What to Know About Pneumonia in Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on December 09, 2021
4 min read

Dogs can get pneumonia just like people. Your dog’s lungs are affected when they have pneumonia. This leads to symptoms such as breathing problems and cough.

There are different forms of pneumonia in dogs. They have varying recovery times based on severity. Dogs usually recover after treatment. 

The following causes can lead to pneumonia in dogs:

  1. Viral infection
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Aspiration, which happens when food, liquids, saliva, or vomit enters the lung airways
  4. Fungal infection
  5. Low immunity, which makes dogs prone to infections

Dogs can also get pneumonia if they had been on a hospital ventilator.

Based on the causes of pneumonia in dogs, the disease is classified into these types:

Viral pneumonia. Typically, pneumonia is caused by a viral infection of the lower respiratory tract. Viruses such as canine distemper virus, adenovirus, and canine influenza virus can affect your dog’s air passages.

Bacterial pneumonia. Bacterial lung infections can cause pneumonia in dogs. It can also be caught from other dogs. Sometimes, kennel cough, or infectious bronchitis due to bacterial infection, can lead to bacterial pneumonia in dogs. Aspiration or the entry of foreign bodies into the lung passages can also lead to bacterial pneumonia.

Highly infectious bacterial or viral pneumonia is called canine infectious pneumonia. It is often seen in dogs kept in overcrowded places like animal shelters, boarding kennels, or animal clinics. It starts in the respiratory tract and makes the dog’s immune system weak, making them prone to other infections.

Aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia develops when foreign material enters your dog’s airways. Aspiration pneumonia in dogs can happen if their food, water, medicine, or saliva enters into the windpipe instead of the food pipe. It can also happen if your dog has continuous vomiting. 

Fungal pneumonia. This develops when a fungal infection in your dog’s lung causes pneumonia. Fungi like Aspergillus or Candida species can cause fungal pneumonia. Your dog can get fungal infections through the soil if their immune system is not functioning properly.

If your dog is suffering from infectious pneumonia, one or more of the following symptoms may appear:

A vet usually checks the medical history and conducts a physical exam to identify symptoms of pneumonia in dogs. The vet will try listening to your dog’s lungs through a stethoscope. This can help them identify sounds like wheezing in the lungs. 

The vet may check the body temperature of your dog and order blood tests to check for infection. They may also collect samples from your dog’s air passages for lab tests. More commonly, imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans are done to check the lungs.

The following treatments are used for pneumonia in dogs:

  • Antibiotics like doxycycline and amoxicillin or other antimicrobial medicines, based on lab test results
  • Bronchodilators or medicines that open up lung airways
  • Nebulization, which involves inhaling a fine mist of water vapor to clear air passages 
  • Oxygen, if the skin is very bluish, which indicates lack of oxygen
  • Medication to improve immunity or to treat any underlying problem
  • Anti-vomiting medication, usually given to dogs with aspiration pneumonia 

If your dog has severe pneumonia, they may need to be hospitalized. Your dog may have to be closely examined to avoid any complications. 

The following tips are recommended for home care:

  1. Keep your pet indoors in a warm, dry environment. Avoid exposing them to extremely cold or wet weather. 
  2. Use the nebulizer a few times for 10 to 15 minutes each day. The nebulizer is a device that creates mist for your dog to inhale. 
  3. Give your dog a coupage up to 4 times each day. Coupage involves cupping your hands and gently striking your dog’s chest to help clear the cough. 
  4. Avoid suppressing the cough with medicines. It is better if your dog coughs up the infected material.
  5. Use medications as specified by the vet. 
  6. Let your dog get enough rest to recover quickly.
  7. Keep your dog hydrated with lots of water.

Dog pneumonia recovery time can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to months for complete recovery.

If your dog has infectious pneumonia, keep them away from other pets. Wash their bowls, bedding, collar, and leash often to avoid spreading the infection.  Keep your hands clean by washing after handling a dog with pneumonia.