Idiopathic Pulmonary fibrosis also known as westie lung disease (due to a high number of westie having this) causes the lungs of the effected animal to become inflammed, scarred and thickened. This causes them to have respiratory problems as the lungs lose their elasticity which means they take in less oxygen, causing low blood oxygen levels.
Most of the time an exact cause of this condition is never found (Idiopathic means we dont know). We know lungs can become damaged due to bronchitis and pneumonia. It is still unknown If this condition is genetic.
Unfortunately this condition is not reversible as the lungs can ever heal properly. However, we can try to slow the condition from getting worse and control the symptoms with medical treatment.
• Increased breathing rate
• Exercise intolerance
• Crackles heard in the lungs while breathing (usually heard by a vet with a stethoscope)
• Breathing with mouth open
• Cynotic tongue or gums (cynotic means blue)
• Syncope (fainting)
The best way to get a definitive diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis is going for a CT/MRI and having lung biopsies. However, this has a substantial risk associated with it and requires a full anaesthetic and invasive procedures.
More often vets will perform blood tests and Xrays along with a thorough clinical history. The majority of the time we do not need sedation or anaesthesia for this. This will help rule out other medical conditions e.g. asthma.
Treatment generally involves the use of a steroid which will help reduce the inflammation in the lungs and reduce the scarring present. We may also prescribe other medication e.g. bronchodilators to help improve the aeration in the lungs or heart medication to control blood pressure and blood flow.
Life style changes can also help with this condition e.g. shorter walks so we dont cause over exertion which would increase the oxygen demand. Weight loss (if over weight) to allow for maximum lung capacity.
There is some speculation around using laser therapy (low level medical grade laser) as this can reduce inflammation. Although it’s best to speak to your vet about this first as there is little evidence to support this and it must be a good quality laser.