Pneumonia in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments

Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Bacterial and viral pneumonia are often preceded by an infection in the nasopharynx or airways.

Pneumonia is uncommon in healthy adult dogs. It tends to target the very young and the very old, and those whose immune systems have been compromised as a result of corticosteroid therapy, chemotherapy, or chronic illness. Dogs with chronic bronchitis, collapsing trachea, or foreign bodies in the lower airway frequently develop bacterial pneumonia.

Inhalation or aspiration pneumonia occurs with megaesophagus, gastroesophageal reflux, paralysis of the swallowing mechanism, and reflux of gastric contents into the lungs during general anesthesia or vomiting. Chemical pneumonia is caused by inhaling smoke or ingesting hydrocarbons such as gasoline or kerosene.

Signs of pneumonia are cough, fever, depression, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, and occasionally a nasal discharge that is thick with mucus. The cough is moist and bubbling, indicating fluid in the lungs. Dogs with severe pneumonia frequently sit with their head extended and elbows turned out to allow for greater expansion of the chest.

The diagnosis is made by chest X-ray and blood tests. Bacterial culture and sensitivity tests aid in selecting the most effective antibiotic.

Treatment: Dogs with fever and signs of respiratory infection should receive urgent veterinary care. Take the dog to the hospital immediately. Do not give cough suppressants. Coughing is beneficial because it clears the airway and facilitates breathing.

Bacterial infection responds well to antibiotics selected specifically for the bacteria causing the disease. Your veterinarian will select the most appropriate drug. The antibiotic should be continued for at least three weeks, or until the follow-up chest X-rays show clearing.

Any predisposing causes, such as gastroesophageal reflux or a bronchial foreign body, should be treated to prevent recurrence.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.