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Pneumonia in Dogs

Although it's not a condition that most pet parents think about, pneumonia in dogs is relatively common. While many dogs recover well from pneumonia the conditions can be a serious health concern for dogs that are senior, immunocompromised, or very young. Our Queens vets explain more about how pneumonia could affect your dog.

What is pneumonia in dogs?

Pneumonia in dogs, like pneumonia in humans, affects the animal's respiratory system, impairing your pet's ability to breathe normally, and making it an internal medical condition. While some types of pneumonia are more difficult to treat than others, most dogs recover well from pneumonia with treatment. However, if the condition is not treated, it can lead to more serious complications.

How do dogs get pneumonia?

Dogs can develop pneumonia when bacteria, viruses, or fungi enter their lungs and cause inflammation. This can happen through inhalation of contaminated air, aspiration of vomit or foreign objects, or as a secondary infection following another respiratory illness. It is important to monitor dogs for symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy and seek prompt veterinary care if pneumonia is suspected to prevent complications.

What is infectious pneumonia?

The most common type of pneumonia in dogs is infectious pneumonia (also known as bacterial pneumonia). A viral or bacterial infection in the dog's airways causes infectious pneumonia. Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of the bacteria most commonly linked to infectious pneumonia in dogs, and it is easily transmitted between senior dogs, dogs with compromised immune systems, and puppies.

Is coughing the only symptom of pneumonia in dogs?

If your dog has developed infectious pneumonia or bacterial pneumonia they may develop a cough but there are a host of other symptoms which are also associated with the condition including:

  • Coughing
  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Nasal whistling
  • Irregular breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

If your dog has bacterial pneumonia our vets recommend that you keep your unwell dog away from other pets in the household, and wash bedding, bowls, collars, and leashes frequently to help avoid spreading the disease. Also, be sure to wash your hands immediately after petting or handling a dog with infectious pneumonia. 

What is aspiration pneumonia in dogs?

Aspiration pneumonia can develop if your dog accidentally inhales vomit or medication, has a pharyngeal abnormality, or has a neuromuscular disorder that affects respiratory function. In some cases, an enlargement of the lower esophagus caused by acid reflux, as well as an incorrectly placed feeding tube, can result in aspiration pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia?

Signs of aspiration pneumonia can be very similar to those of infectious bacterial pneumonia and may include one or more of the following:

  • High fever
  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Lethargy
  • Wheezing
  • Nasal whistling
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

However, aspiration pneumonia may also cause other symptoms such as: 

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bluish skin
  • Altered mood
  • Frequent regurgitation

If your dog exhibits symptoms of aspiration pneumonia, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Early detection and treatment may help to keep your dog from developing more severe, difficult-to-treat symptoms.

What is the treatment for pneumonia in dogs?

If your dog has infectious bacterial or aspiration pneumonia, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help control symptoms, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for fever and pain, and bronchodilators and expectorants for coughing and breathing problems. If your dog has a particularly severe case of pneumonia, it may need to be hospitalized and given fluid therapy, supplemental oxygen, or intravenous antibiotics.

Is pneumonia in dogs contagious?

Pneumonia in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. While some forms of pneumonia are contagious, such as those caused by certain bacteria or viruses, others are not. It is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the specific cause of pneumonia in a dog and whether it is contagious.

If the pneumonia is caused by a contagious agent, such as Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) or the canine influenza virus, it is possible for other dogs to become infected through close contact with the affected dog. In these cases, it is important to isolate the sick dog and take precautions to prevent the spread of the infection to other pets. Additionally, practicing good hygiene and keeping up-to-date on vaccinations can help reduce the risk of pneumonia in dogs.

How can I help my dog to recover?

Your vet will be sure to provide you with specific instructions on caring for your dog during their recovery, however typical instructions for care include:

  • Restrict your dog's activities while they recover.
  • Keep other pets and small children away from your dog in order in order to allow them to get plenty of rest.
  • Supplying plenty of fresh water to help keep them hydrated.
  • Treat your dog with a steam treatment by running a hot shower while you sit with your dog in the bathroom or shower room.
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 experiencing difficulties breathing, contact our vets at Queens Animal Hospital in Queens. Our compassionate vets have experience in the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia in pets.

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