Pneumonia can be a serious—even life-threatening—lung disease for dogs. Our vets in Hattiesburg and Wiggins explain symptoms and how to treat pneumonia in dogs.
The lungs and lower airways of dogs, which are located in the lower respiratory tract, can develop a variety of problems, including pneumonia. Dogs, like humans, can experience breathing difficulties as a result of pneumonia, which can be fatal.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung disease that causes inflammation inside the microscopic parts of the lungs known as air sacs. This causes swelling and a buildup of fluid and pus, making it difficult for the dog to breathe. There is also less space for oxygen to fill these balloon-like structures inside the chest.
By gaining a better understanding of this problem and being able to recognize signs and symptoms, in addition to how to treat pneumonia in dogs, you can better care for your dog if he’s diagnosed with the condition.
Signs of Pneumonia in Dogs
Dogs with pneumonia will often display signs similar to people when they have this condition. Signs of pneumonia in dogs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow, short breaths
- Green, yellow or bloody mucus coming from the nose or after a cough
- Loss of appetite
- Blue, grey or purple mucus membranes
When oxygenation is extremely low, mucus membranes can turn purple, grey, or blue. Fatigue and lethargy are also common symptoms. A dog's appetite may be affected if he can't smell his food and isn't feeling well.
Causes of Pneumonia in dogs
Pneumonia in dogs can be attributed to many potential causes, including infection, injury or irritation of the lungs, such as:
- Diseases (laryngeal paralysis, cancer, cleft palate)
- Viruses (secondary bacterial infections and inflammation due to viral infections such as parainfluenza. Viral infections can easily spread from dog to dog)
- Aspiration (when a dog inhales food, liquid or solid material into its lungs - often seen in a dog that has vomited)
- Inhaled irritants (smoke, air pollutants, aerosol sprays and more)
- Bacteria that lead to infections, resulting in pneumonia ( Escherichia coli, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Streptococcus zooepidemicus and more)
Book an appointment with your veterinarian, who can perform a full physical examination to confirm whether your dog has pneumonia or another condition. The vet will check for symptoms noted above, including shallow breathing, coughing and fever. We will also use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs, and potentially take X-Rays to look for fluid or inflammation in the lungs.
A bronchial lavage may occasionally be performed to check for bacteria in the lungs, and samples of lung fluid or nasal discharge may be taken to determine the particular strain of bacteria causing the pneumonia. In order to determine whether an infection is systemic, blood tests may also be required to check for an elevated white blood cell count.
Bordetella bronchiseptica causes Kennel Cough and can lead to pneumonia if it enters the lower airways. It is also contagious and can easily spread dog-to-dog. That said, other bacterial causes of pneumonia (such as Pasteurella multocida, E. coli, Mycoplasma and Streptococcus zooepidemicus) are not necessarily contagious.
Treating Pneumonia in Dogs
You'll probably want to know how to treat dog pneumonia once your pet has been identified with the condition. While pneumonia is a serious illness that can become life-threatening, it is treatable with expert medical care, and the majority of dogs will fully recover, though there is a risk that the illness will recur. If the vet is unable to identify the underlying cause, the risk of recurrent pneumonia increases.
Treatment for pneumonia will depend on the cause, as will the cost of treatment. For example, antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial infections and may need to be administered for three to four weeks, and perhaps a while after the infection dissipates. Your vet may also prescribe medications to prevent new infections from entering the lungs.
A pooch with pneumonia will typically need to be admitted to our animal hospital so we can monitor their breathing and provide medications. Close monitoring and a range of medications may be necessary to manage symptoms, from antibiotics to bronchodilators, expectorants and sometimes even steroids.
With aspiration pneumonia, the vet may try to use suction to remove the foreign material from the lungs that’s causing the issue.
The vet may use nebulizers or humidifiers to loosen mucus. Brief exercise sessions may be required to help your pup to cough up the mucus. In severe cases, oxygen levels may be low and your vet may recommend supplemental oxygen to help the body get enough oxygen circulating. Sometimes, damaged lung tissue will need to be removed surgically.
Pneumonia in Dogs: Home Treatment
Depending on the severity of your dog’s pneumonia, you may be able to treat them at home. If the pneumonia is mild, your vet may prescribe bed rest and you may need to administer antibiotics every day. It’s usually best to provide them with food to prevent stomach upset. Activity levels should be kept to a minimum until they are symptom-free for at least one week.
Humidification is another popular remedy. Your vet may recommend running a warm shower for about 15 minutes 3 to 5 times per day. Have your dog stand in the bathroom with the door closed. This process is officially referred to as Nebulization and Coupage, and will help to break up mucus in the lower airways.
Nutritious meals will also be vital to helping your dog recover. You may want to warm up your four-legged friend’s food and offer baby food or enticing smelling canned food to help them gain interest in eating. Your vet may also prescribe medications to stimulate appetite. In some cases, your dog may need a feeding tube and IV fluids to administer medications and prevent dehydration.
To lessen the chance of a recurrence, make sure you adhere to all treatment recommendations, prescriptions, and procedures given to you by your veterinarian. Your dog will probably require antibiotics for at least 4 weeks during the typical recovery period of at least 3 to 5 weeks. After your dog has taken antibiotics for two weeks, your veterinarian may want to perform a chest X-ray to assess progress and determine how much longer your dog will require medication and rest to recover.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.