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Home Bella Woof How Does a Dog Get Pneumonia?

How Does a Dog Get Pneumonia?

by Bella Woof

Pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs, usually caused by infection, resulting in the accumulation of fluid in the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Certain things predispose a dog to pneumonia. Immune-compromised dogs, or dogs on immune-suppressive drugs, are more likely to succumb. Dogs fighting severe diseases like cancer are more prone to pneumonia. Dogs with neurological disorders, especially those that effect swallowing, are prone to aspiration pneumonia. Recumbent dogs who can no longer stand or walk without assistance are at greater risk of developing pneumonia.

Symptoms of Pneumonia in Dogs

Signs of pneumonia in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cough
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Bluish-colored gums and tongue (cyanosis)
  • Possible nasal discharge
  • Possible weight loss

Causes of pneumonia in dogs include:

  • Infectious agents (bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic)
  • Aspiration (food, liquid, regurgitated stomach contents)
  • Inhalation (smoke, chemical agents)

Things that predispose a dog to aspiration pneumonia include:

  • Brachycephalic breeds
  • Vomiting
  • Sedation
  • Anesthetic procedures involving endotracheal intubation
  • Larynx diseases like laryngeal paralysis
  • Esophageal neuromuscular diseases
  • Force feeding or forcing liquids
  • Gaseous distension of the stomach or “bloat”

Treating Pneumonia in Dogs

Treatment for pneumonia varies according to cause and severity, but almost always includes antibiotics.  How long to treat a dog with pneumonia is not set in stone. Some believe dogs should be treated for four to six weeks. Others start with two weeks and decide whether longer treatment is needed based on follow-up chest X-rays and bloodwork.

How long it takes a dog to get over pneumonia varies depending on the dog’s general health, nutritional status, and age. Older dogs or immune-compromised dogs generally take longer to fully recover, perhaps even months. Younger, otherwise healthy dogs generally recover more quickly, over the course of a couple of weeks.

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Dr. Eileen Fatcheric is a 1988 graduate of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She owned and managed her own small-animal veterinary hospital for 17 years and currently sees patients part time at VCA Fairmount Animal Hospital in Syracuse, New York.

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