Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Goal pneumonia takes place when gastrointestinal contents have been breathed in into your dogs’ lungs. This results in a secondary swelling and infection of the lung. Due to this inflammation, excessive fluid and mucus collects within the lower airway, causing trouble breathing. Aspiration pneumonia is generally a dangerous emergency that warrants an immediate journey to your vet or emergency situation vet.

Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What could cause my dog to have aspiration pneumonia?

Dogs that develop aspiration pneumonia usually have a history of:

  • Current anesthesia or sedation
  • Vomiting
  • A diagnosis of a hidden medical condition that predisposes the dog towards goal
  • Neurologic issues

Medical conditions that make a dog most likely to aspirate vomitus into their lungs include1,2:

  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Megaesophagus
  • Persistent right aortic arch (seen in pups)
  • Genetic esophagus problems
  • Gastrointestinal disease

Likewise, if your dog had recent sedation or anesthesia for surgery, has an underlying medical condition that inclines him to goal or gets ill after vomiting, he may have goal pneumonia. Scientific signs of aspiration pneumonia consist of:

  • Not consuming
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • An increased breathing rate
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Noisy or damp breathing
  • Blue-colored gums
  • Extending of the neck out to breath
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

Medical diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia

The medical diagnosis of goal pneumonia in dogs normally starts with a comprehensive physical examination by your veterinarian (including careful auscultation [listening to internal body sounds] with a stethoscope for abnormal lung noises). Extra tests to detect aspiration pneumonia include:

  • Chest x-rays
  • Abdominal x-rays (to look for the cause of vomiting)
  • Baseline blood work to make sure the kidneys, liver and other organs are working appropriately and to see if the leukocyte count rises
  • Pulse oximetry or an arterial blood gas to determine the oxygen level within the lungs or blood.

In some cases, a transtracheal wash or endotracheal lavage is essential to detect the underlying bacterial infection within the lung. This is a “fluid wash” where fluid is flushed into the lung and then reclaimed for culture testing. This is often crucial to assist eliminate other.
causes of pneumonia, such as other bacterial causes (e.g., kennel cough pneumonia secondary to Bordatella bronchiseptica), fungal causes (e.g., Blastomycoses), or perhaps cancer.

Treatment of aspiration pneumonia

If you notice any of the scientific signs of aspiration pneumonia, immediate treatment at your veterinarian is needed. Treatment consists of oxygen therapy, intravenous (IV) catheter gain access to, IV fluids, and IV antibiotics. Additional therapy may include:

  • Anti-vomiting medication (e.g., maropitant)
  • Nebulization and coupage (your vet will discuss)
  • Lung expanders (e.g., bronchodilators)

When your dog is more steady, diagnostics such as blood work and x-rays need to be performed.

Treatment must not consist of diuretics (e.g., water tablets) that can dehydrate the patient or cough suppressants (which can avoid the pus in the lungs from being coughed up). Also, drugs that suppress the body immune system (e.g., cyclosporine, prednisone) typically should not be used as they can prevent the body from battling the infection within the lung.

As soon as a dog can breathe without the assistance of oxygen therapy, treatment at home consists of antibiotic therapy for 3-5 weeks. Regular veterinary rechecks should be performed to make sure the pneumonia is resolving — this will consist of recheck of chest x-rays around once a week for several weeks. Oral antibiotics ought to be continued for one week past the resolution of abnormal x-ray patterns.

The good news is, the diagnosis for goal pneumonia readies, with a typical 77-81.6% survival rate1,2. Nevertheless, this can be a significant complication of even optional surgery, and can include substantial expenses due to hospitalization and treatment.

Concerns to ask your veterinarian:

  • How well is my dog oxygenating?
  • Does my dog need oxygen?
  • Does my dog have to be referred or moved to an emergency situation center or specialty healthcare facility for oxygen?

Also read: Laryngeal Paralysis in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments


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