Pulmonary fibrosis

a West Highland terrier

A form of pulmonary fibrosis (lung scarring) has been recognized in dogs, almost exclusively in West Highland white terriers (WHWT). Signs of pulmonary fibrosis (PF) in dogs include cyanosis (bluish coloring and/or pale gums), lethargy, cough (nonproductive), shortness of breath, increased respiratory rate and effort, open-mouthed breathing, and exercise intolerance. The prognosis is guarded, with many dogs dying from progressive lung failure within 12–18 months. Currently, the underlying cause and genetics of PF in dogs is poorly understood. A genetic predisposition is strongly suspected because of the preponderance of WHWT reported to have confirmed PF.

The diagnosis in dogs is usually made based on clinical signs, arterial blood gas analysis, and chest radiographs. The diagnosis is greatly improved by using High Resolution Computed Tomography (HR-CT). Currently there is no known specific treatment, and therapy is at best to relieve the symptoms but does not affect the progression of the disease.

Study goals

The purpose of this study is to obtain blood DNA samples from dogs affected with pulmonary fibrosis, as well as from dogs aged 8 years and older that are not affected. We will compare the DNA of affected dogs versus unaffected dogs to see if we can detect gene mutations that predispose dogs to develop pulmonary fibrosis. If gene mutations are found, and verified, they could be used as a test to diagnosis pulmonary fibrosis and also as a test to help breeding decisions to decrease the number of WHWT with pulmonary fibrosis. In addition, knowledge of the genes involved will hopefully lead to specific treatments being developed.

How to participate

You can participate in our genetic study by sending a completed Pulmonary Fibrosis Submission Form (pdf) along with a small blood sample for DNA isolation. No financial compensation is currently available for dogs submitted from outside of the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital.

Contact us

Canine Genetics Lab
University of Minnesota
1988 Fitch Ave
AS/VM 295
St. Paul, MN 55108

[email protected]


Your dog may be able to help if he/she:

  • Your dog has a diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis (any breed, any age); or
  • WHWT with unexplained cough for 3 month or more

Your dog may be able to help if he/she:

  • Your dog is a purebred West Highland white terrier who is at least 8 years old and has no history of persistent cough or other persistent respiratory signs