When Your Dog Gets Pneumonia: Symptoms and Treatment

When your dog gets sick, it's hard to tell right away whether the condition is just a cold or something more serious. You should, however, always be on the lookout for symptoms of pneumonia. Pneumonia is not uncommon in dogs, and with the right treatment and care, most dogs easily recover. Here is a guide to help you know the symptoms and what you can do to help your pet recover. 

Types of Pneumonia

When dogs contract pneumonia, typically the disease is caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria causes the lung inflammation that is characteristic of pneumonia. The condition itself is not inherently life threatening, but when left untreated, it can lead to hypoxia (lack of oxygen to vital organ cells) and blood poisoning. Catching the disease early can help prevent these more dangerous complications.

Symptoms of Pneumonia

Common indicators of the illness include the following:

  • Rapid shallow breathing. Your dog may have trouble catching his or her breath when doing something even moderately strenuous.
  • Appetite loss. Your dog will refuse food. Weight loss often follows as the body tries to heal itself on little fuel.
  • Cold symptoms. Dogs can catch cold, and cold symptoms are part of the large symptom group for bacterial pneumonia. Your dog may have an increase in coughing, a runny nose, and watery eyes.
  • Fever. Fever is typical for any bacterial infection. 
  • Energy loss. Fatigue and even lethargy are symptomatic of pneumonia. Your dog will generally eschew exercise. This is especially concerning if your dog typically loved daily walks and energetic play. 
  • Wheezing or crackling as your dog breathes. These sounds are especially indicative of infection, as they indicate fluid in the lungs.

If you notice one or several of these symptoms, it's best to consult your local pet clinic for more tests. These symptoms could be pneumonia, but they could also indicate other lung trouble, and you need to be sure of the diagnosis and get treatment.

Treatment and At-Home Care

Once your the infecting bacteria has been identified (your vet will run a culture), your dog will need antibiotics to fight the infection. In early cases, medication and rest are all that is necessary for full recovery. However, dogs who have lost a lot of weight or who are showing signs of hypoxia will need more intervention. Your dog may need:

  • Oxygen. Just like humans with lung trouble, some dogs will need to remain in an oxygen-rich environment for recovery. Usually, oxygen is administered with a muzzle.
  • IV Fluids. Many dogs who do not eat or drink due to illness become severely dehydrates, and IV fluids may be needed at first before your pet is ready for further treatment.
  • A specialized diet. Some vets may hold your dog at the animal hospital until they show signs of weight gain.

Once your dog has been released back into your care, be sure to give all prescribed medicine as directed. Missing a dose of antimicrobial medication or ending the regimen early can be very dangerous and put your dog at risk for recurring infection later. You should restrict your dog's movement; encourage rest and discourage stimulation. Avoid contact with other dogs until your dog has recovered—you don't want to spread the infection. Your dog will likely need higher-quality food for recovery purposes and additional protein. Cooked eggs or meat can be beneficial to your dog during this time. After recovery, help prevent your dog from becoming infected again by making sure he or she is up to date on all vaccines. 

For more information on preventing and recognizing illness in your dog, contact a local vet clinic such as Animal Emergency Clinic.