Bronchopneumonia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Bronchopneumonia in DogsBronchopneumonia in dogs is an inflammation of the upper lungs and airways, including the bronchioles and bronchi, where the passageways enlarge making it difficult for the dog to breathe.

It is usually caused by bacterial infections, but some cases result from severe fungal and parasitic infections. Irritants in the air such as tobacco smoke or smog can increase the risk of bronchopneumonia in dogs. 

The condition can be fatal if left untreated and is advisable to seek immediate veterinary assistance for your dog.

Bacterial bronchopneumonia in dogs

Bacterial bronchopneumonia is caused by bacteria such as kennel cough, avian cholera, E.coli, strep throat, Mycoplasma, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. 

Dogs with Addison’s disease, cleft palate, viral infections, uncontrolled diabetes, and chronic vomiting are at a higher risk of getting infected. Puppies and older dogs are also more at risk due to their weak immune systems.

Aspiration bronchopneumonia in dogs

Apart from bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, inhalation of foreign objects can also cause bronchopneumonia (aspiration bronchopneumonia). Dogs at risk of suffering this form of pneumonia include those that attempt to eat or drink quickly and end up choking.

Puppies and dogs can also aspirate if a liquid such as medicine or intravenous fluids is delivered too quickly. Aspiration bronchopneumonia can be more fatal than the other forms of the disease.

Symptoms of bronchopneumonia in dogs

The most common signs a dog might be suffering from bronchopneumonia include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • listlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Cracking sounds from the lungs

You should, however, be cautious not to mistake other respiratory infections with bronchopneumonia. Conditions that present similar symptoms as bronchopneumonia include:

  • Bronchitis
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Tracheal bronchitis
  • Heartworm
  • Presence of a foreign body

Causes of bronchopneumonia in dogs

The causes of canine bronchopneumonia include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasitic worms, protozoa, and rickettsia. Viral bronchopneumonia in dogs is usually more serious than its bacterial counterpart and can be fatal if left untreated for long.

Diagnosis of bronchopneumonia in dogs

Bronchopneumonia in Dogs
Dog sleeping | Image credit: Freepik

The veterinarian will first perform a physical examination to assess the state of your dog’s health. This may include careful evaluation of the lungs and heart. If the veterinarian diagnoses cracking noises in the lungs then it’s highly likely the dog has bacterial bronchopneumonia.

Your veterinarian may also ask for your pet’s full medical history if there’s a need for further assessment. Factors such as recent weight loss, drastic loss of appetite, exposure to respiratory irritants, and how well your dog tolerates physical exercises will help achieve an accurate diagnosis.

Other tests may be necessary to rule out other possible conditions based on the symptoms your dog is presenting and initial test results. The veterinarian may do a complete blood count, chest x-ray, and airway cytology tests to rule out conditions that present symptoms similar to bronchopneumonia in dogs.

Treatments of bronchopneumonia in dogs

Your veterinarian will recommend the use of antibiotics if your dog is suffering from bacterial bronchopneumonia. Severe cases may require your pet to be hospitalized and receive IV fluids, oxygen therapy, and supportive care. The veterinarian may also turn to airways humidification, removal of secretions, bronchodilator therapy, cough suppressants, and expectorants.

Treating aspiration bronchopneumonia in dogs is often focused on supportive care such as transtracheal wash. The use of fluids, antioxidants, expectorants, and oxygen therapy will help relieve the symptoms. Severe cases of aspiration bronchopneumonia will probably see your dog hospitalized while receiving IV fluids.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we answer a few of the commonly asked questions relating to bronchial pneumonia in dogs.

How does a dog get bronchial pneumonia?

Bronchial pneumonia in dogs can be caused by different agents including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasitic worms, protozoa, and foreign bodies getting stuck in the air passageways such as the bronchi. Aspiration bronchial pneumonia can result from rapid eating, drinking, or injection of fluids such as IV fluids and medicine.

How is bronchopneumonia treated in dogs?

Treatments of canine bronchopneumonia vary. Bacterial bronchopneumonia requires the use of antibiotics while aspiration bronchopneumonia often requires supportive care treatments. Severe bacterial bronchopneumonia requires IV fluids, oxygen therapy, expectorants, cough suppressants, and bronchodilator therapy while aspiration bronchopneumonia requires antioxidants, expectorants, oxygen therapy, and IV fluids.

How do you prevent bronchopneumonia in dogs?

The best way to prevent bronchopneumonia in dogs is by having them vaccinated. There are vaccines available to keep your dogs safe from common respiratory infections, including viral and bacterial bronchial pneumonia. Vaccinated dogs are less likely to get infected but when they do the symptoms are mild and recover quite fast.

What is the difference between pneumonia and bronchopneumonia?

Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lower respiratory tract and the lungs while bronchopneumonia (bronchial pneumonia) is an inflammation of the upper lungs and the airways, including the bronchi and bronchioles. The terms can sometimes be used interchangeably unless you want to be specific about the location of the infection.

Can bronchopneumonia kill a dog?

Sadly YES. Severe cases of bronchopneumonia cause sufficient damage to the lungs and respiratory tract weakening the body’s ability to protect itself while making it extremely hard for the dog to breathe. That’s why severe cases require the use of oxygen therapy or bronchodilator therapy to help the dog get sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream.

Final thoughts

Bronchopneumonia in dogs is a common health scare. Although it rarely kills, untreated severe cases can be life-threatening. You should take your dog for a veterinary check if you suspect she’s suffering from bronchial pneumonia.

(Image credit: Freepik)

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