Like humans, dogs may be susceptible to lung conditions such as pneumonia. With dogs, however, it might not be obvious if you aren’t looking out for the particular signs of the condition. But first, what exactly is pneumonia?
Pneumonia can be defined as a condition that causes inflammation both in the lung’s air sacs and the surrounding tissue. Often, this results in a high fever, coughing, and difficulty in breathing.
So how does pneumonia affect dogs? Let us get to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment of pneumonia in dogs below.
How Do Dogs Get Pneumonia?
Anything that leads to inflammation in a dog’s lungs and airways can be a cause of pneumonia. Among the possible causes are upper-respiratory infections, bacteria inhaled from contaminated food, inhaling grass seeds by accident, tick-borne infections, and fungal infections, among others. The most common types of pneumonia are:
A bacterial infection in the lungs is the most common cause of acquiring pneumonia in dogs, with the bordetella bacteria (the bacteria that causes kennel cough) being one of the leading culprits. This proves how important it is to have your dog vaccinated with the bordetella vaccine.
Research suggests that there is a complex association between viral respiratory infections, the environment, and developing bacterial and respiratory diseases in dogs.
Among the common signs of bacterial pneumonia in dogs are: breathing difficulties, coughing, high fever, lethargy, and exercise intolerance. Other signs may include: rapid and loud breathing, nasal discharge, loss of weight, dehydration, and anorexia.
This can be acquired from getting viral lung infections. Among the common viruses that dogs may be susceptible to are canine influenza and canine distemper, viruses that you can get your dog vaccinations for.
Read more: Pet Vaccinations Guide For Cats & Dogs
The symptoms of viral pneumonia will depend on the cause, but the common clinical signs of pneumonia in dogs are: difficulty in breathing, coughing, fever, and general weakness.
This type of pneumonia can be acquired when your dog inhales a foreign substance. The severity of aspiration pneumonia would depend on the type of foreign material inhaled as well as how far it is able to spread in a dog’s lungs.
Common causes of this type of pneumonia include unsatisfactory administration of liquid medications. Other risks of getting aspiration pneumonia include: when your dog attempts to drink or eat while they are partially choking or when they breathe vomit in.
Swallowing hindrances, such as when a dog is under anesthesia, when they are comatose, or when they have a cleft palate, may also cause this type of pneumonia. In addition to this, esophagus or pharynx disorders may also make a dog more susceptible to aspiration pneumonia.
Among the signs of aspiration pneumonia in dogs are: intolerance to exercise, laborious breathing, coughing, fever, or a rapid heart rate. Other signs, such as airway spasms and bluish mucous membranes, may also be experienced.
You may also notice a sweet and odd-smelling breath which becomes more pronounced as the disease progresses. This may be associated with the dog having a nasal discharge that may have traces of red, green, or brown.
Although rarer than the other types of pneumonia, a dog may also develop pneumonia when they get a fungal infection in their lungs. Those with immune systems that are compromised are more prone to such fungi, but it may also affect healthy dogs.
It’s commonly caused by inhaling spores that can spread across your dog’s blood as well as their lymph systems. As for the source, most fungal infections are caught in the soil rather than from one dog to another.
The development of fungal pneumonia in dogs is usually gradual. Among the signs of the disease are: a thick discharge from the nose and a moist and short cough. As it progresses, loss of weight, difficulty in breathing, and weakness, in general, may be experienced by the affected dog.
In more serious cases, there may be inflammation in the airways, making it more difficult to breathe. Breath sounds may be almost impossible to detect, and a dog may experience periodic fever as well. In some cases, signs may also appear in the bones, skin, and eyes.
Knowing when your dog is not feeling well is essential, and finding means to monitor your pet may go a long way. One way to monitor your pet anytime and anywhere is through innovative pet cameras such as the Petcube Cam. First of all, it’s affordable. Second, it has smart and HD features that allow you to see every movement of your pet while being able to communicate with them too.
Diagnosing pneumonia in dogs involves physical examinations and laboratory tests. Alongside this, your vet will ask questions such as how your dog is and what symptoms you have noticed them exhibiting. As much as possible, provide your vet with as many details as needed, such as any medications or supplements your dog is taking or any change in their environment.
If pneumonia is suspected, your vet may recommend imaging studies as well as laboratory tests to determine if it is the case. These tests may include chest x-rays, blood work, or testing if there is fluid in the lungs.
Treatment and Recovery
When pneumonia is confirmed, the treatment would be dependent on the type of pneumonia, what is causing it, and how far it has spread in your dog’s lungs. Generally, dogs that have pneumonia can be home-treated unless they are very sick or contagious. Below are some treatments that your vet may recommend:
- Humidification to help loosen the secretions in the lungs;
- Increase your dog’s water/fluid intake to help in cleaning their lungs as well as balancing their body;
- Restrict their activity;
- Antibiotics, anti-fungal therapy, or parasite control treatments;
- Physical therapy.
It is essential to follow your vet’s recommendations for treatment and complete the medications prescribed, even if your dog seems to have recovered already. Also, don’t forget your dog’s follow-up checkup/s as recommended by your vet. By doing so, your dog may recover faster.
If your dog is very ill and is highly contagious, your vet may recommend hospitalization. Treatments upon hospitalization may include IV fluids, antibiotics, oxygen therapy, or surgery to remove any foreign objects. Meanwhile, if your dog’s pneumonia is because of an underlying condition, such conditions need to be treated as well.
When it comes to how to help a dog with pneumonia at home, it is important to keep your pet in a warm and comfortable environment until they can visit a vet. Provide them with food and water, and don’t self-medicate, as this may interfere with the medications that your vet may prescribe.
Prevention goes a long way in minimizing the chances of your dog getting pneumonia. Ways to prevent pneumonia in dogs include:
- Take your dog to the vet for a checkup every 6 months.
- Keep your dog’s vaccines up to date.
- Maintain parasite control measures all year round.
- Make sure that your dog’s living space has good air quality, away from molds and dust.
- If your dog has a condition that increases their risk of getting pneumonia, follow the recommendations of your vet to prevent your dog from getting secondary pneumonia.
Pneumonia in Puppies
Puppies may also be susceptible to pneumonia, particularly aspiration pneumonia. Some instances where aspiration pneumonia may happen to puppies include:
- Bottle-fed pups may choke when milk pours out from the bottle too fast.
- Force-feeding a puppy that isn’t able to swallow properly.
- Cases when a puppy with a cleft palate drinks milk, then it travels from the nasal cavity and into the lungs.
Because a puppy’s immune system isn’t fully developed yet, it is crucial to bring your pup to the vet as soon as you notice signs of pneumonia. The same also applies to elderly dogs and dogs who are immunocompromised. The earlier it is detected, the better chances of them recovering from the disease.
In emergency cases, such as with serious cases of pneumonia, having an emergency fund helps ease worries involving veterinary bills and veterinary care. A great example of an emergency fund that looks out for both pets and pet owners is Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund.
With Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund, you get $3,000 for pet emergencies once a year, covering up to 6 pets (not just 1). There are also no restrictions as both dogs and cats, regardless of age, medical history, or breed, are covered. The service also features fast coverage payment, giving direct payment to the vet clinic during the time of the emergency (no headaches in claiming).
What are the natural ways to help a dog with pneumonia?
While it is possible to treat your dog with pneumonia at home, it is important to consult with a veterinarian first for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Dogs with pneumonia usually need medications, and other treatments may be prescribed by your vet if necessary.
Pneumonia is a serious condition, but when a dog has a strong immune system and if they are provided with medications, supportive care such as natural remedies (only the ones approved by your vet), and other treatments that may be helpful, this gives them a good chance of recovering from the disease.
What if a dog with pneumonia is not responding to antibiotics?
Usually, a type of pneumonia that doesn’t respond to antibiotics is fungal pneumonia. Once confirmed, this is usually treated with anti-fungal drugs. Fungal pneumonia may prove to be challenging to recover from and may take 2-6 months to fully remove it from your dog’s lungs.
How to avoid aspiration pneumonia in dogs?
It’s easier to prevent aspiration pneumonia in dogs than to treat it. For example, veterinarians usually recommend fasting prior to a dog having surgery to lessen the risk of them choking when under anesthesia. When oral medications are given, be mindful of the speed of giving the medicine to match the speed of your dog’s capacity to swallow to prevent them from inhaling into their lungs.