Bronchodilator for Dogs – Drugs Used to Treat Lung and Airway Disorders

If you ever see me dealing with respiratory issues, using a bronchodilator is an effective and efficient way to deal with my frustrating symptoms. One such bronchodilator that can be used to help me breathe easier is called theophylline.


Theophylline is used for a number of different disorders that can affect a dog’s breathing:

  • Pulmonary edema
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Chronic pulmonary disease
  • Heart failure

Theophylline comes in an oral form and an injectable form. After it’s given through the mouth, the body absorbs it.

How Does Theophylline Work?

Theophylline relaxes the muscles of the airway. This makes the mucus easier to clear from the airway.

Another way that theophylline can help me is to strengthen up my diaphragm. With a stronger diaphragm, I’m able to breathe easier. In addition, using theophylline can reduce the chances of breathing issues in the future.

Before we take our morning walks, I see you drinking coffee all of the time to wake you up. Theophylline is similar to caffeine in that it is a stimulant for the central nervous system.

Many of my dog friends that have chronic bronchitis or asthma might use theophylline at some point in their lives. Sometimes vets also like to combine theophylline with corticosteroids.

What Are the Side Effects of Theophylline?

Like all medications, theophylline comes with a number of side effects. If you give me this medication, you might notice:

  • Vomiting
  • Excitement
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Heart palpitations

You might be able to help me through these symptoms if you adjust the dosage. A lot of the time, the side effects will just disappear as time goes on. If you still see that I’m vomiting, or having diarrhea after a while, then I might just be allergic to it, and you’ll have to take me to the vet.

Some of the rarer side effects of theophylline are seizures and an abnormal heart rhythm. If I experience these symptoms, you’ll want to take me to the vet as soon as you can.

What Other Drugs Interact with Theophylline?

If you’re currently giving me any medications for other things, you’ll have to be aware of the interactions between them and theophylline. Some drugs that can interact with theophylline are:

  • Allopurinal
  • Beta-blockers
  • Propanolol
  • Cimetidine
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Corticosteroids
  • Thiabendazole
  • Exogenous thyroid hormone
  • Macrolide antibiotics
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Barbituates
  • Rifampin
  • Carbamazine
  • Charcol
  • Phenytoin
  • Ketoconazole
  • Beta-agonists
  • Lithium
  • Pancuronium
  • Propofol
  • Isoniazid
  • Furosemid
  • Ephedrine
  • Isoproterenol
  • Halothane
  • Ketamine

Exercise Caution When Using Theophylline

You’ll want to exercise some caution when giving me theophylline. If I have a history of liver, kidney, or heart disease, you might not want to give me it. You’ll also want to exercise caution if I already have an abnormal heart rhythm or have had seizures in the past.

If I’m still very young or are creeping up to the older years, I won’t be able to metabolize theophylline as good as other dogs.

What Dosage of Theophylline Should Be Given?

Like many medications, the dosage of theophylline will depend on how big the dog is, what breed the dog is, and the prior health conditions the dog has had. You’ll usually want to give me the medication at certain intervals. Some of the common intervals that the medication is given in are every six, eight, 12, and 24 hours.

It’s best to make sure that I haven’t eaten around an hour before you give me the medication. Theophylline should be stored at room temperature and not close to any light or heat.

You can give me theophylline as an oral liquid or capsule, and you should take the vet’s advice when administering it to me. Make sure that I swallow the entire tablet to ensure the best results.

If you forget to give me a dose of theophylline, wait until the next interval period for the next dose instead of accidentally doubling up doses.

Bronchitis in Dogs and How A Bronchodilator May Help

At some point in my life, I might develop bronchitis. Bronchitis is an illness that will affect my breathing. Airways branch out from my windpipe, and the branches are known as bronchi or bronchioles. Air is passed through the bronchioles through the alveoli.

When inflammation occurs throughout my airways, secretions will plug up the bronchioles, and that’s what prevents me from breathing as well as I should. Many people refer to this issue as “asthma,” but as a dog, I have no idea what to think of it. All I know is that I’m not able to breathe properly, and that scares me.

Chronic bronchitis is a longer form of bronchitis, and it typically lasts a couple of months at a time. If you start suspecting that I might have chronic bronchitis, you should take me to the vet, because it’s extremely annoying to deal with, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever go away.

Chronic bronchitis is known to be irreversible, whereas acute bronchitis is just for a short period of time. Bronchitis can be caused by a number of different things:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Allergies
  • Parasites such as lungworm or heartworm
  • Constantly breathing in irritants such as smoke, fumes, and dust

In some cases, it can be difficult to figure out what’s causing chronic bronchitis.

What Are the Symptoms Of Bronchitis?

If you ever see me coughing on a consistent basis, that is a telling symptom that I may have bronchitis. If it’s lasting over two months, then that could mean that I have chronic bronchitis. One telling symptom of bronchitis is if my coughing is more severe right after I wake up.

Sometimes you might see me coughing so much that it looks like I’m vomiting, but this might just be me having to cough so much that it appears that way. If you start noticing me having trouble going for daily walks, one of the reasons could be because of bronchitis.

Bronchitis is known to be present in many dogs that also have:

  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Lung disease
  • Lung cancer

How to Diagnose Bronchitis

Before instantly thinking I need a bronchodilator for dogs, you’ll want to take me to the vet to get analyzed first. The vet will do a chest X-ray to get a closer look at my airways. They will also ask how long my coughing fits have been happening. If it’s been over two months, then there is a good chance I have bronchitis.

The vet might also do a bronchoalveolar lavage to eliminate the possibility of me having other diseases associated with my lungs. Once the samples are taken from me, they will be sent to a lab for analysis.

Treating Bronchitis

If I’m diagnosed with an infection, then that will need to be treated. Bronchitis makes my airways more sensitive than other dogs, so breathing in certain particles can make my symptoms feel worse. If you’re taking me for a walk, you’ll want to keep me away from:

  • Cigarette or fire smoke
  • Dust
  • Certain types of sprays (hair spray, insecticides, perfume)

There are two different kinds of medications used to treat my bronchitis:

  • Bronchodilators (theophylline, pentoxifylline, terbutaline, aminophylline)
  • Corticosteroids

Chronic bronchitis is a permanent issue. Bronchodilators should help me breathe more easily, and that means my quality of life will be improved.

Bronchodilator for Dogs – Terbutaline

Terbutaline is another bronchodilator that can help me breathe more effectively. It’s used to help relax the airways that bronchitis all too often restricts. The generic name for Terbutaline is known as Brethine.

Terbutaline Uses

Dogs that are dealing with bronchitis, a collapsed airway, asthma, and other breathing conditions will benefit from using terbutaline.

Precautions to Keep In Mind With Terbutaline

If you take me to the vet and they prescribe me Terbutaline, you’ll want to make sure that I don’t get too much of it. You’ll also want to keep Terbutaline away from our other family members.


Pentoxifylline is another medication that could potentially be given to me. This drug will usually be ingested through the mouth in the form of a tablet. You might also see it given in a liquid formulation. You’ll usually want to give me this medication with food and keep all of the measurements accurate to ensure I don’t get too much of it.

You might begin to notice my symptoms improving as soon as two days after you give me the medication. If you miss giving me a dose, just give me my next scheduled one. Double dosing is never recommended.

Side Effects of Pentoxifylline

There are a number of side effects that you might notice after giving me Pentoxifylline:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Excitement
  • I might not want to sleep much

If you notice any of these side effects, you should take me to the vet as soon as possible:

  • Seizures
  • Collapsing
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes

What Are the Risks?

If I’m allergic to Pentoxifylline, you should avoid giving me it. You also won’t want to give me it if I have any bleeding in my eyes or brain, or if I have kidney or liver disease.

Does Pentoxifylline Interact with Other Drugs?

Pentoxifylline has a couple of drug interactions that you should be aware of:

  • Cimetidine
  • Insulin
  • Antihypertensive drugs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Platelet aggregation inhibitors
  • Theophylline
  • Warfarin

You usually don’t have to monitor me when you’re giving me this medication, but you might want to take me to the vet after a while to see if the medication is doing its job. If you begin to see me having problems with any of the side effects, then you’ll want to contact the vet.


Another bronchodilator for dogs is called Aminophylline. This will help dogs deal with bronchitis and asthma. Plus, it might also assist with dogs dealing with pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure. Aminophylline is similar to the other bronchodilators offered to dogs in the way that it relaxes the muscles of the airway.

If the vet prescribes me Aminophylline, I might have to take it as a liquid, via extended-release tablets, or as an injectable.

If I have any of these conditions, I shouldn’t be given this medication:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stomach ulcers

If I’m getting older in age or if I’m allergic to Aminophylline, you should also avoid giving me this medication.

What to Ask the Vet

You’ll want to talk to the vet about the benefits of Aminophylline before giving it to me. I don’t like dealing with all of the potential side effects that might make me even more ill, so it’s always good to have an action plan. Ask the vet if there are any drug interactions with Aminophylline and the other medications I’m currently taking.

If I have any of these issues, you’ll want to tell the vet:

  • Upset stomach
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Allergies

How Is Aminophylline Administered?

Aminophylline is administered to me when my stomach is completely empty. You’ll want to make sure that I always have fresh water to drink when I’m on this medication. In addition, you should make sure that I’m getting the medication at the same times each day.

If I’m taking the extended-release version of Aminophylline, you’ll want to make sure that I don’t chew it apart so that I don’t get a bigger dose upfront.

Before starting Aminophylline, ask the vet if they can take bloodwork to see what my baseline is. To ensure everything is going well, the vet can use my baseline bloodwork during my next follow-up vet appointment.

Do Nots of Aminophylline

  • Do not give me more medication than what’s prescribed by the vet
  • Do not give double dose the medication

How to Store Aminophylline

You’ll want to store Aminophylline in a cool and dry area of your home that isn’t around sunlight. Never store the medication in a moist environment, the bathroom, or close to the sink. If the heat or moisture gets to the medication, it can break down.

How Might Aminophylline Make Me Feel?

Aminophylline might have a number of side effects associated with it:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Surge in appetite
  • More drinking than usual
  • Urination
  • Can increase heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Trouble sleeping

If you see me having these symptoms for an extended period of time, you might want to consult with the vet and see if they can provide some advice.

Using a bronchodilator for dogs can be an effective way to help me through some of my unpleasant symptoms. Consult with the vet to figure out which one will work best for me.