Dog: Pneumonia

General information

Other common/scientific names: bronchopneumonia, interstitial pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, pneumonitis

A dog has two sets of lungs on either side of the chest cavity. They surround the heart and fill most of the chest between the base of the neck and the diaphragm. Each set of lungs are made up of lobes or sections. The right lung has four lobes and the left lung has three. The lungs are responsible for taking in oxygen and eliminating waste gases like carbon dioxide. The trachea or windpipe is the tube that carries air from the base of the larynx (voicebox) to the beginning of the airways in the lungs where it splits into the left and right bronchi. The bronchi spread out into the lung tissue and continue to divide into smaller channels called bronchioles. These bronchioles eventually terminate into the tiny air sacs called alveoli from which respiratory gases are exchanged.

Pneumonia is defined as inflammation of the deep tissue of the lung. Pneumonia is a separate condition from bronchitis which is inflammation of the bronchi and bronchioles. These conditions commonly go together and are referred to as bronchopneumonia. Another type of pneumonia is called interstitial pneumonia which affects the tissue between the alveoli. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by food being inhaled into the lungs after repeated regurgitation from megaesophagus or chronic vomiting.

Abb. GGUHIOY5: Schematic illustration of the respiratory system.


Pneumonia can be further classified by its original cause:

Most cases of pneumonia have more than one cause and include a bacterial infection. Very young dogs, older dogs, heavily parasitized dogs and dogs living in poor conditions have weakened immune systems which can predispose them to pneumonia.


Contagious causes of pneumonia (kennel cough and distemper) are spread through respiratory secretions from coughing, infected dogs.

Cardinal symptom



Dogs with pneumonia typically have a moist, productive cough. Other signs include rapid breathing, fever, nasal discharge, depression, lack of appetite and listlessness.


Diagnosis of pneumonia is based on physical examination and careful auscultation (listening) of the lungs with a stethoscope for abnormal lung sounds. Chest radiographs are recommended and will reveal abnormal lungs. The x-ray pattern can help determine the cause and assess the severity of disease. Other laboratory testing needed are a fecal examination to detect parasite eggs, a heartworm test and a complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry and urinalysis to monitor inflammation and diagnose secondary systemic conditions.

A transtracheal wash is a procedure where the trachea is flushed and cells are obtained for identification and culture and sensitivity. These results can help with both the diagnosis and treatment. Bronchoscopy utilizes a flexible tube with a lighted scope to visualize the airways. The bronchoscope can also be used to obtain cells from deep in the lung and is typically used in specialty veterinary clinics.


Mildly affected dogs with pneumonia can be treated at home with oral antibiotics and airway humidification. Severely affected dogs will need to be hospitalized and treated with oxygen, intravenous fluids, intravenous antibiotics and supportive care.


Pneumonia is a serious disease and may take several weeks to resolve. However, bacterial infections usually respond well to antibiotics if diagnosed and treated early in the disease. Cases which have serious systemic disease or dogs which are severely debilitated have a much poorer prognosis.


Keeping your dog dewormed for endoparasites and vaccinated for preventable disease will keep your dog’s immune system strong and healthy. Click here for more information on canine vaccinations.

Many of the monthly medications used to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm disease also treat intestinal endoparasites. Veterinarians recommend that most dogs be given these monthly medications year round. All dogs should have an annual fecal examination performed.


Dogs that are treated at home will benefit from humidified air. A humidifier can be used in a small room such as a bathroom. The air in a bathroom can also be humidified by running the shower with warm water. The dog can be confined to the bathroom to inhale the warm, moist air.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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