Pneumonia is a potentially-deadly respiratory condition affecting the lungs and the lower portion of the respiratory tract, known as the bronchi (in layman’s terms, the tubes that lead to the lungs.) A dog’s pneumonia may involve fluid accumulation in the lungs, along with inflammation and/or infection of the lungs and bronchi.
Dog Pneumonia Symptoms and Causes
Dog pneumonia causes include aspiration (when food, fluid or debris is inhaled into the lungs), a virus or infection, often caused by an untreated upper respiratory infection. Canine pneumonia can also be caused by organisms like fungus or parasites.
Symptoms of pneumonia in a dog will vary. The more advanced the dog’s pneumonia, the more symptoms will be exhibited and the exhibited symptoms will be more acute and obvious in a developed case of pneumonia. A dog can also suffer from allergic pneumonia, where there is inflammation but no infection present.
Pneumonia symptoms in a dog will include:
- “Rattling” or raspy breathing, wheezing
- Dog’s lips flare out when breathing, ultimately leading to panting (open-mouth breathing)
- Rapid breathing, even when resting
- Labored breathing
- A deep cough, often with a phlegm-like discharge
- Blue-tinged gums, caused by hypoxia
- Refusal to eat and drink
In a dog with a serious, established case of pneumonia, he will be unable to focus on anything other than breathing. The dog may stare straight ahead, placing all of his efforts into breathing. If the dog’s pneumonia is the result of an untreated upper respiratory infection (URI), the pet may also exhibit nasal discharge.
How is a Dog’s Pneumonia Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a dog’s pneumonia is fairly straightforward in most cases. The veterinarian’s examination and diagnostic tests may include:
Listening to the Dog’s Breathing – The veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to the dog’s lungs. A dog with pneumonia will have rapid, labored breathing and abnormal lung sounds.
Taking the Dog’s Temperature – The vet will take the dog’s temperature to determine if a fever is present. A dog’s normal temperature is 100.5 to 102.5. An elevated temperature can occur due to infection in a case of aspiration pneumonia, an upper respiratory infection gone awry or in the case of pneumonia caused by a virus.
Performing a Lung X-Ray – An x-ray of the dog’s lungs will reveal clouding and a poor cardiac outline due to fluid accumulation and infection in the lungs.
In some cases, the vet may opt to put the dog under general anesthesia in order to examine the bronchi with a bronchoscope.
How Do You Treat a Dog With Pneumonia?
Treatment for a dog with pneumonia will vary depending on the pet’s specific condition. A dog’s pneumonia may be treated with steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics to treat infection and diuretic drugs like Furosemide to expel fluid from the dog’s lungs.
Hospitalization will be required for more serious cases of canine pneumonia. While hospitalized, the dog may receive fluids and medication via IV, nebulization therapy and oxygen therapy to increase the levels of oxygen in the dog’s blood.
A dog with a less serious case of pneumonia will be sent home with medication; the pet owner may also be provided with a nebulizer. The pet owner will be instructed to keep the dog’s activity level at the bare minimum (with exercise, the dog’s body needs more oxygen. This is dangerous in a dog with pneumonia, as his lungs cannot “keep up” and provide sufficient oxygen to the blood when the dog is at rest, much less when he’s exercising.)
Pet owners may also be instructed to perform a procedure called coupage or percussion therapy several times per day. Coupage involves cupping the hands and “clapping” the dog’s chest to dislodge mucus and pus, which can then be expelled when the dog coughs.
When a dog’s pneumonia is treated on an out-patient basis, it’s essential that pet owners follow the veterinarian’s directions for treatment precisely, as respiratory infections and pneumonia can advance and worsen very rapidly. If the dog is not improving or if the symptoms appear to be worsening, it’s essential to bring the pet back to the veterinary clinic. Follow-up visits are also key, as an exam and radiographs (x-rays) will determine whether the dog’s pneumonia has been resolved. If treatment is stopped prematurely — before the condition has cleared up — the illness will return.
Pneumonia and other respiratory infections like mycoplasma are also common in rats, though other pets like cats and birds can also suffer from respiratory infection.