart disease is the underlying cause of your pet's pulmonary edema, treatment may include diuretics to help remove the fluid, oxygen therapy and rest.  Pulmonary edema may be a recurring issue for your pet due to the chronic nature of heart disease. Be sure to monitor your pup for early signs of fluid in the lungs so that treatment can begin early, before the condition becomes more severe. 

Medications to address your dog's heart condition, combined with a low sodium diet, may be recommended for your pet as a long-term treatment.

Treatment for Noncardiogenic Pulmonary Edema

Treatment for noncardiogenic pulmonary edema will vary based on the underlying cause of the fluid buildup and the severity of your dog's condition. Common treatments for noncardiogenic pulmonary edema include:

  • Surgery to remove blockage from airway (item that has been swallowed)
  • Antibiotics
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Diuretics
  • Anti-inflammatories 

Your vet will recommend the best treatment for your dog, and schedule followup appointments in order to monitor your pet's condition as they recover. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog has been diagnosed with pulmonary edema and requires specialist care, speak to your vet about a referral to our board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. Our specialist vets work with your primary care veterinarian and other specialists to ensure the very best care for your pet. 

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Medical And Surgical Group–OC (VMSG-OC) accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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