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How to Treat Pneumonia in Dogs

How to Treat Pneumonia in Dogs

Pneumonia is a severe lung disease that can put dogs' lives at risk. Our Jackson veterinarians detail the signs and treatment of pneumonia in dogs.

In the lower part of a dog's breathing system, which includes the lungs and lower airways, various problems can arise, such as pneumonia. Like humans, dogs can struggle to breathe because of pneumonia, which can become life-threatening in severe cases.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung illness that creates swelling and fluid buildup in tiny lung parts called air sacs. This makes breathing hard for dogs and reduces space for oxygen.

Learning about this issue, spotting signs, and knowing how to treat it will help you take good care of your dog if they have pneumonia.

Signs of Pneumonia in Dogs

Dogs with pneumonia often show similar signs to those seen in people with the condition. These signs of pneumonia in dogs can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Shallow, short breaths
  • Green, yellow, or bloody mucus coming from the nose or after a cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Blue, grey, or purple mucus membranes
  • Hyperventilating

Mucus membranes can become tinged with purple, grey, or blue if oxygenation is extremely poor. Lethargy and fatigue are also common symptoms. Because a dog won't be able to smell its food and won't feel well, he may experience a lack or loss of appetite.

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)

Diagnosing Pneumonia

Schedule an appointment with your vet to have a thorough check-up for your dog. The vet will examine your dog to determine if it has pneumonia or another health issue. They'll look for signs like shallow breathing, coughing, and fever. They might use a stethoscope and X-rays to examine the lungs for fluid or inflammation.

To find out if there's bacteria in the lungs, the vet might perform a procedure called bronchial lavage. They could also collect samples of lung fluid or nasal discharge to identify the bacteria causing the pneumonia. Blood tests might be needed to check for high white blood cell counts, indicating an infection.

Kennel Cough caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica can lead to pneumonia if it gets into the lower airways. It's also contagious between dogs. However, other bacterial causes like Pasteurella multocida, E. coli, Mycoplasma, and Streptococcus zooepidemicus aren't necessarily infectious.

Treating Pneumonia in Dogs

Once your pet is diagnosed with pneumonia, you'll want to understand how to treat it in dogs. While pneumonia is a serious condition, it can be treated with proper medical care, and most dogs recover fully. However, there's a risk of recurrence. Recurring pneumonia is more likely if the vet doesn't determine the underlying cause.

Treatment and its cost vary based on the cause. Antibiotics are often used for bacterial infections and might be needed for three to four weeks, even after the infection is gone. Your vet might also prescribe medications to prevent lung infections.

A dog with pneumonia will need to stay at our animal hospital for breathing monitoring and medication. Close observation and various medications, like antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, and sometimes steroids, could be needed to manage symptoms.

For aspiration pneumonia, vets may use suction to remove foreign materials from the lungs, causing the issue.

Nebulizers or humidifiers might be used to loosen mucus. Short exercise sessions might help your dog cough up the mucus. In severe cases, low oxygen levels may require supplemental oxygen. In some instances, damaged lung tissue might need surgical removal."

Pneumonia in Dogs: Home Treatment

If your dog has pneumonia, the treatment depends on how serious it is. If it's not too bad, you might be able to treat them at home. The vet could suggest they rest in bed and take antibiotics daily. To keep their stomach from getting upset, it's best to give them food. They should stay calm and not do too much until they're better for at least a week.

Adding moisture to the air can help, too. The vet might tell you to run a warm shower for 15 minutes 3 to 5 times each day. Put your dog in the bathroom with the door closed. This is called Nebulization and Coupage, and it can help clear mucus from their airways.

Good food is important for their recovery. You can warm up their food or give them baby food or tasty canned food to make them want to eat. The vet might also give them medicine to make them hungry. Sometimes, they might need a tube to eat and fluids through a vein to stay hydrated.

Make sure you do everything the vet says to prevent the pneumonia from coming back. Usually, it takes about 3 to 5 weeks to get better, and your dog might need antibiotics for at least 4 weeks. After 2 weeks of antibiotics, the vet might take X-rays to see how things are going and figure out how much more medicine and rest your dog needs to heal.

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.

If your dog is displaying pneumonia symptoms or having difficulty breathing, contact our Jackson vets today to book an appointment for your canine friend. 

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