The Lungs



Pneumonia is uncommon in healthy pets, occurring most frequently in the very young, very old or those with impaired immune systems. Individuals with chronic bronchitis or collapsing windpipes are more susceptible. Bacterial, viruses, mycoplasma and fungi all cause pneumonia. Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food of fluid gets in the lungs. Smoke inhalation may lead to pneumonia.

An individual with pneumonia is depressed, feverish and breathes rapidly. The cough is moist. If pneumonia is severe your pet may sit or stand with itshead extended to make breathing easier.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Treatment with antibiotics begins immediately and will continue for at least three weeks, until x-rays show that the lungs are repairing. Some pets need hospitalising in an oxygen enriched kennel. Non-steroid antiinflammatories may be used to relieve discomfort. Cough suppressants are never used. Coughing is beneficial since it clears blocked air passages.

Fluid Around The Lungs (Pleural Effusion)

A pleural effusion is a build-up of any fluid around the lungs. Trauma, tumours and spontaneous bleeding disorders may cause blood to build up (hemothorax). Much more commonly a serum-like fluid (transudate) accumulates as a consequence of heart failure. Fluid may also build up as a result of liver or kidney disease and metastatic tumours. In some circumstances a pleurisy produces pus (empyema). Whatever the fluid, an affected pet finds it increasingly difficult to breath. She often stands with her head and neck extended, breathing short, rapid, laboured breaths. Her lips and gums may be blue. We diagnose pleural effusion more frequently in cats than in dogs.

Diagnosis And Treatment

X-rays or ultrasound reveal the presence of fluid around the lungs. Urgent treatment is our priority. Using either a catheter or a needle, fluid is drained from around the chest. This is also usually broadly diagnostic. Knowing what type of fluid has accumulated directs us to the cause of the fluid build-up.

Fluid In The Lungs (Pulmonary Edema)

This is usually caused by failure of the left side of the heart. An affected dog has a moist cough. We treat with diuretics and other medications to eliminate the fluid in the lungs and associated coughing.

Collapsed Lung - Chest Trauma

Any penetrating injury to the chest wall, from a bite to an air rifle pellet, allows air to enter the chest cavity. Air may also enter the chest cavity if there is lung damage, from trauma or disease. In either instance the lung collapses. An affected pet gasps for breath. A collapsed lung is diagnosed when there is known chest trauma. X-rays confirm the diagnosis. Treatment usually involves a surgical repair of the trauma during which we reinflate the lungs to fill the chest cavity. In other cases with no obvious penetrating injury the lungs are reinflated by removing air from their surrounding pleural cavity.

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