Case of the Month: Pneumonia in a Puppy

The puppy had just been delivered to his happy owner. He was bouncing around, yapping, playing like a puppy should. And then he started to act tired. Real tired. His nose got snotty, he lost his appetite, he couldn’t seem to get comfortable. His owner knew something was wrong.

As I entered the examination room, the puppy looked generally sick. It’s not unusual for Bulldog puppies to breath loudly, but this one was breathing much more rapidly than normal. Just two days ago he’d been flown across the country from his breeder out west. The stress of travel is always a big deal for a puppy, but for a flat-faced puppy it’s an even bigger deal.

Listening to the lungs with my stethoscope was difficult due to the rapid breathing and the noisy nature of Bulldog breathing. The puppy’s temperature was 102.4 degrees. A radiograph revealed pneumonia.Fluid is present in the front and lower sections of his lungs, preventing us from seeing the front edge of his heart shadow. This is also why he’s breathing so rapidly; there is less good lung tissue to capture oxygen. What would have otherwise been a bug that a puppy’s immune system might be able to combat became a bug that exploited an exhausted, compromised puppy.

I can’t say I’m surprised when a Bulldog puppy develops pneumonia following a big stressor at a young age. Their little respiratory systems, from their narrow nostrils to their long soft palates to their narrow tracheas, are set up for problems from Day 1. This puppy was no different.

We started him on two varieties of antibiotics and gave him an opportunity to rest. It’s amazing what rest and antibiotics will do for a puppy with pneumonia, especially when it’s caught early on. After just 18 hours, his appetite was back, as well as his sassiness, and his fever had dropped to a normal temperature.

They don’t all turn out this way. Depending on the cause of pneumonia, the type of bacteria causing the pneumonia, and any concurrent problems complicating the pneumonia, it can be a very, very difficult disease to overcome, and some dogs don’t. Thankfully this puppy became a happy story!

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