Canine Pneumonia

by Quentin Coleman
    Shelters and pounds are vulnerable to outbreaks of pneumonia-causing illnesses.

    Shelters and pounds are vulnerable to outbreaks of pneumonia-causing illnesses.

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    Pneumonia is a scary word. The condition has various symptoms and causes, and you should consider any case of it ife-threatening. In dogs, serious symptoms of pneumonia can develop overnight. You need to be able to identify the clinical signs quickly so you can seek medical treatment immediately after onset.

    It's difficult to precisely define canine pneumonia. The term is a general description of lung inflammation that can be caused by various infections and other health problems. Pneumonia affects your dog's lungs and lower respiratory system, while bronchitis is a similar inflammation of the throat and upper airways. These two similar conditions are actually different, but they are often present simultaneously. Dogs suffering from both conditions are said to have bronchopneumonia. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably by veterinarians, which can be confusing for dog owners.

    Your pet could be suffering from pneumonia for days or weeks before showing any obvious signs. Take him to the vet if he's uncharacteristically lethargic or suddenly unwilling to exercise. Take note of other warning signs of long-term inflammation like heavy breathing, weight loss and a constant runny nose. Acute symptoms include anorexia, rapid breathing, coughing and vomiting. These inflammation symptoms emerge as the condition worsens and they represent a serious degradation of your dog's health. Don't hesitate to take him to the vet or an emergency medical center immediately if you notice any of these warning signs.

    Pneumonia is difficult to characterize because there are many predisposing factors and causes. The condition is sometimes classified based on the source. Bacterial lung infections are the most prevalent cause of canine pneumonia, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Common bacterial culprits include Bordetella bronchiseptica, Streptococcus zooepidemicus and E. coli. Some fungal species, like Coccidioidomycosis immitis, are also associated with pneumonia in dogs. Lung inflammation may be caused by worms or other parasites in the lungs, viral infections and allergic reactions. Canine influenza, distemper and herpesvirus are frequent sources of viral pneumonia in dogs.

    Your vet will prescribe treatment measures depending on your dog's condition. Some instances of pneumonia are treatable at home, but critical cases require extensive management techniques at a medical center, including intravenous fluid therapy. Curing pneumonia depends on treating the underlying cause. Antibiotics combat bacterial pneumonia, and medication is available to fight fungal infections. Your vet may recommend that you place a nebulizer, which is similar to a vaporizer, in your home to ease your dog's labored breathing. The vet may also suggest brief periods of daily exercise to help loosen the mucus in your dog's lungs. While most dogs recover from pneumonia, the condition does have a mortality rate between 1 percent and 5 percent, according to the Irish Wolfhound Foundation website.

    Most sources of canine pneumonia are highly contagious and can sweep through a population of dogs in days. Keep sick dogs separated from your other pets. If you interact with your sick pup, make sure you change your clothes and wash your hands before touching your other dogs. When your pets at home aren't feeling well, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Treating infections early is the best way to prevent it from inflaming the lungs and turning into pneumonia. Clean your dog's toys, kennel and bowls throughout his sickness and after he recovers to make sure no germs linger on their surfaces.

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    About the Author

    Quentin Coleman has written for several news publications as well as the University of Delaware's public relations department. He also spent more than 10 years working with a local animal shelter to help nurse kittens, treat sick cats and domesticate feral animals. Coleman graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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