Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

Aspiration pneumonia in dogs occurs when your dog inhales a foreign substance and develops lung inflammation as a result. Aspiration pneumonia often happens as a complication of disorders that cause vomiting, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing or esophageal paralysis. Here's what you should know about aspiration pneumonia in dogs.

Causes of Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

There are a number of different conditions that can cause aspiration pneumonia. Throat and mouth disorders, including cleft palate, are often to blame. Esophageal disorders and diseases of the larnyx can contribute to aspiration pneumonia. Polyneuropathy, a condition that affects nerve function, can cause aspiration pneumonia, as can polymyopathy, a condition that affects muscle function.

Brachycephalic syndrome, a condition that causes blockage of the upper respiratory tract is brachycephalic dogs, can lead to aspiration pneumonia. Head injury, sedation, general anesthesia or seizures could damage your dog's swallow reflex and lead to the inhalation of a foreign object. Fluids, food or medication may accidentally find its way into the wind pipe during tube feeding or force feeding. Chronic vomiting can also put your dog at risk for aspiration pneumonia.

Symptoms of Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

If your dog develops aspiration pneumonia, one of his first symptoms will be coughing as his body tries to eject the foreign object. Your dog may breathe rapidly and his heart rate could increase. The mucus membranes in his nose, mouth and eyes could take on a blue tint, as oxygen levels in your dog's blood drop.

Other symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in dogs include:

  • Unwillingness to exercise
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge

Diagnosing Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

Your vet will need a complete medical history and a thorough physical exam in order to diagnose aspiration pneumonia. Lab tests, including a complete blood count, urinalysis and biochemical profile can help to pin down the cause of your dog's aspiration pneumonia. Your vet may take chest X-rays in order to locate the obstruction.

Other diagnostic tests your vet might perform include bacterial cultures of lung fluid, barium swallows or video X-rays. If your dog is suffering from esophageal paralysis, further tests may be needed.

Treating Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

Treatment for aspiration pneumonia will vary depending on the cause of your dog's aspiration pneumonia. Your dog may need to be restricted from physical activity or even confined to cage rest. A bronchodilator can help to open your dog's breathing passages and a humidifier can help to loosen your dog's respiratory secretions, to make them easier to cough up.

If your dog has a lung tumor or a foreign object obstructing his lung, he may need surgery to remove it. If possible, your vet will perform a bronchoscopy, which will allow him to remove the obstruction through your dog's bronchial tubes. If bronchoscopy isn't possible, then a more invasive surgical procedure may be required.

You'll need to treat the underlying cause of your dog's aspiration pneumonia in order to eliminate aspiration pneumonia and its symptoms. Aspiration pneumonia is a serious condition that can be deadly. If your dog develops symptoms, seek treatment immediately.