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Bronchitis Acute and Chronic - both in humans, cats and dogs.

Updated on September 2, 2016
Listening to the lungs.
Listening to the lungs.
Clogging of the bronchi
Clogging of the bronchi
Damage to the alveoli
Damage to the alveoli
Inhaler or  bronchodilator
Inhaler or bronchodilator
Nebuliser
Nebuliser
Bronchitis in dogs
Bronchitis in dogs
Bronchitis can affect dogs and cats
Bronchitis can affect dogs and cats


Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchi (bronchial tubes) in the lungs. The bronchi are the airways that connect the trachea to the lungs with the trachea connecting the two main bronchi which branch to form smaller airways called bronchi and bronchioles. These two terminate at small sacs called alveoli, where oxygen is transferred to the blood. When bronchitis occurs, it is normally caused by a viral infection or a secondary bacterial infection when the airways become inflamed and produces an excess of mucus on the walls of the bronchi.

There are two types of Bronchitis, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis and we therefore need to divide the problem into two parts.

Acute Bronchitis – this is distinguished initially by tiredness, a sore throat and a harsh painful cough and feverishness lasting for a few days. The cough starts dry but eases as more mucus is produced. There will be a viral infection of the same type as colds and flu, affecting the throat and spreading to the lungs. This is picked up by people coughing and not washing hands. It can lasts from 5 to 10 days although the cough may last for several weeks after the infection is gone, particularly if you smoke or work in a smoky atmosphere. Most cases of acute bronchitis will clear up within a few days, but if you think you have acute bronchitis, talk to your doctor. He or she will want to rule out other, more serious health conditions that may be present. Assuming your doctor confirms the condition is not related to pneumonia, you may be prescribed an inhaler or other type of bronchodilator to reduce your lung's hypersensitivity to a virus. Using the bronchodilator will not cure the viral infection but, will help to reduce the coughing allowing rest and easier breathing.

Chronic Bronchitis – this is a long-term serious condition without fever but with a continuous cough with sputum, most often brought about by smoking or atmospheric pollution. In this the lining of the bronchial tubes is constantly irritated and inflamed. There are 3 grades of severity from simple through to obstructive bronchitis. Once inflamed a virus or bacteria can easily infect the irritated bronchial tubes causing the condition to worsen and the effect to last longer. The chance of complete recovery is low for people who have severe chronic bronchitis.

Complications - Pneumonia is the most common complication of bronchitis. If the infection spreads into the lungs, it causes air sacs inside the lungs to fill up with fluid. Statistics show that one in 20 cases of bronchitis leads to pneumonia.

Outlook - There is no doubt that chronic bronchitis is more common amongst people that smoke, being 4 to 10 times more common in heavy smokers. People that suffer from other lung infections such as asthma and chronic sinusitis are also more likely to contract bronchitis.

Conventional medication - Often the antibiotics used to treat infections cause problems with the bodies essential bacteria we need and therefore a good quality probiotic is advisable. Look for lactobacillus acidophilus. As we have said there is no cure for bronchitis but get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, which will prevent dehydration and thin the mucus in your lungs, making it easier to cough up. Treat sore throats, headaches, fever, and aches and pains with paracetamol or ibuprofen (don’t use ibuprofen if you have asthma) and most important of all - stop smoking.

Unless you are at risk of the bronchitis developing into pneumonia the GP will not prescribe antibiotics as this is a viral infection. However there are certain groups of people that will benefit from them. These are premature babies, elderly people over the age of 80, people with a history of lung, heart, kidney or liver disease, people with a weakened immune system, which could be the result of an underlying condition or a side effect of a treatment such as steroid medication and people with cystic fibrosis. The antibiotics prescribed will be quite specific and short term almost certainly being a five-day course of amoxicillin, oxytetracycline or doxycycline.

Chronic bronchitis is treated in the same way as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using a type of medication called mucolytics which can be used to make mucus easier to cough up. In addition an exercise programme known as pulmonary rehabilitation can help you cope better with the symptoms

Essential oils - this highly effective treatment combats the infection, eases the cough, reduces the fever and expels the mucus. In the first stage to treat the dry cough a steam inhalation of Benzoin, Bergamot, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Sandalwood will give good relief and will lower the fever and infection. In the later stages of acute bronchitis it is important to clear all of the mucus to avoid further problems. The following oils are used as an expectorant – Benzoin, Bergamot, Sandalwood or Thyme. The cough may remain for a little while but inhalation with the oils will shorten recovery time. Essential oils to aid the detoxifying process should include Garlic in the odourless form. To reduce the quantity of mucus produced then use Cedarwood, Frankincense, Juniper, Myrrh and Rosemary. To clear it from the lungs, as with above, use Benzoin and Ginger in steam inhalation.

Although normally used to treat asthma, a nebulizer is just as effective when treating bronchitis. It is a portable machine that works with an air compressor with tubing connected to a liquid medication cup, which is connected to either a mouthpiece or a mask. A nebulizer takes a liquid medication and changes it into a mist form that is inhaled. Using a humidifier or steam can help to clear mucus from the lungs. It is recommended that you drink plenty of fluids and rest while the infection is active. If you have low levels of oxygen due to chronic bronchitis, home oxygen therapy may be prescribed.

Diet - A study into smoking related diseases revealed that people who eat a lot of chillies in their diet had a very low incidence of respiratory problems. Based on these findings doctors who specialise in this field are prescribing them to patients with lung problems. They found that the capsaicin they contain breaks down mucus in the airways, prevent blood clots and help with both bronchitis and emphysema.

If you suffer from chronic bronchitis, it may be helpful to look at the foods that you eat to see if any of them are worsening your symptoms. For example, dairy products can increase mucus production so reducing your intake of dairy products or even eliminating them altogether can be of help. Other foods that you can try eliminating include eggs, nuts, food colouring, preservatives, and additives. If you are eliminating foods from your diet, keep a food diary so you can see exactly what effect different foods are having on you. Also ensure that you are getting nutrients from different sources, so that your diet remains balanced. Adding onions and garlic to your diet may help as these are potent infection-fighters.

Supplements - To treat any remaining infection that remains there is a multi-supplement using medicinal mushrooms by the name of Triton. This also works extremely well to prevent bronchitis and is available in 500mg tablets to be taken one each day.

Trials of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), a mucolytic agent showed that acute attacks and hospitalisation can be reduced by taking 400mg per day for 6 months may help to dissolve mucus and improve the symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis.

Adding more zinc to your diet or zinc supplementation may also be useful. This is because zinc enhances the immune system and help to protect against infections such as colds and upper respiratory infections.

Vitamin A helps to maintain the health of the cells that line the bronchial tubes, improving their structure and also the quality of mucus production.

Other supplements that may help prevent you catching bronchitis or relieve the symptoms of it include bromelain, lactobacillus, quercetin, and vitamin C.

Herbal medicine - These can be valuable in helping with bronchitis, but you should bear in mind they are powerful and contain substances that can interfere with medications, supplements or other herbs and you should discuss any with your doctor. Some herbs that can help include:

Barberry – this can help to fight infection and improve immune function.

Eucalyptus – eucalyptus oil helps to loosen phlegm so inhaling the vapours of this may help with the treatment of bronchitis.

Peppermint – is an effective decongestant. It is also soothing and calming on sore throats and dry coughs.

Slippery elm – is a safe and effective choice for helping with a sore throat and clearing congested respiratory symptoms.

Stinging nettle – the active compounds in this can act as an expectorant and is indicated as having antiviral properties.

Astralgus, Echinacea - These are both powerful anti-virals and can both protect against and help cure the infections.

Other herbal medicines that have been found useful in the treatment of bronchitis include:: Garlic, Ginger, Ivy leaves, Liquorice, Linden, Marshmallow and Red clover.

Homoeopathy - The following are some homoeopathic remedies that may help with bronchitis:

Aconitum Napellus – for the early stages of bronchitis.

Antimonium tartaricum – for a productive, rattling cough that is accompanied by extreme fatigue and difficulty breathing.

Bryonia – for a dry, painful cough that worsens with movement and deep inhalation.

Hepar Sulphuris Calcareum – for the later stages of bronchitis, with wheezing, poor mucus production, and coughing when the air is cold.

Ipecacuanha – for the earliest stages of bronchitis, when it is accompanied by a deep, productive cough, nausea, and vomiting.

Phosphorus – for many different types of cough but usually a dry, harsh cough accompanied by a persistent tickle in the chest and significant chest pain.

Acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of acute bronchitis and it can improve the quality of life for people that suffer from chronic bronchitis. The treatment is generally focused on the lung and spleen meridians. The aim is to clear the blockage of chi in the chest area.

Reiki is a powerful treatment which can help calm the body and stimulate its self-healing capability.

Finally both cats and dogs are both susceptible to a form of bronchitis known as Feline or Canine Allergic Bronchitis.

In the case of cats, chronic bronchitis can result in a secondary infection and asthma, hypersensitivity to environmental allergens, may occur. This acute respiratory disease in cats is similar to bronchial asthma in humans and affects approximately 1% of all cats. Siamese cats may have a slightly increased risk resulting in an acute emergency with severe respiratory distress; while others have a chronic history of coughing and wheezing not related to hairballs. In these cases you should seek veterinary treatment as it may indicate heartworm. Home treatment should be restricted to rest and humidification of the atmosphere. Confine your cat in a warm room and use a home vaporiser

In dogs acute bronchitis is typically very noticeable and symptoms appear quickly following infection. You should be looking for, persistent coughing or hacking, mucous discharge after coughing, shortness of breath, raised temperature with fatigue and loss of energy. The first stage is to identify the infection by blood tests and then to treat this with possible confirmation by x-ray. Again home treatment should be confined to keeping the dog warm in a room with a vaporiser.

© 2012 Peter Geekie

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    • profile image

      Jane 3 years ago

      I did't know cats and dogs got Bronchitis can we catch things from them

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Jane,

      We share many similar illnesses with certain animals although often the disease is a feline or canine type which cannot jump species. The dangerous ones are viruses which mutate constantly and rapidly and can infect us - the well known one is avian flu which has jumped from birds to man and NvCJD from BSE infected cattle.

      It becomes a complex subject, which if you are interested you can read about on my Alzheimer's hub.

      Kind regards Peter

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