When Radar feels downright rotten with fever, coughing, rapid breathing and nasal discharge, you have a very sick puppy on your hands. These are all symptoms of canine pneumonia, an illness that warrants immediate veterinary care. Typically dogs who get pneumonia are ones whose immune systems are weak, such as very young pups or older dogs.
Canine pneumonia is a secondary condition of other conditions -- pneumonia itself isn't transmitted, it develops as a result of not getting effective treatment for the initial illness. Those other conditions could be chronic bronchitis, kennel cough or bordatella, or canine influenza, which have essentially the same symptoms as pneumonia. Other than bronchitis, these illnesses can be transmitted by contact with other dogs who are infected, especially if the sick dog sneezes or coughs on your dog. Canine pneumonia can develop another way: if your dog inhales fluid into his lungs, typically while under anesthesia, or even by breathing in smoke or by swallowing kerosene or gasoline.
Since the signs of canine pneumonia are essentially the same as those of canine influenza, your vet listen to Radar's lungs and will have to X-ray his chest to confirm whether fluid is present. She'll do a blood test, too, along with a bacterial culture to help determine how best to treat your dog and what antibiotics to use.
Radar needs to cough to clear his lungs and make it easier to breathe. Take him to the vet immediately. The vet will prescribe antibiotics based on the bacteria that's present in your dog's system. Your pooch will need to take the medication for at least three weeks, but your vet will check your dog's recovery progress with another chest X-ray to determine whether your dog's lungs are clearing effectively or if alternative or additional medication is needed.
The most effective way to prevent your dog from getting canine pneumonia is to guard his health. Keep Radar away from dogs who have the flu or kennel cough. Talk to your vet about vaccinating your dog for bordatella or canine flu, especially if he is going to unavoidably be exposed to other dogs who could be unhealthy -- such as if he's going to be boarded at a kennel or if he routinely goes to the doggy park. And if your pooch shows the slightest sign of respiratory disease, don't put off a visit to the vet. It's better to catch and treat a lesser illness early than risk having it turn into pneumonia.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.