Just like their human owners, dogs too can become prey to viruses and bacteria. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging in the human world, let’s talk about a disease that affects the respiratory system of dogs – pneumonia.

What Is Pneumonia In Dogs?

In humans, pneumonia is an infection that affects one or both lungs. Similarly, pneumonia in dogs manifests by affecting the respiratory system including the lungs and airways of dogs. It can be a serious condition as it affects your dog’s ability to breathe normally and cause a deficiency of oxygen in the blood.

Pneumonia In Dogs - Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment.

What Can Cause Pneumonia In Dogs?

  • Bacterial

The most common cause is a viral infection of the lower respiratory tract. The most common bacteria that causes pneumonia in dogs is Bordetella bronchiseptica. This bacterium is highly contagious and can be transmitted easily to other dogs. Viruses that can damage the airways and make dogs more vulnerable to pneumonia are the Canine distemper virus, adenovirus types 1 and 2, canine influenza virus, and parainfluenza virus.

  • Foreign Materials

Another cause of pneumonia is breathing in foreign materials. This may lead to aspiration pneumonia. A common cause of aspiration pneumonia is improper administration of liquid medicines. Another common reason is a dog vomiting and then breathing in some of the vomit.

  • Fungal

Fungal pneumonia may develop if the dogs inhale spores that spread through the blood and lymph systems. The source of most fungal infections is believed to be soil-related. Diagnosis of this type of pneumonia may be made tentatively if the infected dog does not respond to antibiotics since antibiotics are not effective against fungi.

Symptoms To Look Out For

Common symptoms to watch out for whether it be viral, fungal, or aspiration pneumonia:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Nasal whistling
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty in doing exercises
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Some unusual symptoms observed in the case of aspiration pneumonia other than the common ones above are:

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Altered mood
  • Bluish skin
  • Frequent regurgitation

Fungal pneumonia mostly develops over a long period – sudden and severe onset is rarely seen. A short, moist cough followed by thick mucous discharge from the nose is commonly seen. A definite diagnosis requires identification of fungus using lab tests, X-Ray, and blood tests.

How Severe Is Pneumonia In Dogs?

Pneumonia in dogs can be pretty serious. However, with on-time and appropriate treatment, most dogs will recover well. 

Of the above types, aspiration pneumonia is the most serious as the outlook is poor despite treatment. In aspiration pneumonia, the death rate is high, and recovered dogs often develop lung abscesses.

Treatment Methods

  • Bacterial pneumonia

Antibiotic treatment is prescribed based on culture tests and sensitivity test results. Veterinarians may start off with a broad-spectrum antibiotic till the results are out and he is aware of which bacterium is causing pneumonia. Other medications may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for fever and bronchodilators and expectorants for coughing and breathing difficulties.

  • Aspiration Pneumonia

Where a dog is known to have inhaled a foreign substance, veterinarians usually prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics without even waiting for symptoms to appear. The treatment is the same as other types of pneumonia.

  • Fungal pneumonia

Unlike other types, antibiotics are ineffective against fungi. Hence, antifungal drugs are used to treat fungal pneumonia. Identification of fungus is very important for the treatment method. Effective treatment may require several months of drug therapy.

Severe cases may require hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, intravenous antibiotics, or fluid therapy.

You should never give medications to your dog without getting a green light from your veterinarian. Even OTC drugs like ibuprofen can be harmful. Please go through your veterinarian’s instructions carefully and diligently to ensure the correct dosage. Human medications can be highly toxic for dogs, so please keep the pill bottles away from dog paws and consult a veterinarian for correct treatment.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Now that we have discussed symptoms and treatment for pneumonia, let’s move on to a critical topic – how to prevent the development of pneumonia in dogs.

  • In cases of an outbreak of canine pneumonia in your area, keep your dog completely isolated from other dogs.
  • Strengthen your dog’s immune system with a healthy diet, dietary supplements, and vaccinations.
  • Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercises to keep itself fit and fine.
  • Regularly wash your dog’s bedding, bowls, and toys to limit the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Remember to call your vet as soon as you notice any unusual factor – it can save your dog’s life.

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