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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Pleural Effusion

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

A pleural effusion is an accumulation of serum or blood in the chest.


Large pleural effusions press on the lungs and cause respiratory distress. Severely affected dogs have rapid, labored breathing and often stand or sit with elbows out, chest fully expanded, and head and neck extended. Breathing is often open mouthed. The lips, gums, and tongue may appear blue. The least bit of effort can cause collapse.


The most common cause is congestive heart failure. Other causes include liver disease, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and primary and metastatic tumors of the lungs. Bacterial pneumonia can extend to the pleural space, producing an infected pleural effusion called empyema. Blood in the pleural space (called the hemothorax) occurs with chest trauma, malignant lung tumors, and spontaneous bleeding disorders.

Chylothorax is a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the chest that can occur with lung torsions, tumors, and a blockage of lymphatic flow. Afgan Hounds and possibly Shiba Inus have a breed predisposition to do this.


Diagnosis is made by veterinary examination.


Urgent veterinary attention is required. The fluid in the lungs must be removed as soon as possible to facilitate breathing. This is done by inserting a needle or catheter into the pleural space and withdrawing the fluid by syringe. The dog should be hospitalized to discover and treat the cause of the problem.


There is no prevention for this condition.


Take your pet immediately to your veterinarian if you think they may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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