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Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

While respiratory conditions can be very serious and potentially life-threatening, quick diagnosis and treatment can help lead your pup to a full recovery. Today, our Westminster veterinary respiratory specialists can help answer any questions that you may have about aspiration pneumonia in dogs and how it's treated.

Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

Aspiration pneumonia can occur if your dog accidentally inhales medication or vomits, if they have an abnormality of their pharynx, or if a neuromuscular disorder affects their respiratory system. In less common instances, an incorrectly placed feeding tube or enlargement of your dog's lower esophagus caused by frequent regurgitation may lead to aspiration pneumonia. 

Causes of Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when your dog inhales a foreign substance.

This most commonly occurs if your dog inhales their vomit and is most commonly seen in very young puppies.

What are the dangers of aspiration pneumonia in dogs?

If the particles that are inhaled are quite large then your dog may experience an obstruction of their airway. If your dog has an obstruction, they will require immediate medical attention. Please contact your nearest emergency veterinary clinic in Westminster if you suspect this.

Another concern would be the inhalation of smaller particles causing an increase in the production of mucus as well as inflammation which can cause the airways to constrict. This can make respiration very difficult and potentially painful for your pup.

Your dog may also inhale gastric acids that can damage the surfaces of the internal organs and systems. This may cause bronchospasms and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) resulting in an emergency.

One other danger that can occur with pneumonia is bacterial infections that can be life-threatening and also require quick diagnosis and treatment.

Signs of Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

As is the case with most respiratory conditions, the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia are much the same as those listed for bacterial pneumonia and may include one or more of the following:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Nasal whistling
  • Irregular breathing
  • Loss of appetite

However, aspiration pneumonia may also cause other symptoms such as: 

  • Frequent regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bluish skin
  • Altered mood

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia contact your vet to book an appointment for your pet. Early diagnosis and treatment could help to prevent more severe, harder-to-treat, symptoms from developing.

Diagnosing Aspiration Pneumonia

When it comes to diagnosing your dog's condition, your vet will likely begin by requesting their medical history. You will be able to inform the veterinary specialist or pulmonologist at this time if your dog recently vomited.

If this is the case, and the vet determines that particle inhalation is possible they may request a chest X-ray.

Some other diagnostic tests may include a physical examination and blood work. This can help to rule out any other possible causes.

The chest X-ray will help to diagnose aspiration pneumonia as well as any other issues such as a bacterial infection, that may be affecting the lungs and airways.

Treating Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

After being diagnosed with infectious or aspiration pneumonia, vets will often prescribe your dog medications to help control its symptoms. These can include anti-inflammatory medications for pain or fever and expectorants for coughing and breathing issues.

In more severe cases, your pup may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics, supplemented oxygen, and fluid therapy.

Helping Your Dog Recover From Pneumonia

Your vet will provide you with specific instructions on caring for your dog during its recovery from pneumonia, but typical instructions for care include:

  • Supplying plenty of fresh water to help keep them hydrated during their recovery.
  • Provide your dog with a steam treatment by running a hot shower while you sit with your dog in the shower room or bathroom.
  • Restrict your dog's activities while they recover.
  • Keep other pets and small children away from your dog to allow them to get adequate rest.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog is showing signs of pneumonia? Contact our Westminster vets to ask about obtaining a referral to our specialty hospital.

New Patients Welcome

Choice Veterinary Specialists is accepting new patients. Our experienced veterinary specialists are passionate about improving the health of Westminster animals with complex healthcare needs. Contact us today.

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