If your dog is coughing, running a fever, not interested in eating or acting listless, it might have a lung infection, also known as pneumonia. Although bacteria are the most common cause, viruses, fungi, parasites and even allergies can cause this potentially serious illness. Pneumonia can linger for weeks but is generally not life-threatening. Most dogs can be treated at home.
If your dog’s appetite and activity level are normal, you can provide care for pneumonia at home. Keep your dog inside as much as possible to avoid exposing it to wet weather or extreme cold, which can worsen its condition. Recovery partly depends on making sure infected matter is coughed up, so loosening the mucus and pus in the lungs is important. Put your dog in a room with a vaporizer twice a day for intervals of ten to fifteen minutes to keep its upper airway secretions moist.
You can also use a nebulizer that allows small mist droplets to enter the lungs and moistens secretions in the lower airway. Keep your dog in the bathroom for a short period after running a hot shower to create steam. Light daily exercise, such as walking, and a physical therapy technique called coupage will help loosen secretions, including those that are deep in the lungs. Coupage involves giving your dog’s chest wall quick and gentle taps, which stimulates coughing. Perform this technique four times a day.
Follow your veterinarian’s directions for administering antibiotics if your dog has a bacterial infection. Antibiotics might be needed for several weeks. Avoid giving your dog cough suppressants, which can hinder recovery. Bring your dog to the vet for re-check radiographs once a week to make sure the recovery process is going well.
If your dog experiences lethargy or loss of appetite, pneumonia treatment will require hospitalization. The hospital will keep your dog’s fluid levels stable through the use of intravenous fluid therapy. This will encourage coughing and prevent dehydration.
A tracheal wash, which involves taking a fluid sample from your dog’s lungs, might be necessary to determine which antibiotics will be most effective at killing the bacteria responsible for causing pneumonia. A combination of antibiotics might be used to treat your dog’s condition. Antibiotic injections ensure that the medications are fully absorbed into the body.
A nebulizer containing antibiotics can also be used to provide extra moisture and medication that will penetrate the lungs. A therapist will perform coupage four times every day to promote coughing. Your dog could be released from the hospital once it regains its appetite.
Your dog must continue antibiotic and physical therapy at home until it fully recovers. Weekly re-check radiographs will also be required.
If your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen, pneumonia will need to be treated with oxygen therapy. In some cases, around-the-clock care might also be necessary. Your dog might be fitted with an oxygen-delivery hood or placed in an oxygen cage that delivers 40% oxygen. Pneumonia rarely requires critical care, and most dogs given this type of treatment are able to recover.