Pneumonia is a serious condition of the lungs that can affect both humans and animals. Pneumonia means inflammation of the lungs and can be caused a number of ways but is usually associated with some sort of infection. The 5 main causes of pneumonia are fungal, viral, parasitic, bacterial, and allergic. Fungal pneumonia is caused by a fungus, usually Coccidiodomyces immitis. Viral pneumonia is one of the more common forms and is caused by a viral infection. The most likely viral cause in dogs is Canine Distemper Virus and in cats is Feline upper Respiratory infection. Parasitic pneumonia is caused by lungworms. Bacterial pneumonia is also quite common and is usually a secondary symptom that arises from other bacterial infections. Finally, allergic pneumonia is caused by inflammatory cells that have entered the lungs but there is no associated infection. Plus to complicate the issue further, regardless of the cause of the pneumonia a bacterial infection usually accompanies the pneumonia.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
A veterinarian will normally perform some kind of chest x-ray in order to conclusively diagnose pneumonia. Nonetheless, there are a number of symptoms that you should watch for if you are concerned that your pet has contracted pneumonia. Firstly, coughing will be present in most, if not all, cases of pneumonia. Fever, listlessness, and appetite loss are also signs of pneumonia and should set off a red light if they are noticed in combination with other pneumonia symptoms. Finally, a history of upper respiratory infections should cause concern over the potential that your pet has pneumonia.
There are 3 known pneumonia states that are stable, unstable, or critical. Pets suffering from a stable case of pneumonia are the most health and active and can usually be treated at home. In unstable cases of pneumonia, your pet will show more symptoms and will likely require hospitalization. Finally, in critical cases, your pet will be seriously ill, will likely need oxygen therapy, and will require round-the-clock care. Actually treating the pneumonia requires that your pet be stable so restoring stability is the first goal in treating pneumonia.
Coughing is actually necessary for treating pneumonia so veterinarians will not prescribe medication to suppress coughing. By coughing, your pet is working to remove pus, mucus, and inflammatory cells from the lungs. It is important that your pet remain hydrated so that these elements (pus, mucus, and inflammatory cells) cannot dry up. Once dried out, these elements cannot be coughed up.
Antibiotics will be prescribed to fight the bacteria that are almost always present in a case of pneumonia. As mentioned earlier, regardless of the type of pneumonia bacterial infections typically develop.
Oxygen therapy is not commonly used in treating pneumonia but may be necessary in more severe cases of pneumonia. Very ill patients may lose their ability to move air through their lungs. In cases such as these, oxygen treatment will be required in order for the body to receive enough oxygen. Since the normal air we breathe is only 20% oxygen, oxygen treatment involves exposing the lungs to higher concentrations of oxygen so the lungs don’t have to work so hard to fill their requirements.