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Health & Wellness

How to know if your dog has pneumonia

It may be surprising, but dogs can get pneumonia too.

While our pets aren’t prone to the same illnesses we occasionally experience, they can get colds and pneumonia. As it turns out, the symptoms of pneumonia in dogs are very similar to those we experience. 

The good news is, that you can’t give your dog pneumonia, and they can’t give it to you since it’s a different virus or bacteria that infects humans and dogs.

Symptoms of pneumonia in dogs

Pneumonia is a lung infection in which the tissue surrounding the airway is inflamed. Dogs actually experience symptoms similar to humans, like coughing, difficulty breathing and feeling tired. Your pup may also have a fever or decreased appetite.

“A thorough physical examination, including carefully listening to the chest, can be suggestive of a chest problem, but X-rays are still a great way to diagnose pneumonia definitively,” Dr. Kelly Diehl, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM (SAIM), a former vet and the senior scientific programs and communications adviser at Morris Animal Foundation, says. “Other tests such as collecting a fluid sample from the lungs can help pinpoint the exact cause of pneumonia and provide treatment guidance.”

Though a persistent cough is a major sign of pneumonia, a coughing pet doesn't necessarily have pneumonia. Kennel cough, for example, causes a very distinct, persistent cough, but few cases progress to pneumonia. If your dog is suddenly coughing a lot, it’s important to get them to a vet right away.

Pneumonia is more likely to be the culprit if your dog has a history of throat infections or when coughing is accompanied by a fever.

RELATED: How cold is too cold for dogs?

Types of pneumonia in dogs

Some types of pneumonia most commonly seen in dogs include:

  • Fungal: Coccidioides and cryptococcus are two common causes of fungal pneumonia.
  • Viral: Canine distemper and canine influenza can cause pneumonia.
  • Parasitic: Lungworms are common culprits along with other parasites that might migrate through the lungs.
  • Bacterial: This type generally occurs secondary to other causes.

How to treat pneumonia in dogs

The underlying cause of pneumonia will often determine the treatment plan. Generally, your dog will need antibiotics, as bacterial infections can develop while the immune system is busy fighting other viral or fungal invaders. Antibiotics can be given orally, through an intravenous (IV) catheter or through a nebulizer. Nebulization of antibiotics allows your dog to inhale the medicine directly into the infected lungs.

“No matter what the underlying cause might be, almost all dogs with pneumonia receive supportive care such as IV fluids, antibiotics and supplemental oxygen,” Dr. Diehl says. “Additional therapy can depend on whether a patient has any other health issues, such as heart disease.”

Dogs with mild cases of pneumonia will still eat and drink and can generally be managed at home after you consult a vet. Some pups with more severe cases will need hospitalization for fluids and antibiotics, while the most severe cases will need oxygen therapy and intensive care in the hospital. 

If you suspect your pup may have pneumonia, it’s important to contact your vet for a visit right away or take your dog to an emergency care center if their cough persists. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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