Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

COPD in dogs II: Life can go on; adjustments that help

This is the face of an old dog with COPD.
This is the face of a dog who has been living with COPD for about two years.

This is a face belonging to a dog who has just eaten a biscuit, something she still finds tremendous pleasure in doing. And as a measure of how much liveliness is still housed in her aging body, each time I pressed the camera button to take the picture, the old face that had been looking directly into the lens moved in the time it took the aperture to snap. She was very hopeful that another biscuit was going to appear in her immediate area.

Yes, she does have a specially purchased, orthopedic bed.
No, she doesn't use it; she prefers to make her own bed out of dirty laundry. Being the facilitator that I am, I now leave things waiting to be washed in a pile for her. She likes the pile placed near my closet, which does mean sometimes "clean" clothes are in reality just clothes that hung for a while before getting washed again...I will not be one whit happier though, when I no longer need to wash my clean clothes because they no longer have picked up a lot of collie hair waiting to be worn.

People comment that she looks old. Well folks, none of us are getting younger. I adopted Jenny at least 8 years ago and she was at least 2 - 3 then. Add to that the consideration that over two of those (approx.)11 years of living have included living with chronic breathing problems and I think the old girl is holding her own.

As those who have read this blog over time know, Jenny isn't the only member of the household to have had some health issues over the last few years. So I don't blog as often as I once did, however, much of our blog is meant to be a reference and is used by such by readers who are searching for particular topics.

On occasion I will be contacted by someone who has come across my first posting about COPD in dogs, someone looking for information because their own dog is recently diagnosed with the disease; the pain and concern they feel is palpable and familiar. Recently when responding to one such reader, I realized that after 2 years of living with this, Jenny is an icon of hope, a reminder that the diagnosis is a caution, but not one that should result in total despair.

Some of what we've learned (warning, there are a few gross details in what follows):

  • there will be good days and bad
  • bad days will include hard sneezes that break tiny blood vessels, resulting in very concerning looking blood tinged mucus
  • good days will include sneezes that shoot out a stream of 'regular' mucus
  • you will get used to looking at mucus and judging relative health by it
  • it's handy to keep facial tissues or soft toilet tissue in every room your dog visits
  • and always carry a few tissues in your pocket
  • walks become slower
  • there's more time to admire the scenery when you walk
  • your canine friend will need an increased amount of sleep
  • your sleep will sometimes be troubled, when you worry over raspy breathing
  • your dog will sometimes sleep better than you do
  • mucus in, mucus out - sometimes stool is affected
Window AC unit


We live near Lake Superior; our area is muggy in summer, dry in winter. Summer we run an air conditioner for dehumidifying, winter we run a humidifier to add moisture to the air. On cool, clear days Jenny enjoys laying out on the lawn.

Those who live with COPD require more calories to breath. Higher protein, higher fiber, moderate carb kibble helps provide the energy without too much fat. Jenny's experimented with a few foods and we're about to try a kibble marketed as 'puppy' food for the protein/fiber/carb balance. We'll update if that works. Unfortunately, Miss Jenny has a sometimes sensitive system, so there's no guarantee this food will agree with her - she and I have both adapted to trial and error in finding what works.

Speaking of what does work: the medicine we've found the most relief from is an over the counter mucus reducer. We've used both the brand name Mucinex DM and the generic equivalent (look for the DM which a vet suggested I think of as 'dog medicine'.) We don't use it every day, we do use it when Jenny seems to be producing more mucus than 'normal' for her. I think seasonal allergens play a role in how much she is producing.

The other night after dark, it was cold and clear and Jenny and I were both a bit sore but wanting a walk. The stars were out and bright. We strolled down the street, I with my cane, no leash required. We paused a few times to smell things. We may not be moving as fast as we once did but we had a nice walk, we enjoyed ourselves, and we will continue to do so for some time yet.

COPD is an adjustment. It isn't a death sentence.
Please remember this if a dog you love is diagnosed as living with it.

Might as well sleep...until I get more biscuits
or a walk.

I can't believe there isn't one more biscuit


  1. i didn't realize dogs could get COPD. Thanks for all the information (which i hope I won't need).

    1. Truth - it's the kind of info everyone hopes to never need :-)

  2. Excellent information. I am sharing!

    1. That's great - I'd love to get the word out that people shouldn't despair when they learn a much loved companion has COPD.

  3. She is a beautiful girl and so lucky to have you as a Mommy to love and care for her. It is awesome to have posts like this to get the message to others.

    1. Thank you Julie; I'm sure you understand when I say I'm the one who is lucky :-)

  4. There's something so very special about old dogs. I find my love for my dogs grows with every passing year. Their visual signs of age become beautiful to me. Jenny is so lucky to have you... and I'm so glad she's an icon of hope for other dogs who have a similar diagnosis.

    1. I'm very fond of old dogs; I've adopted a few seniors over the years and hope to be able to continue to do so - they have a grace and wisdom I really enjoy.

  5. So glad you have each other. This was very informative, thanks!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    1. I'm very grateful we have each other too!

  6. She is a beautiful dog!
    I also didn't know that dogs could get this, so I've shared the link.

    1. I'm biased but I agree - she's a lovely girl.

  7. Jenny is such a sweet soul and so lucky she has a human that can help her live with this. I've not met another dog with COPD and am glad to have more information about it.

    1. I find that COPD is one of those conditions that once it's on your radar, you find yourself encountering others who are affected by it. I've even recently met my first senior horse who may have it; I don't know if it is more common than we realize, or if it is becoming more common.

      Jenny is such a blessing, I try to treasure every day I have with her but I know no matter how much time we have, it won't seem like enough.

  8. I have just found this update. Posted on your other update. Myself and Milly really appreciate this. Jenny is beautiful! thank you