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Can Dogs Get Pneumonia? A Guide for Pet Owners
By: Brianna Gunter
Pneumonia is a serious illness that affects millions of Americans annually, especially in the winter months. But have you ever wondered if your dog can get pneumonia?
As many dog owners are surprised to discover every year, the answer is yes. In fact, Trupanion data (as of December 2021) reveals 13,900 paid pneumonia claims since 2005 alone. If we divide that number evenly, that’s nearly 900 pets a year!
The thing is, pneumonia in canines can go undetected at first because it can mimic colds and more routine illnesses. But since it can also start and progress rather quickly, it’s crucial for all dog owners to know what to look for. Read on to learn how pneumonia affects dogs and what kinds of signs you should be aware of.
What is canine pneumonia?
No dog parent wants to hear that their furry friend is sick. But when they do get ill, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with in order to provide them with the best care.
“When referring to pneumonia, we are most commonly referring to a deep infection of the lungs,” says Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde. “This infection causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the airways, leading to a cough, and can progress to severe difficulty breathing. Pneumonia can be life-threatening in severe cases.”
There are actually several different types of pneumonia in dogs. Bacterial and viral are the most common, but there are others to be aware of.
- Bacterial pneumonia — Pneumonia resulting from a bacterial infection in the lungs.
- Viral pneumonia — Pneumatic infection caused by a virus, including canine distemper virus or canine influenza (dog flu).
- Fungal pneumonia — Also referred to as “mycotic infection,” this kind of pneumonia is caused by inhaled fungi. The types of fungi known to cause pneumonia in dogs vary greatly by region.
- Chemical pneumonia — Pneumonia resulting after inhalation of harmful liquids, gases, fumes, or other substances.
- Parasitic pneumonia — Rare, but often deadly, form of pneumonia caused by parasitic organisms in the lungs.
Just like their human counterparts, dogs often contract pneumonia-causing agents out in public. Because of this, it’s very important to be mindful of your pet’s health and surroundings whether at your local dog park or traveling at the airport.
Wilde also advises that any dog owners who suspect pneumonia in their pet seek medical attention as soon as possible. Only your veterinarian will be able to make a proper pneumonia diagnosis. They will also be able to determine the severity of the illness and start necessary treatment.
Signs of pneumonia in dogs
Because pneumonia often mimics seasonal colds and other common illnesses, it can be tricky to tell whether your canine pal is suffering from pneumonia.
According to Wilde, these are some of the main signs of pneumonia in dogs:
- Nasal discharge
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty breathing
“The cough is often a moist, deep cough that may or may not be productive,” Wilde says. In other words, your dog may be coughing up mucus or nothing at all.
Keep in mind that your furry loved one could be displaying one or more signs of canine pneumonia. Even if it all appears subtle, it’s a good idea to go get them checked out sooner rather than later.
Dogs at risk of pneumonia
Is your pal more likely to get pneumonia than other pets? While all dog breeds and sizes can contract the illness, the truth is that some dogs are naturally at higher risk:
- Older dogs
- Dogs with underlying illnesses or medical conditions
- Dogs who are often in close proximity to other dogs
- Short-nosed dog breeds
How is pneumonia in dogs treated?
Getting treatment is essential to make sure your furry family member is on the road to recovery. It all starts with bringing your dog into the veterinarian as soon as they develop a cough or display other signs of the illness.
“The veterinarian can listen to their lungs and make appropriate diagnostic recommendations,” Wilde says. “Listening to the lungs can also help determine where in the respiratory tract the cough is originating. Feeling the throat and checking the lymph nodes will also help in evaluation a dog with a cough.”
In addition to a manual exam, your pet’s veterinarian may use X-rays, biopsies, or other diagnostic testing methods. Once pneumonia is confirmed, treatment will be prescribed according to the severity of the case.
“In uncomplicated cases, they can go home with antibiotics,” Wilde explains. “In severe cases, they may require hospitalization with supplemental oxygen and intravenous antibiotics and fluid therapy. Antibiotic/antifungal therapy is generally a longer course depending on the specific cause of pneumonia.”
What the Trupanion claims data shows
Trupanion has paid for a total of 13,900 dog pneumonia claims since 2005. According to Trupanion data analyst Malia Prescott, that adds up to nearly $8.8 million.
Prescott also notes that certain dog breeds appear to be more at risk. The English bulldog, for example, is 4.1 times more likely to be involved in a pneumonia claim than the average pet. Coming in close second is the Great Dane, which is 3.9 times more likely. There’s also the French bulldog, which is 2.4 times more likely to be in a pneumonia claim.
Protect your pal
Nobody likes to think anything bad will happen to their pet, but life is unpredictable. While pneumonia can be a very dangerous illness in dogs, prompt and proper treatment can put your buddy on the road to speedy recovery.
There’s no time like the present to do what you can to protect your dog. In addition to knowing the signs of pneumonia and how it’s caused, having a dog health insurance plan is a good idea to care for your pal’s health in all seasons.
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This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.