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Dog Pneumonia: Know the Causes, Signs, and Treatment

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Dog Pneumonia _ Know the Causes, Signs, and Treatment _ Funny young staffordshire terrier puppy lying covered in throw blanket and falling asleep

Can dogs get pneumonia? Yes, they can—but fortunately, the prognosis for dogs with pneumonia is generally good if it is treated properly.

How Do Dogs Get Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the air sacs of the lungs. These air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, which causes the difficulty breathing and coughing associated with the disease. Pneumonia in dogs can have different causes:

  • Viral or bacterial – Infectious pneumonia is the most prevalent type of pneumonia in dogs. It is caused by a viral or bacterial infection in the respiratory tract.
  • Breathing in foreign material – Aspiration pneumonia occurs when a dog breathes something into their lungs. Two common reasons this could happen is if a dog throws up and breathes in some of the vomit or if they inhale liquid medication while it is being administered.
  • Fungus – This form of pneumonia is typically caused by an inhalation of spores, which can spread through the body and cause an infection. It typically develops over time and is characterized by a moist cough and thick nasal discharge.

French Bulldog sleeping on man using his smart phone

Symptoms of Pneumonia in Dogs

The signs of pneumonia in dogs include:

  • Deep cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Lethargy

Dogs with pneumonia may also show intolerance to exercise. For instance, they may not have any interest in activities they usually love, like going for a walk or playing fetch, and they may tire out more quickly than usual.

Diagnosis of Pneumonia in Dogs

If your dog is sick, your veterinarian will typically start the visit by reviewing your dog's medical history and conducting a nose-to-tail physical exam. This exam will include taking their temperature to check for fever and listening closely to the lungs with a stethoscope to detect any abnormal sounds.

Your veterinarian may also need to run additional diagnostic tests to determine what is exactly wrong, such as blood work, urinalysis, and X-rays of the chest and lungs. If it looks like it could be pneumonia, your veterinarian may “wash” the trachea with fluid, which allows them to collect and identify the type of bacteria that may be causing the infection. Your dog will be sedated or put under anesthesia during this treatment.

Unrecognizable veterinarian examining child's dog at animal hospital

Treatment of Pneumonia in Dogs

Treatment for bacterial pneumonia may include a broad-spectrum antibiotic to fight off the infection. If your veterinarian performed a tracheal wash, they might decide to change the antibiotics later based on the bacteria that were identified in the test. Fungal pneumonia typically requires anti-fungal medication.

For any type of pneumonia, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help control the symptoms. These may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) for fever and pain, as well as bronchodilators and expectorants for coughing and difficulty breathing. If the pneumonia is severe, your dog may need to be hospitalized for supportive care, including supplemental oxygen, intravenous antibiotics, or fluid therapy.

Remember never to give your dog medications without talking to your veterinarian first. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin can be harmful to dogs. You should also follow your veterinarian's dosage instructions carefully to make sure your dog is getting an effective yet safe amount of the medication.

Home Treatments for Pneumonia in Dogs

Your veterinarian can recommend the best way to care for your sick dog at home. They may suggest:

  • Restricting their activity and making sure they get lots of rest.
  • Offering them plenty of fresh water to help keep them from getting dehydrated.
  • Sitting with your dog in the bathroom with a hot shower running for around fifteen minutes a few times a day. The steam and humidity can help thin out mucus so it can be coughed up more easily.

While your dog needs rest, they may also benefit from short bouts of exercise that can loosen mucus secretions and help your dog cough out debris. However, follow your dog's lead and don't force them to exercise if they're not up for it.

Is Pneumonia Contagious in Dogs?

As with canine influenza, you're not likely to contract pneumonia from your dog. However, bacterial and viral pneumonia can be transmitted easily between dogs, especially if they are very young, older, or have a compromised immune system. If you have multiple dogs in the home, you will need to separate the healthy ones from your sick pooch.

You should also thoroughly clean all bedding, bowls, and gear, such as leashes, collars, and harnesses, to help avoid spreading the disease. In addition, be sure to wash your hands after handling your sick dog and consider wearing a protective garment over your clothing to help avoid spreading the disease that way.

mixed breed dog under an orange blanket

Is It Pneumonia or the Flu?

The symptoms of canine influenza are similar to those of pneumonia. They can include fever, moist or dry coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and a lack of appetite. It can be difficult to tell at home what is causing your dog's illness. That's why it's important to take them to the veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment plan.

Treatment for the Flu

If your dog is diagnosed with the flu, treatment will focus on alleviating the symptoms. For instance, your veterinarian may prescribe NSAIDs to reduce fever and cough suppressants to help break up mucus secretions. They may also recommend an antibiotic if your dog has a secondary bacterial infection. In rare cases, your dog might require hospitalization and supportive care.

Can You Get the Flu From Your Dog?

Dog flu is caused by a virus that can be transmitted to other dogs, but there are currently no cases where it has spread to humans. It is caused by a different type of virus than the one that makes us feel all achy and feverish. Because there have been rare, isolated reports of sick dogs infecting cats, ferrets, and guinea pigs, sick dogs should be safely isolated from other pets in the home. However, you don't have to worry about contracting the flu from them.

How to Prevent Pneumonia in Dogs

While there is no sure-fire way to make sure your dog doesn't get pneumonia, it helps to keep them in top shape. For instance, take them to the veterinarian for regular check-ups, feed them a nutritious diet, and make sure they get plenty of exercise.

If your dog does get sick with pneumonia, the flu, or any other illness, pet insurance can help you manage the veterinary bills. With pet insurance, you can get help focusing on providing the best care possible for your dog with less worry about how much it will cost. Get started with a personalized quote now.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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