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Pet Owner Version

Pulmonary Thromboembolism in Dogs


Ned F. Kuehn

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Michigan Veterinary Specialists

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2018 | Modified Oct 2022

When a blood clot blocks a blood vessel of the lungs, it is called a pulmonary thromboembolism. Dogs at risk for a pulmonary thromboembolism include those that are critically ill or those with certain diseases, including immune-mediated hemolytic anemia Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia Type II reactions occur when an antibody binds to an antigen present at the surface of its own cells. These reactions can lead to several types of diseases in dogs, including anemia, blood clotting... read more , bacterial infections, protein-losing diseases, certain heart diseases, severe pancreatitis Pancreatitis and Other Disorders of the Pancreas in Dogs The pancreas is an organ that has 2 main functions: endocrine and exocrine. The endocrine pancreas produces the hormones insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels. The exocrine... read more , cancer, diabetes mellitus Diabetes Mellitus The pancreas is composed of several types of cells that have distinct functions involved in the production of hormones and digestive enzymes. The exocrine pancreas produces enzymes that are... read more , Cushing disease Cushing Disease The pituitary gland is located near the center and bottom of the brain. It produces a number of critical hormones that control many parts of the body, including several other endocrine glands... read more , hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism The thyroid gland is a 2-lobed gland in the neck. It produces iodine-containing hormones, the most important of which are T3 and T4 , which affect many processes in the body. In general, the... read more , heartworm disease Heartworm Disease in Dogs Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal, but preventable, infection caused by a worm parasite, Dirofilaria immitis. The organism is transmitted by mosquitoes, which carry the heartworm... read more , or clotting disorders. Dogs that receive corticosteroids, that have sustained a significant injury, or that have undergone a major surgery may also have an increased risk. Pulmonary thromboembolism can cause life-threatening heart and lung dysfunction.

Signs vary based on the extent of heart and lung dysfunction. Labored or fast breathing and depression are common. Other signs include coughing (sometimes with blood), blue-tinged gums or skin, collapse, shock, and sudden death. Pulmonary thromboembolism is difficult to diagnose because signs and test results resemble those seen with other diseases. X-rays, echocardiography (an ultrasound of the heart), and other specialized tests may be helpful.

Treatment is aimed at supporting the heart, blood vessels, and lungs. Drugs that inhibit clotting may be used to prevent additional blood clots. Oxygen and medications (such as bronchodilators) are used to improve the amount of oxygen in the blood. Medications used in people to dissolve blood clots are not commonly used in animals.

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