In humans, emphysema is a serious condition often caused by smoking, but in dogs and other animals it is a complication resulting from certain diseases of the lungs.
Of the two main types of the disease, Alveolar emphysema results from the enlargement of the tiny air sacs in the lungs, or alveoli, where the gaseous exchange takes place. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD for short, is the usual cause of this enlargement and weakening of the alveoli. Allergies, microbial infections or toxins may be responsible for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Interstitial emphysema, on the other hand, is caused by the infiltration of air into the connective tissue that supports the air sacs in the lungs. This too occurs when COPD destroys the air sacs. Congenital lobar emphysema is another type that results from the incomplete growth of bronchiolar cartilage. It is a common occurrence in Pekingese dogs.
Difficulty in breathing is the main symptom of emphysema. Treating the causes of COPD may relieve emphysema to some extent. Reducing the level of physical activity and keeping the dog under cage rest are temporary measures. A surgical procedure called lung lobectomy, in which the affected parts of the lungs are removed, is a more permanent solution.