Symptoms of Pneumonia in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Effects of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is not particularly common in healthy mature dogs. It is more often a disease of the very young, the very old and those with weak or compromised immune systems. When it does occur, pneumonia can be acute (come on suddenly) or chronic (come on slowly). The main functions of the lungs are to supply the blood with oxygen inhaled from outside air, and to dispose of carbon dioxide waste in exhaled air. When signs of pneumonia are present, they are attributable to insufficient intake of oxygen and inefficient oxygen exchange and delivery to body cells, both of which are caused by inflammation and irritation of airway and lung tissue and by mucus build-up in the respiratory tract.

Symptoms of Pneumonia in Dogs

Dogs with pneumonia may never show signs of their disease. When symptoms are present, they may include one or more of the following:

  • Rapid breathing (increased respiratory rate; tachypnea)
  • Deep breathing (increased respiratory depth)
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnea; labored breathing; respiratory distress on inspiration and exhalation)
  • Cough (usually soft, wet, bubbly and productive)
  • Nasal discharge (usually bilateral [coming from both nostrils] and thick with mucus and pus)
  • Sneezing
  • Chest congestion (wheezes and crackles detectable on auscultation [listening through a stethoscope])
  • Fever (+/-)
  • Lack of appetite (inappetence; anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Unusual stance – head lowered, front legs splayed at the elbows
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes (cyanosis)
  • Collapse

Dogs at Increased Risk

Young puppies and old dogs are the most common targets of pneumonia. Newborn puppies are vulnerable to developing aspiration pneumonia, especially if they are bottle-fed or if they have cleft palates. Any dog that is force-fed also has an increased chance of developing aspiration pneumonia. Dogs with damage to or diseases of the throat, trachea, esophagus, stomach, airways or lungs may have an increased risk of developing pneumonia, as do dogs whose immune systems are compromised for any reason.

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