Dogs are mischievous and rambunctious by nature – they spend all their time running around and acting in a hyper mode. And this is the main reason accidents happen. Many pet owners are worried about their dogs getting the wind knocked out.
So, can dogs get the wind knocked out of them? Yes, just like people, dogs can get the wind knocked out of them. The reason is also the same – trauma that is making the air come out of the lungs in a forceful manner. If you suspect the trauma did more than just knock the wind out of your dog, contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.
In this article, we will explain what having the wind knocked out means and how it occurs. We will give some tips on how to recognize the condition and finally, provide some first-aid tips.
HAVING THE WIND KNOCKED OUT – WHAT IS IT, AND HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?
Having or getting the wind knocked out is an idiom used to describe a condition known as a diaphragm spasm. A diaphragm spasm sound, and upon witnessing it seems scary, but it is a temporary episode, and most importantly, it is not life-threatening.
Diaphragm spasms occur due to trauma or forceful blows affecting the chest, abdomen, or falling on the back. But what is the diaphragm, and why is it essential for breathing.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped structure of muscles and tendons that separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. The diaphragm plays a significant role in the breathing process. When the dog takes a breath or inhales, the diaphragm shrinks and pulls down to leave enough room for the oxygen-filled lungs to expand. Then, when the dog exhales, the diaphragm relaxes and somewhat pressures the lungs to help them expel the air.
Sudden hits to the chest, abdomen, or back may temporarily paralyze the diaphragm (a.k.a. diaphragm spasms), making it useless. While in spasm, the diaphragm cannot assist the breathing process, which results in the “wind knocked out” episode.
Luckily, the diaphragm spasm is a short-term occurrence that usually lasts around a minute or two. As soon as the diaphragm becomes paralyzed, the abdominal muscles kick in – they replace the diaphragm’s role and help with breathing.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DOG HAD THE WIND KNOCKED OUT OF THEM?
The telltale scenario indicating your dog had the wind knocked out if it includes –hyper behavior followed by chest, abdomen, or back trauma that culminates in the dog falling and struggling to breathe.
The knocked-out phase is short (no more than two minutes), and while lying down, the dog is likely to produce a groaning noise as it gasps for air. As soon as it gets backs, anxiety signs and symptoms are plausible.
In general, diaphragm spasms are unique and not very hard to identify. However, while panicking, you might get confused and think about scarier things. For example, in such cases, it would be practical to differentiate between similar scenarios like seizures and syncope.
Differential diagnosis 1: Seizures
To differentiate diaphragm spasms from seizures, remember the following – seizures occur spontaneously (there is no traumatic component in the process). Simply put, the dog falls down and starts twitching.
Most seizure events are followed by vomiting and lack of bladder and bowel control, meaning the dog will pee or poop during or immediately after the seizure episode. Also, it is unlikely for the seizures to manifest in a one-time episode.
Differential diagnosis 2: Syncope
The second scenario you need to differentiate is syncope or, in simpler terms, fainting. Most syncope episodes are the result of heart issues manifesting with irregular heart rhythms.
Namely, when the heart works either too fast or too slow, the oxygen delivery to the brain gets disrupted, leading to fainting. Syncope episodes are also short and usually result in a complete resolution.
Diaphragm spasms vs. seizures vs. syncope
Dogs with seizures are stiff and rigid during an episode (it seems impossible to lift them or move them), while syncope dogs are often described as “wet noodles” (relaxed and squishy).
Unlike dogs with diaphragm spasms that are distressed when they get back, dogs experiencing syncope are calm and do not act strange as they are literally in a sleep-like state while lacking proper oxygen flow to the brain.
On the other hand, after getting back, dogs with seizures seem overly confused and may even show ataxia (lack of coordination) and temporary blindness.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF A DOG GETS THE WIND KNOCKED OUT OF THEM?
As a pet owner, your initial response is to provide first aid. However, you cannot do a lot for your dog while its diaphragm is in spasm. There are some tricks to stimulate the diaphragm to get back to work, like sitting upright, breathing through the mouth, and pushing and sucking the stomach. However, you cannot tell your dog the practice them.
Therefore, all you can do is stay with your dog. The breathing inability is likely to make your dog stressed, and your presence will be comforting.
Once your dog gets back and resumes its normal breathing, chances are it will feel anxious and uncomfortable. People having the wind knocked out of them describe the experience as “near-death scary.” Therefore, you can only imagine how your dog feels.
Despite the non-life-threatening nature of the event, it is still a good idea to visit your vet. This is because most dogs suffer residual pain from the original trauma. And proper pain management requires veterinary help.
Keep in mind that you must never give your dog pain meds without consulting with your veterinarian (common human pain meds like Aspirin and Ibuprofen can be toxic to dogs if misused).
SUMMING UP: CAN DOGS GET THE WIND KNOCKED OUT OF THEM?
Witnessing your dog having the wind knocked out of it is a scary experience on any day, especially if you did not see the trauma part and simply found your dog lying on the ground. This is every pet owner’s worst nightmare. The good news is, diaphragm spasms are not severe.
While there are not many things you can do while your dog is “windless,” you can help it afterward – be soothing and comforting as the experience was stressful to it too, and of course, schedule a vet visit so you can make sure everything is fine.