Pet parents often underestimate how serious breathing difficulties can be. They often chalk it up to allergies, a harmless cold or too much time under the hot sun. Unfortunately, breathing difficulties often don’t go away by themselves and only grow worse over time. For some unlucky pups, their raspy breathing could be due to a deadly illness like pneumonia.
Take a moment to learn what dog pneumonia looks like and how to treat it.
Symptoms of pneumonia in dogs
Difficulty breathing is the first sign telling pet parents their dog is sick. Dogs with pneumonia exhibit shallow and rapid breathing that’s very different from normal panting.
Some other symptoms associated with pneumonia include:
- Thick nasal discharge
- Blueish mucus membranes
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Exercise intolerance
Types of dog pneumonia
Dogs can experience three different types of pneumonia: bacterial, fungal and aspiration. Bacterial pneumonia is the most common type in dogs. It occurs when bacteria infects the lungs and airways, causing inflammation and mucus buildup. Several bacteria species may cause this type of pneumonia, including Bordetella bronchiseptica, Streptococcus zooepidemicus and Pasteurella multocida. Bacterial infections that cause pneumonia are transmitted between dogs, although none are as contagious as Bordetella.
Fungal pneumonia develops when a dog inhales spores from animal feces or soil rich with organic matter. It’s a very serious condition because fungi can travel to other parts of the body via blood vessels and lymphatic systems. When fungal infections occur, the lymph nodes become inflamed and compress the airways, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.
The last type is called aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when a dog inhales a foreign substance. Pet parents who improperly administer liquid medicine might accidentally let a few droplets enter the lungs. It’s also possible for a dog to inhale vomit or attempt to swallow while there’s an obstruction in the esophagus. The prognosis for aspiration pneumonia is poor, even with treatment. If you suspect your dog inhaled a foreign substance, don’t wait for symptoms to show up. Bring them to an emergency clinic as soon as possible.
How vets diagnose pneumonia
Before diagnosing a dog with pneumonia, vets first have to rule out any other possible diseases. They’ll run some blood tests to look for heartworms or other parasites. The vet will also take chest X-rays to see if there are any drastic changes in the lungs. Examinations include listening to the dog’s breathing with a stethoscope so they can check for abnormal sounds and airway spasms.
For bacterial and fungal pneumonia, the vet will have to determine which fungi or bacteria species has infected the lungs before moving forward with treatment. They do this by collecting cytology samples, which consist of cells along the bronchi and bronchioles. Vets examine these samples beneath a microscope to figure out which species caused the infection.
Treatment options for your pup
Thankfully, bacterial and fungal pneumonia are easily treatable. The vet may prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic to kill off the infection until they figure out what type of microorganism is causing the issue. Once the lab results are in, your vet will prescribe a new antibiotic designed to treat the specific bacteria species. Vets complete the same process for identifying and treating fungal pneumonia.
The vet may need to hospitalize sick dogs who aren’t getting enough oxygen. They can administer bronchodilators and oxygen supplies until symptoms improve. Vets will give a dog intravenous fluids if they’ve become dehydrated or anorexic due to complete loss of appetite.
When your pup arrives home, monitor their progress and follow the vet’s instructions for administering medication. Give them a warm, quiet place to rest, and avoid strenuous physical activity. Encourage the dog to periodically switch lounging positions to prevent fluids from accumulating in one lung. Pet parents can also keep their pup in the bathroom with a hot shower running for 15 minutes. The steam will loosen and thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up.
Prevention is the best medicine
Any form of pneumonia can turn fatal, especially the type caused by aspiration. Monitor your dog for symptoms and bring them to a vet the second they seem ill. Early diagnosis can shorten pneumonia’s duration and significantly improve your pet’s prognosis. Pet parents can prevent pneumonia altogether by keeping pups up to date on their vaccines and limiting exposure to contaminated substances like vomit and feces.
If your pup has a hard time breathing, pneumonia could be the underlying problem. Pneumonia is a scary disease since it can quickly become deadly. The best thing any pet parent can do is watch out for the warning signs. Schedule a vet appointment at the onset of symptoms, no matter how subtle they might be. Acting fast can save a dog’s life!