There are several types of pneumonia caused by one or more of a host of microorganisms. Many bacteria, viruses, and fungi are all capable of infecting the lungs, causing this disease. Our dogs may appear to have little congestion one day and be dying of it the next. The congestion is seen and the diagnosis is verified by chest radiographs.
As with so many diseases, most pneumonia is overcome by the dog, whereas other pneumonia is cured only with the correct anatomic or anti-fungal medication. Virus-caused pneumonia is omitted since we have no virus-destroying medication, but antibiotics are helpful to prevent secondary bacteria from developing in virus-damaged tissue.
The great lifesaver, penicillin, is used to cure most bacterial pneumonia, but bacteria are becoming resistant to many of our older tried-and-true drugs and many of the newer drugs are more specific for a few bacteria. It is difficult to obtain bacteria from the lungs of affected, critically ill dogs to find out which correct antibiotic should be used. It seems to us the mortality rate in pneumonia cases is rising despite the scores of drugs we have available.
Signs of pneumonia are usually shortness of breath, frequently but not always cough, fever, lassitude with loss of responsiveness, and a reduced desire for food. These signs are a good reason to seek veterinary help promptly. Many dogs are in such a critical condition they need oxygen for a few days while medications are working. Most cases should be hospitalized while they are receiving injectable medication, which seems to us to be currently more effective than oral ones. Warmth and restricted exercise are important, as small amounts of high-quality food are fed often or intravenous feeding.
Dogs may contract many types of pneumonia: bronchopneumonia, lobar pneumonia, terminus pneumonia, traumatic pneumonia, and inhalation pneumonia. Owners, however, need not concern themselves with learning to distinguish among these types. It is sufficient if they can recognize the symptoms common to all kinds of pneumonia – fever, shallow breathing, and loss of appetite. Mucus may be discharged from the dog’s nose, but this does not always occur. The chief distinguishing feature is the vibrating, grating sound in the dog’s chest. If these symptoms are observed, the dog should be taken to the veterinarian.
Treatment consists of killing or inhibiting the germs that cause the disease and maintaining the dog in a comfortable environment. Pneumonia germs are almost always present in a dog; pneumonia is an opportunistic disease that develops when the system is run down or when the guards against the disease are off duty. It is not necessarily contagious. Therefore it is apparent that the dog must be restored to good health principally by improving its general physical condition. It should be encouraged to eat by being fed the foods it likes best. If it is cold, place the dog in a warns environment.
Treatment is started as early as possible. Since the dog’s body is no longer called upon to do all the work of combating the invading or other germs that cause the disease, it is not necessary to wait for the crisis, which was once a crucial time in pneumonia medication.
In an advanced case, in which the lungs are badly congested, the use of an oxygen tent may be necessary to save the dog’s life. Your veterinarian will decide if such treatment is needed.
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