Pulmonary edema describes the build-up of fluid within the small airways of the lungs. Patients with pulmonary edema have difficulty breathing; they may breathe rapidly, cough, and have exercise intolerance. Causes of pulmonary edema are divided into two broad categories:
- Cardiogenic: Congestive heart failure
- Non-cardiogenic: Trauma to the lungs (e.g.: hit by car, smoke inhalation), aspiration of stomach contents/other fluids, severe infection and/or inflammation (e.g.: seizures, electrical cord injury), airway obstruction, and lung lobe torsion.
Diagnosis of pulmonary edema is based on physical examination findings and chest x-rays. Patients with pulmonary edema improve with oxygen therapy and medications to encourage the fluid removal from the lungs. In conjunction with therapy for the pulmonary edema, the pet should be evaluated and treated for an underlying cause (e.g.: specific therapy for heart disease).