What is Pyothorax?
Pus in the chest cavity found in the lungs and chest may cause an infection. If not treated immediately, it can become aggressive and fatal. A buildup of neutrophils, which are white blood cells, can influence the function of a dog's breathing. Plants, bite wounds, and pneumonia may also cause pus in the chest cavity area.When the body is fighting infection pus can accumulate in the chest cavity resulting in pyothorax. Pus is the canine's natural immune response to an infection in the body, and when the white blood cells die, a thick whitish-yellow fluid will be left behind. This will impair lung function and is commonly seen in hunting dogs as well as sporting breeds such as the American Foxhound, Beagle, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Weimaraner, and Pointer.
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Symptoms of Pyothorax in Dogs
Pus in the chest cavity area can easily be mistaken for a common cold in pets. Symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Breathing loss or changes
- Chest discomfort
- Previous fights with animals or visible puncture wounds
- Fatigue after exercise
- Gum discoloration (bluish shade)
Pet owners should be wary of bite wounds. Pus in the chest cavity can still build up even after a bite wound has closed.
Types of pus in the cavity area can be linked to several different bacteria, including:
- Bacterial infections (ex. actinomycosis, nocardiosis)
- Escherichia coli
In addition to bite wounds and particles in soil, bacteria infections can be spread from inhaling foreign objects, infections in the bloodstream, ruptured abscesses of the lungs and lung tumors.
Causes of Pyothorax in Dogs
While cancer and bite wounds are the worst case scenarios for buildup, there are other common ways that pets may struggle with this illness. For California pet owners, foxtails are one of the most dangerous types of grass for dogs to come in contact with.
The razor-sharp needles from foxtail barley and foxtail grass can get into a dog's skin through the soft tissue. Their usual mode of transportation into a dog's body include its ears, nose, paws, rear end and underbelly.
Foxtail attaches easier to dogs with long fur, and due to the thickness of the fur, it may attach longer. If foxtail grass gets near a dog's ear, it can injure the dog's ear drum. Through the paws, the grass can get inside of a dog's limb. But it's the nose and mouth where it has the best likelihood of meeting its target area into the lungs.
For pet owners outside of the west coast, rural areas in any location can be detrimental, too. Some of the biggest targets for foxtails include fences, landfills, lawns, mountain trails, open fields, roadsides and vacant lots. Ripgut brome and Canada wild rye are also dangerous awns.
Diagnosis of Pyothorax in Dogs
If the animal needs to be treated for pus in the chest cavity, the veterinarian will first ask about strange behavior. The ears, eyes, nose, underbelly, and toes will be the first point of examination, before moving into deeper areas, such as the lungs.
Depending on how far along the infection is, the diagnosis process may vary. Usual tests include:
- Blood test
- Chest tap
- Chest X-ray
- Chemical blood profile
If your veterinarian finds a foreign body in an X-ray they may request:
- Computed tomography (CT)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Depending on how aggressive the animal is during the diagnosis, sedation may be required. However, anesthesia may be a sufficient alternative.
Antibiotics don't generally work alone and are not recommended for a sufficient recovery option. Chest drainage must work with the antibiotics or on its own.
During the examination to see how severe the pus buildup is, the veterinarian will decide whether a less risky removal process, coupage, should be used or will the animal need thoracic surgery (chest-related surgery).
Treatment of Pyothorax in Dogs
Coupage, which is more common for flu treatment, is a less risky alternative that requires the veterinarian to lightly pump the area where the pus may be found. The coughing resulting from coupage will usually cause any inflammatory cell products, mucus, and pus to come up through the mouth.
Thoracic surgery that includes chest tubes, is commonly used to remove excess fluid from the pet's lungs so it can breathe easier, assuming the X-rays show that major surgery must be done. Fluid is flushed in to drain out the pus via chest tubes. The drained-out pus will then be examined using cytology to see how to best treat and remove it for good.
Chest tubes may require a 24-hour, overnight exam process and are found on each side of the chest. Unattended dogs who move around may risk the tubes coming unclamped, which leaves the chest cavity at risk of outside atmosphere. The dog will not be able to breathe if this happens. If chest tubes are used, it's imperative that the veterinarian have overnight services.
Recovery of Pyothorax in Dogs
If a veterinarian chooses antibiotic therapy, it may last approximately four to six weeks while chest drainage lasts overnight. Although the pet may be initially exhausted after the chest drainage, a veterinarian may recommend the pet exercise for a few hours for expedited healing and to help the animal breathe easier and better.
The timeframe for older dogs to recover from thoracic surgery is on an individual basis, but puppies and kittens can recover within days. The timeframe for older dogs is on an individual basis and considerably longer than the week span of younger animals.
Get rid of anything that could risk a secondary occurrence beforehand and definitely afterward.
- Make sure the dog is in a safe environment and away from the possible risk of battle with other animals, including wild animals that may enter a garden.
- Before investing in any future property, find out the risk of foxtail grass from real estate investors as well as veterinarians, who may already be treating animals in any particular neighborhood.
- Pet owners should mow down any spikelets, which have foxtails, and rake and throw them away.
- Avoid feeding a pet any cooked bones that could possibly get lodged in the esophagus.
Additional X-rays to monitor blood count will be recommended to make sure no additional pus buildup is found in the injured area. Keeping pets away from other animals and open field areas are also recommended, especially during the healing process, to prevent the risk of a second incident.
Pyothorax Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I don't know if this is what my dog has, but about how much is the diagnosis for Pyothorax?
Thickness and heaviness in her throat and chest, rapidly getting thicker and heavier daily.
Lethargic and unmotivated
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