Viral vs. Bacterial Pneumonia in Dogs

Learn the differences between viral and bacterial pneumonia in dogs. Pneumonia occurs when fluids build up within the lungs. There are many reasons why pneumonia develops, including exposure to certain fungi, secondary infections, irritants in the atmosphere or the result of heart or other organ failure.

Overall, it's hard to tell viral and bacterial pneumonia apart. If you suspect your pet has pneumonia, seek veterinary care. X-rays are the only way to check for sure to see if the lungs are filled with fluid. Your veterinarian will advise you on the best treatment plan and medications.

Symptoms of Pneumonia in Dogs

Regardless of whether the pneumonia is bacterial or viral, similar symptoms occur. One of the most common symptoms is a cough that sounds very wet and persistent. Unlike a dry, hacking cough, a cough with pneumonia makes it easy to hear the congestion and mucus.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Bluish gums or tongue
  • Fever
  • Inability to rest comfortably
  • Increased pulse
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mucus
  • Panting/rapid breathing

Often dogs with pneumonia will sit or lay in a position that avoids putting any pressure on the chest. This helps alleviate some of the feeling of chest congestion.

Information Regarding Viral Pneumonia in Dogs

Viral pneumonia occurs in conjunction with a viral infection typically. The most common reason for a dog developing viral pneumonia is canine distemper, parvovirus or an upper respiratory infection.

Information Regarding Bacterial Pneumonia in Dogs

Bacterial pneumonia generally occurs following a bad case of kennel cough. Other cases of bacterial pneumonia occur hand in hand with chronic bronchitis, a collapsed trachea or foreign bodies that are inhaled and make it into the lower airways or lungs.

Treatments for Pneumonia

The treatment given to your dog depends on the stage of the pneumonia. Treatments for bacterial pneumonia and viral pneumonia are similar.

If the dog is seating and drinking well and showing interest in activity, veterinarians prefer to have that dog treated at home. Antibiotics will be prescribed. Many veterinarians suggest keeping the dog in a bathroom where humidity levels are highest. The pet should be kept indoors except for trips outside to the bathroom.

Dogs that are refusing food and showing no interest in activity require veterinary hospitalization. IV fluids and nutrients are given to prevent dehydration. Antibiotics are given. In some cases, a specialist will draw a sample of mucus from the lungs to discover which antibiotic works best.

Dogs that are simply not getting enough oxygen, apparently from a bluish tongue or gums, will be hospitalized and given oxygen therapy. Usually oxygen therapy involves putting the dog in a special kennel that is sealed off and pumps oxygen into that area to increase the oxygen found in the air. These dogs are monitored 24 hours a day. Antibiotics, IV fluids and nebulizers are used to help improve a dog's condition.

On all levels of pneumonia in dogs, coupage is advisable. Coupage is a method where the chest is gently tapped to help break up mucus. By breaking them up, the mucus is easier to cough up allowing the lungs to retain more air.