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Key takeaways

Bacterial pneumonia is inflammation of the lungs caused by a bacterial infection. Pneumonia can cause coughing, exercise intolerance, fever, and nasal discharge in affected dogs.

  • Bacterial pneumonia is uncommon in healthy dogs
  • Factors leading to bacterial pneumonia are widely varied, and include viral infections of the respiratory tract or medical conditions which negatively impact the immune system
  • Diagnostics include bloodwork, urinalysis, tracheal lavage, and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatments include antibiotics, surgery, and supportive therapy
  • Prognosis is good with aggressive and prompt treatment
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A closer look: Bacterial Pneumonia in Dogs

The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia typically develop rapidly, and are often severe regardless of the underlying cause of the pneumonia.

Coughing dogs benefit from prompt veterinary attention.If coughing is accompanied by other symptoms such as severe lethargy, difficulty breathing, collapse, reduced appetite, or vomiting, then emergency intervention is required.

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Risk factors

Bacterial pneumonia can develop due to vomiting episodes, resulting in vomit material entering the airways. Some dogs with bacterial pneumonia may have a recent history of vomiting.

Bacterial pneumonia is uncommon in dogs.

Pre-existing conditions associated with the respiratory tract and immune system deficiency are predisposing to pneumonia.

Although bacterial pneumonia usually responds well to treatment, any lung infection is potentially life threatening. Prompt veterinary attention is required for any dog with persistent coughing.

Possible causes

The cause of bacterial pneumonia is infection of the lungs. The underlying cause of infection is not always obvious. Dogs with pre-existing lung conditions and immunocompromised individuals are more predisposed to infection and lung disease.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics for confirming bacterial pneumonia include:

  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and ultrasound
  • Bloodwork
  • Blood oxygen measurement
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Tracheal lavage
  • Urinalysis
  • Specific testing for infectious diseases

Steps to Recovery

Treatment initially focuses on ensuring adequate oxygen delivery. Supportive care may include:

  • Supplemental oxygen
  • IV fluids
  • Drainage of the chest, if fluid has accumulated

Once stabilized, treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery
  • Medications to dilate the airways

Most cases require hospitalization for the duration of treatment.

Prognosis varies depending on severity, response to treatment, and any concurrent medical disorders.

With aggressive and timely intervention, the prognosis is generally good. Young animals or animals with weakened immune systems have a poorer prognosis. Some animals may develop a chronic, long-lasting infection despite treatment efforts.


Bacterial pneumonia cannot be reliably prevented, although factors which reduce susceptibility include:

  • Remaining up-to-date on vaccines
  • Keeping immunocompromised animals away from unvaccinated animals

Is Bacterial Pneumonia in Dogs common?

Bacterial pneumonia is uncommon in dogs. Young dogs, dogs with immunosuppression, or dogs housed in densely packed environments, such as dog kennels, may have a higher risk.

Typical Treatment

  • Antibiotics
  • Surgery
  • Oxygen Support
  • Fluid Support


Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH; Krista Williams, BSc, DVM; Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
Jonathan D. Dear, MAS, DVM - Writing for The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice
Lauren Jones, VMD - Writing for PetMD
Caroline C. Tonozzi , DVM, DACVECC - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Ned F. Kuehn , DVM, MS, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Eleanor C. Hawkins, DVM, DACVIM - Writing for Clinician's Brief

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