Acute respiratory distress syndrome in dogs and cats: a review of clinical findings and pathophysiology


Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. Amy E. DeClue, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, 900 E. Campus Drive, Columbia, MO 65211.


Objective: To review the clinical and pathophysiologic aspects of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in dogs and cats.

Data sources: Data from human and veterinary literature were reviewed through Medline and CAB as well as manual search of references listed in articles pertaining to acute lung injury (ALI)/ARDS.

Human data synthesis: Since the term ARDS was first coined in 1967, there has been a abundance of literature pertaining to this devastating syndrome in human medicine. More complete understanding of the complex interactions between inflammatory cells, soluble mediators (e.g., tumor necrosis factor, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, platelet activating factor) and the clinical patient has provided for timely recognition and mechanistically based protective strategies decreasing morbidity and mortality in human patients with ARDS.

Veterinary data synthesis: Although little is known, ARDS is becoming a more commonly recognized sequela in small animals. Initial case reports and retrospective studies have provided basic clinical characterization of ARDS in dogs and cats. Additionally, information from experimental models has expanded our understanding of the inflammatory mechanisms involved. It appears that the inflammatory processes and pathologic changes associated with ARDS are similar in dogs, cats, and humans.

Conclusions: Unfortunately, current mortality rates for ARDS in small animals are close to 100%. As our capability to treat patients with advanced life-threatening disease increases, it is vital that we develop a familiarity with the pathogenesis of ARDS. Understanding the complex inflammatory interactions is essential for determining effective preventative and management strategies as well as designing novel therapies for veterinary patients.