What is Coupage in Dogs?

by Kat Walden
    Severe respiratory infections can become life-threatening if not treated promptly.

    Severe respiratory infections can become life-threatening if not treated promptly.

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    Many avenues lead to respiratory congestion in dogs. Whether through fluid buildup after a lengthy convalescence, from the contraction of kennel cough or canine influenza, or due to other physical ailments, your dog can contract pneumonia as a primary or secondary infection. Coupage is a physical therapy technique frequently used in combination with other therapies to treat pneumonia patients.

    Coupage, or thoracic percussion therapy, involves cupping your hands and gently patting your dog's chest wall rapidly but gently, which helps loosen deep lung fluids and secretions. Your vet can teach you the proper technique for performing coupage, and placing your dog on a table or other raised platform will allow you to work comfortably. You can use both hands for coupage if your dog is large. Only one hand should be used for small dogs. You need to pat your dog firmly enough to dislodge lung secretions but not so firmly that you cause him pain or injury. Hand placement and proper technique are more important in performing effective coupage than the level of firmness used.

    Coupage loosens materials that have accumulated in the deep lung tissue, including pus, mucus and other fluids. The force exerted on the lungs through coupage moves those materials into the dog's major airways, which in turn will induce coughing. Coughing, which should be encouraged, will expel the foreign materials from your dog's body. Removal of the secretions allows the lungs to retain more air and thus make breathing easier for your dog. For maximum effect, perform coupage after nebulization, since lung secretions are more easily expelled when moist.

    Under normal circumstances, a dog recovering from pneumonia should receive coupage treatments four times per day until all coughing has been eliminated. Only the affected portions of lung tissue should receive coupage, since performing it on healthy lung tissue can lead to lung collapse. Dogs with cardiovascular instability or who have fractured ribs, pleural space disease, open wounds, thoracic tumors, flail chest -- an injury following blunt force trauma, where part of the rib cage becomes detached -- or other cardiac or respiratory distress should not receive coupage.

    Pneumonia is, simply, the inflammation of deep lung tissue. The source of the pneumonia infection can be viral, bacterial, parasitic, allergic or from the aspiration of a foreign object. The most common symptom of pneumonia in dogs is persistent coughing. Other signs your dog may have pneumonia include discharge produced by coughing, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, labored or rapid breathing or blue gums. If you suspect your dog suffers from a pneumonia infection, schedule him for a veterinary exam at once. Your veterinarian will listen for abnormal lung sounds and will most likely take chest X-rays, which will reveal clouding in the infected lung areas.

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    About the Author

    Kat Walden, a native of San Diego, Calif., began her work in the animal industry at Sea World in 1986. After years of working with animals large and small, she combined her expertise from the pet industry with her love of writing, and began her career as a pet writer in 2006.

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