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Cyanosis in Dogs

If you begin to notice your dog's skin changing color, becoming purple of blueish, they may be experiencing cyanosis. In this blog, our vets in Bedford explain the causes and dangers of cyanosis in dogs, as well as the prognosis and treatment options.

Why is my dog's tongue blue?

When a pet parent finds themselves asking 'Why is my dog's skin turning blue or purple?', it can cause a great deal of concern. This issue is known as cyanosis. Cyanosis indicates that the tissues of the body aren't getting enough oxygen. While there can be many possible causes of cyanosis, they are all related to the blood vessels that lie close to the surface of the skin.

What are the signs of cyanosis in dogs? 

While the main symptom of cyanosis is blue skin on dogs, there may be other indicators including:

  • Respiratory distress, such as panting
  • Coughing or wheezing. 
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Collapsing

If you see any of these signs of cyanosis in dogs. It's important to seek emergency care right away. Cyanosis can be caused by heart or lung problems, so a vet can find the cause and provide treatment.

What causes dogs to experience cyanosis?

The conditions causing cyanosis in dogs are usually connected to the respiratory system in some way. These conditions include: 

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Choking
  • Anemia
  • Heart problem
  • Heartworm disease 
  • Paralysis of the larynx 

Are there any other major causes of cyanosis in dogs?

Trauma or damage that affects the muscles of the diaphragm or chest wall can result in difficulty breathing which is another possible cause of cyanosis.

Conditions affecting the nervous system like brain tumors, strokes, paralysis or poisoning can cause the inability to breathe properly. The resulting lack of oxygen can cause the skin to appear blueish.

How is cyanosis in dogs diagnosed?

Your vet will likely perform an initial physical exam, like measuring the dog's oxygen level, by placing a small device called a pulse oximeter on an area of your dog, such as the tongue or tip of the ear. 

If cyanosis can't be determined with an examination alone, your vet may consider pursuing diagnostic in their in-house lab,  tests such as blood work, chest X-rays, and assessment of heart function.

Can cyanosis in dogs be cured?

If cyanosis becomes apparent, the first step will be to determine the cause. Once the cause is determined and treatment begins, the cyanosis should be resolved. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the condition and the length of time that the affected tissues were without oxygen, there may be some long-term or even life-long effects.

How is cyanosis treated?

Treated cyanosis usually involves giving oxygen right away. Sometimes, vets may take out excess fluid to ease lung pressure and help them expand, or they might make a small hole in the windpipe to make breathing easier.

You might also need special medicates to help with breathing. The exact medication will depend on what is causing your dog's cyanosis.

In some cases, your vet might recommend changes to their daily route or a special diet to address the underlying issue.

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 you notice the signs of cyanosis in your dog, it's crucial to get them to emergency care immediately. Contact our team at Fine Animal Hospital or your nearest emergency animal hospital right away.

We're accepting new patients! Book your pet's first appointment today.

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