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You remember when you were a kid playing outside in the cold weather and your mom always told you: “Come in the house before you catch pneumonia!”. But is pneumonia really caused by staying out in the cold too long, or are there other causes? Although cold, dry climates can contribute to risk factors for pneumonia, it is actually a nasty infection that affects the lungs.
Humans usually get pneumonia when their immune systems are weakened by other factors such as old age or an underlying sickness. Of course, animals can get respiratory infections, but can dogs get pneumonia, and if so, how alike is this condition in humans and dogs?
Can dogs get pneumonia?
There are two main types of pneumonia found in dogs: interstitial pneumonia, which is a disease, and bacterial pneumonia, caused by infection. Interstitial pneumonia is usually caused by heredity or previous damage to the lungs. For the sake of this article, the focus will be on bacterial pneumonia because it is found more often in dogs and has more similarities to the human condition. For more information on interstitial pneumonia, please check out our guide, Pneumonia (Interstitial) in Dogs.
Although some pet owners might brush the symptoms of pneumonia off as a cold or allergies, pneumonia in dogs can be a serious condition and should be immediately assessed by a licensed veterinarian.
Does my dog have pneumonia?
Pneumonia in dogs can turn ugly in a hurry. This condition can be fatal if it reaches the point of hypoxia (low blood oxygen) or sepsis (septic shock). Our guide on the subject, Bacterial Pneumonia in Dogs, lists the following symptoms:
Shallow rapid breathing or panting
Most dogs that get pneumonia have an at-risk immune system because of other conditions.
Many common respiratory bacteria that cause bacterial pneumonia are:
Bordetella bronchiseptica (AKA “kennel cough” and the most common)
Again, this is a serious situation and the urgency to see your veterinarian is very high. When you get to your vet, he/she will:
Listen to your dog’s lungs through a stethoscope
Take chest x-rays
Do a tracheal wash
Take blood and fecal samples
This will tell you what kind of infection you are dealing with so that your vet can prescribe the right medicine for the treatment of your dog.
How do I treat my dog's pneumonia?
Your vet will begin by giving your dog a broad-spectrum antibiotic until the tests come back to decipher what kind of infection your dog is dealing with. They will decide based on the tests on what type of antibiotic to continue your pet’s treatment and recovery. Depending on your pet’s case, your vet might prescribe medicine for your dog’s lung symptoms in order to break up any phlegm residing in the throat. Some vets might prescribe different exercise regimens to strengthen the tissues of the lungs in the recovery period.
How is pneumonia similar in dogs and humans?
For both humans and dogs, pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. Although the lungs of dogs and humans are different, many of the particulars of the condition are the same.
High risk in elderly dogs and people
High risk for people and dogs with compromised immune systems
Can be very dangerous and even fatal if left unattended
Affects the lungs
Can be contagious in certain situations
How is pneumonia different in dogs and humans?
There are many similarities across the board for pneumonia in humans and dogs (and other animals for that matter). There are a few differences, however.
Dogs can get “kennel cough”, which has been found to be more contagious than other causes of pneumonia
Humans often get pneumonia while in the hospital, making the diagnosis quicker, and easier to treat
With a condition like pneumonia, it is nasty no matter who has it. It can be a life-threatening infection and should be taken seriously.
In this case, an elderly dog was brought in with symptoms of wheezing, hacking and trouble breathing. A chest x-ray was ordered, confirming that the dog had pneumonia. Next, the case veterinarian did a tracheal wash to determine what type of pneumonia the dog had contracted. The veterinarian prescribed an antibiotic and an exercise regimen for the dog’s recovery.
The dog made a 70% recovery. With management and regular vet visits the residual symptoms were kept at a manageable level.
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