My Puppy's Experience With Dog Pneumonia: Symptoms and More
Pneumonia in Dogs and Puppies
For the first time ever, I’m having to deal with dog pneumonia. More specifically, I’m dealing with puppy pneumonia. My three-week-old Great Dane pup, Shylock, has it. As a long time dog owner and breeder, I’m familiar with many dog health issues and was aware of pneumonia in dogs and puppies, but I’ve been lucky enough to have never been affected by the condition up until now.
I love Great Danes, and I have two adult males that have been neutered. My youngest daughter, Melissa, also has a Dane. Hers is a female who delivered a litter three weeks ago. The Great Dane puppies are the nieces and nephews of my fawn male, Hamlet. Hamlet is the best dog on the planet, so I wanted a puppy from the same bloodlines. I chose a male and named him Shylock.
The babies started out big and healthy. Then their mom, Kayla, got kennel cough, along with my harlequin Dane and my husband’s Basset hound. Kayla ended up with megaesophagus and had to stay at the vet clinic, so we had to bottle feed the puppies for a while. Kayla’s puppies got kennel cough, too. The other twp pups are almost over it, and I thought Shylock was, too. Now, however, he has dog pneumonia.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
When Shylock acted “funny” Tuesday morning, I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t too knowledgeable about the symptoms of pneumonia, but I thought he was having some sort of respiratory problem, as he was breathing hard. That morning was the first time the puppies sampled any real food—a thin gruel. The other two pups attacked the dog food, but Shylock showed no interest in it at all. At the time, I didn’t get too concerned. I thought maybe he had just received some milk from his mom.
When I returned in a couple of hours to check on Kayla and her pups, Shylock was listless. His brother and sister were play-fighting, but he was just lying still on the comforter, snuggled up to Kayla. Still, I thought maybe he was just sleepy, so I didn’t take any action. When I came back about an hour later, Shylock still wouldn’t eat. I also noticed that his tongue and gums weren’t their usual healthy pink color. They were more of a pale bluish color. All he wanted to do was sleep. I then decided it was time to see the vet.
There are other signs of pneumonia that I didn’t see in Shy. A dog or puppy with pneumonia might take an unusual stance, with its front legs far apart and its head hanging down or its neck stretched out. Vets say the canines do this to make breathing easier because it makes the chest expand.
Other pneumonia symptoms you might notice are as follows:
- a runny nose
- frequent coughing
- rapid breathing
- fast heartbeat
- a bubbling sound when the dog breathes
Some dogs don’t exhibit any typical symptoms of pneumonia at all, even though they have the illness.
See Your Vet ASAP
If you notice any signs of pneumonia in your dog or puppy, or even if the canine is behaving differently than is normal, please get it in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Healthy adult dogs rarely get pneumonia, but puppies, senior dogs, and canines that are already ill with another dog health problem are very susceptible.
In most cases of dog pneumonia, early treatment is the key to survival. I noticed Shylock’s problems early and got him to the vet within several hours. I think that, along with lots of prayers and my wonderful vet, is why he’s doing so well now.
Puppy with Pneumonia:
Types of Pneumonia
There are lots of different types of pneumonia, and several can affect canines. The ones most often seen in dogs are:
- viral pneumonia
- bacterial pneumonia
- aspiration pneumonia
Occasionally, other types of pneumonia might be seen in dogs and puppies. When a dog breathes in noxious fumes, small particles, or chemicals, it can get chemical pneumonia. When the agent responsible for the illness is breathed in, it irritates the lungs, causing inflammation. Other types of pneumonia in canines that might be seen are lung conditions caused by a fungus, or by a parasite like lungworms. In some cases, dog pneumonia is caused by an allergic reaction.
What Caused Shylock's Pneumonia?
My veterinarian isn’t sure what caused Shylock’s illness. In fact, the pup might have two different types of pneumonia—viral and bacterial—or he could possibly have aspiration pneumonia. Dr. D thinks Shy’s illness might have started out as viral pneumonia, perhaps from his bout with kennel cough. The viral infection could have led to bacterial pneumonia.
On the other hand, there’s a chance that my pup’s illness began with aspiration pneumonia. As you already know, we were having to bottle feed the Great Dane puppies while their mother was in the animal hospital, and bottle feeding puppies often causes aspiration pneumonia. Since the bout with kennel cough, we’ve been administering liquid meds by mouth to the pups, so that could have been the culprit, too.
Viral pneumonia is caused by a virus, obviously. In the case of dog pneumonia, the culprit is most often the canine distemper virus or canine influenza virus. Dog pneumonia can also be a serious secondary infection caused by canine parvovirus. By the way, kennel cough can also develop into pneumonia. Viral infections that might cause or complicate kennel cough include canine parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus, canine reo virus, canine herpes virus, and/or canine adenovirus.
Viral pneumonia usually isn’t as serious as bacterial pneumonia, but unfortunately, there’s often some overlapping. In other words, bacterial pneumonia often follows a viral pneumonia infection. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, but dogs can be vaccinated against some of the viruses that cause dog pneumonia.
Bacterial pneumonia can be caused by several different bacteria. With dog pneumonia, the bacteria most often responsible is the Bordetella bacteria. More specifically, it’s often Bordetella bronchiseptica, the same bacteria that’s often associated with kennel cough. Bacterial pneumonia in canines can also be caused by Streptococcus zooepidemicus, Proteus, Staphylococcus, Pasteurella, and E. coli.
Bacterial pneumonia can be serious, and in puppies and old dogs, it can be fatal. For canines with a weak immune system, the condition can be fatal, too. If diagnosed early enough, the bacteria might be eliminated with antibiotic treatment, and the pooch-patient might recover with good care. An affected dog might need to stay at a veterinary hospital for several days or even longer. Very sick dogs will need round-the-clock monitoring and professional veterinary care. Mild cases of dog pneumonia are sometimes treated at home.
One of the types of pneumonia that is often seen in puppies is aspiration pneumonia. This is especially true with bottle-fed puppies and with pups that have received liquid oral medications. Sometimes tube feeding can also cause aspiration pneumonia. That happens when the contents being delivered wind up in the trachea, or windpipe, instead of in the esophagus or stomach.
To prevent aspiration pneumonia, follow these tips:
- Deliver liquid oral medications slowly, providing enough time for the pup to swallow each drop.
- When bottle feeding puppies, make sure the hole in the bottle nipple is small and allows only a little puppy milk replacer to flow. The milk replacer should come out in drops—not in a steady stream.
- Don’t bottle feed a puppy while it’s on its back, either. Place the pup on its tummy while it’s bottle feeding.
- The puppy should suck the milk, so you shouldn’t squeeze the bottle.
- This might sound crazy, but it’s best to burp the puppy about halfway through each feeding. Do this just like you would with a human baby—hold the pup upright, over your shoulder.
What is bilateral pneumonia, sometimes called double pneumonia? Like humans, dogs have two lungs. When both are infected, it’s called bilateral pneumonia. When only one lung is affected, it’s referred to as unilateral pneumonia.
Shylock has double pneumonia. My veterinarian saw on the x-ray that both the puppy’s lungs were filled with fluid. As you’ve probably already surmised on your own, bilateral pneumonia is usually more serious than unilateral pneumonia. When only one lung is infected, the canine can at least acquire oxygen more easily.
Once my veterinarian examined Shylock, it didn’t take him long to come up with a pneumonia diagnosis. He listened to the puppy’s lungs with a stethoscope, and he heard the bubbling and congestion. A chest x-ray confirmed the pneumonia diagnosis. His lungs were full of fluid, although the pup had no fever. In fact, his body temperature was a little low. That surprised me, but the vet said that only about half of puppies with pneumonia have fever.
Your vet might also use blood tests as part of a pneumonia diagnosis, along with a urinalysis. He or she might also perform a tracheal wash to identify the infection.
I took Shylock back to his mom and siblings, but I watched him closely. In less than an hour, his breathing became even harder. Every time he exhaled, he grunted. He still had no appetite, either, so back to the vet he went. He was given IV antibiotics and had to stay at the clinic. The vet didn’t give him much of a chance of survival. I was heartbroken. This puppy was born on my birthday, and I’d spent hours and hours bottle feeding the Great Dane puppies and providing their other care. When Shylock opened his eyes, the first thing he saw was me. I instructed the vet to save Shy, no matter how much it cost.
Treatment for Pneumonia
Shylock was already on oral antibiotics for kennel cough, which were prescribed by my daughter’s vet. We use different veterinarians. My vet put my pup on oral Augmentin, explaining that based on his experience, Augmentin works better in young puppies. He also told me to keep the puppy on a heating pad.
When Shylock was taken back to the vet that afternoon, the vet did some blood tests. Shylock was having difficulty breathing, so part of his treatment for pneumonia was to be placed on oxygen. I was happy about that because the little guy wouldn’t have to struggle to get enough air. Shy was also placed on IV antibiotics and given fluids. When he survived the night, my vet increased the pup’s chances to 50/50. He still wouldn’t eat, however, and remained listless. That morning, Wednesday, there had been no change in Shylock’s lungs.
This morning, I was afraid to call the vet. The clinic opens at 7:30, and I had my husband call at 7:32. He was told the vet was working with Shylock and we’d get a call in a few minutes. Okay. Dr. D was “working with Shylock.” That meant the little guy was still alive! I was elated.
Within a few minutes, I got the call from Dr. D. He said Shylock had devoured a good breakfast of canned critical care dog food. That was the first time he’d ever consumed anything other than his mom’s milk and puppy milk replacer. Amazingly, the good doctor also said Shylock’s lungs were almost—if not completely—clear and normal. He said we could take our baby home, so hubby went to get him immediately.
Switching From Bottle to Canned Food
Shy was living at our house for the first few days after his pneumonia diagnosis. The vet didn’t want him to be around the other puppies. He slept in a small playpen with a heating pad and a blanket. At first, Dr. D told me not to bottle feed Shy anymore. I was to feed him the canned critical dog food mixed with Esbilac powder and warm water.
I did that for the first feeding, and Shylock did a pretty good job of lapping up the gruel. After that, however, he wouldn’t eat much of it. He kept looking frantically for a teat or a bottle. He sucked my chin, his blanket, and just about anything else he could get his mouth on. I felt so sorry for him that I called and asked if I could please give him a bottle. The vet okayed it but told me to give it to him slowly so he wouldn’t aspirate any of the liquid. Surprisingly, Shylock wouldn’t suck the bottle. He played with it a little, but he wouldn’t “latch on.”
When Shy returned to the vet yesterday evening, hubby told Dr. D about Shylock’s refusal to suck. Dr. D said his appetite probably hadn’t fully returned yet. Also, some antibiotics for pneumonia make the canine patient feel a little queasy or nauseous. He checked the pup’s lungs, and they still sounded good. As soon as hubby and Shy returned home from the clinic, I made some more gruel, and the pup ate it.
Today is Friday, and my puppy is still doing well. He's gone back to be with his mother and his siblings. At today’s visit at the vet’s, Shylock’s IV port was removed. He’ll have to return to the clinic in the morning to get one final shot of antibiotics for pneumonia. After that, he’ll just continue with his oral antibiotics.
Good Nursing Practices
The basics of our pneumonia treatment for Shylock include good nursing:
- We make sure our pup gets adequate food and hydration.
- We keep him warm on a heating pad, in a small toddler playpen.
- We’ve placed the playpen away from our other dogs, in a quiet room that’s closed off.
- I take him out several times a day to eat and to walk around some. He needs a little exercise, but I don’t allow him to get too tired or too hot.
- He also enjoys napping in my lap. When the pup was sleeping a lot, I changed his position frequently.
- Shylock poops and pees on his own, so I no longer have to manually stimulate his genital area. He’s never soiled his playpen bedding, but I washed and dried it every day, anyway.
Coupage and a Nebulizer
Another pneumonia treatment you might want to try is something called coupage. With this technique, the dog’s chest is tapped by a human hand, which helps loosen the secretions in the lungs. If you want to try this at home, consult with your vet first to make sure you do it right.
Treatment for pneumonia sometimes includes the use of a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a device that delivers tiny droplets into the lungs. The droplets might contain medications that help open up the airways, and/or they might contain antibiotics that will help get rid of the lung infection.
Antibiotics for Pneumonia
Different vets might use different antibiotics for pneumonia. The choice might be made according to whether or not the specific bacteria was identified. Even if your dog or puppy has viral pneumonia, he might receive antibiotics to protect against bacterial infections. Shylock gets two doses of an oral antibiotic every day one in the morning and another in the evening. The vet also placed a port in the puppy’s front leg so he can get IV antibiotics. We have to take Shy to the vet every morning and every evening for his IV antibiotics. The first thing the vet has to do is to flush the port in order to clean it. Shy likes to wade in his puppy food gruel, so the port gets pretty nasty.
The oral antibiotic Shylock gets each day is Augmentin, the brand name for an amoxicillin and clavulanate potassium combination. Both drugs are similar to penicillin, but the clavulanate is often effective in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The IV antibiotic Shy is getting is Cefazolin. Cefazolin is used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections, and can be given via IV or intramuscular injection.
I’ve been pretty amazed at how quickly antibiotics for pneumonia can work. Shylock was practically at death’s door on Tuesday evening, and in just forty-eight hours, he was like a different puppy. Today he acts like a normal, healthy puppy. He barks, he growls, he eats well, and he plays with our other dogs. He loves being held, and he loves exploring. I asked my vet about permanent damage, and he told me not to worry. Shy might have a little scarring on his lungs, but it shouldn’t be a problem, long term.
See a Vet as Soon as Possible If You Suspect Puppy Pneumonia
Since you’re reading this article about dog pneumonia, that probably means you do a lot of research on the internet when you have a question. I know I’m guilty of doing it. When my sweet little puppy received a pneumonia diagnosis, I immediately began reading all I could find about pneumonia in puppies. Included in my searches were several articles written by veterinarians. On most of the sites, the prognosis for a puppy with pneumonia didn’t sound very hopeful at all. I had all but convinced myself that Shylock wouldn’t survive puppy pneumonia. I was trying to prepare myself for the worst, but so far, it looks like my baby is going to pull through.
Pneumonia in dogs—especially in young puppies—is nothing to fool around with! If you even think your puppy is sick, take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier it's treated, the better the chances are for survival. Dog pneumonia is sometimes difficult to treat, but it can be done.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.