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Respiratory Distress

Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, DACVIM (Small Animal), DACVECC, Tufts University

Respiratory Medicine

|April 2016|Peer Reviewed

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This article was previously published in an earlier issue of Clinician’s Brief. It has been updated and modified for present use.

Is it a sign of lung disease? Pneumothorax? Evaluate respiratory distress in your patient using this diagnostic and management tree.


Clinician's Brief

Canine Respiratory Distress Tips

  • Loud murmur and weight loss often signal heart disease.
  • Eosinophilic disease may be idiopathic or parasitic.
  • Fever may be present with pneumonia.
  • Dorsal caudal infiltrates are commonly noncardiogenic.
  • Consider endemic fungal disease based on geographic  location and travel.

Feline Respiratory Distress Tips

  • Hypothermic cats often have heart disease.
  • History of cough is likely signal of airway disease, but not all cats with airway disease cough.
  • Severe heart disease may exist with soft/absent murmur; loud murmur may be innocent flow murmur.
  • Isolated lung masses should not cause shortness of breath; if breathing labored, interstitial fibrosis possible.

Related Articles Respiratory Distress in a Cat Heart Disease: Diagnosis & Treatment Acute Respiratory Distress: The Blue Patient Respiratory Distress & Intermittent Coughing in an Italian Greyhound

CHF = congestive heart failure, FIP = feline infectious peritonitis, T-FAST = thoracic-focused assesment with sonogram for trauma

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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