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8-Week Old Lab Mix Puppy Fights Pneumonia

January 2, 2010

“How long has the puppy been coughing and had crusty eyes and nose?”

“One day.”

Now, when a pet parent tells me their new puppy has suddenly gotten boney, won’t eat, vomits once and has diarrhea, I doubt the problem is only 24 hours old.

In eight-week-old Shella’s case, she had worms for a month (the shelter diagnosed hookworms and gave directions to see a vet the month before she saw me.) The little puppy was weak. with crusty yellow discharge by her eyes and her nose.

She breathed fast and noisily, was crackling, fluidy sounds emanating from her chest cavity. Her belly hung down to her knees.

Radiographs (x-rays) confirmed my fear that the little lab puppy had full-blown pneumonia. Her lungs had little space for air, because of the fluid build-up in the air sacs (alveoli) and she was super anemic, which means she had less red blood cells to carry the little bit of oxygen her lungs picked up. (In the picture, see how her tongue is salmon pink, instead of a bright, healthy pinkish-red?)

After two days of fluids, nebulization, hand feeding, and tender loving care, Shella looked like a new dog.

Puppies can develop pneumonia for many reasons:

  • Distemper virus
  • Canine H3N8 Influenza
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • H1N1 Influenza has been confirmed to spread from infected human to dog
  • many more….

In Shella’s case, she developed aspiration pneumonia. Her family isolated from other dogs for at least five weeks before she developed symptoms, no humans in the house were ill. And she became violently and suddenly sick.

What happened was: Shella vomited because her intestinal hookworm infection made her symptomatic with gastroenteritis. She coughed in the middle of vomiting and breathed in some vomit. Now she had an unfamiliar liquid in her lungs, full of bacteria, too!

The lungs react violently to improper materials onside them (ever cough and choke after just breathing in a little piece of dog fur?) Imagine spoonfuls of vomit in your lungs. You become very sick very fast.

Shella continued her treatments for over a month, and eventually made a full recovery!

Here’s Shella’s picture just after her first medical treatment. She really enjoys eating out of the nurse’s hand!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Adam permalink
    September 26, 2014 9:43 am

    I have a 9wk old puppy who has been diagnosed with pneumonia. They took her blood oxygen level and it’s been around 80%. they said she should be in oxygen around the clock until it’s between 94-100 but for two days there hasn’t been any improvement. She eats on her own and still is acting like herself which is good I think. I haven’t seen anyone online who has kept their infected puppy in oxygen this long and I’m wondering if you think she’d be ok if I took her home and contijued the oral antibiotics and shower nebulizations.

    • September 27, 2014 7:31 am

      I once treated a very bad case of pneumonia in a 10 week old Yorkie. 3 months in oxygen. She went on to live a happy life.

      If your puppy is still oxygenating at 80% out of oxygen, room air will not be good enough.

      Good luck!
      -Doc Truli

  2. Maria permalink
    August 24, 2014 9:13 am

    Hello! I have a 4 week old bull terrier that has been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. He is going into his 6th day taking clavamox, has never lost his appetite and when cough subsides for a while, he has normal energy. He has been isolated from other animals. Today, he had a bout of diarrhea. Any suggestions?

    • August 24, 2014 4:31 pm

      Dear Maria,
      I’m glad your puppy is eating and doing well.
      1) call the vet who rx’d the clavamox about the diarrhea
      a) sometimes it’s the clavamox
      b) sometimes it’s worms in a young puppy
      c) sometimes it’s something else entirely- which is why you need a hands on veterinarian

      Good Luck!
      -Doc Truli

      • Maria permalink
        August 24, 2014 5:35 pm

        Thanks for the reply, Doc Truli!

        I called the vet and I was told that since there isn’t any loss of appetite, etc. I shouldn’t worry just yet. That if it happens again, I should go in for a check-up. So far, the puppy has been doing fine. He hasn’t gone #2 yet, but has been drinking water and has eaten twice. Hopefully it was just a one time thing (crossing fingers!!!)


  3. Kortney permalink
    October 16, 2013 4:31 pm

    What kind of dog is she just got a puppy and it looks just like it but we don’t know it’s breeds

  4. Dannie Tapout permalink
    August 12, 2013 2:20 am

    My puppy Hope is a 3 1/2 month old black lab puppy and had contracted kennel cough and we were giving medication as directed and was doing better then, and i mean within hours she couldn’t breathe well. we watched her for a couple of hours and she would not play or eat or drink.. she is now sitting at our local emergency vet’s office. They said she now has a bad case of pneumonia. We have to pick her up in the morning and take her to the normal vet and see what they want to do from there. We already lost a puppy from parvo and one from cancer this year. This is extremely hard for me as she is my baby. Everyone says that she only has a 45% chance of surviving this. I have read and saw where I seen where this takes months for the pup to be “normal” again. She is healthy in every other way and is up to date on all shots and de-worming. I am not sure what I can do right now. Is there anything you (or anyone) can suggest to make sure when (if) she comes home I can make this a comfortable place for her?

    • August 14, 2013 5:45 pm

      Dear Dannie,
      I hope your puppy makes a full and speedy recovery. Follow your vet’s advice. Pneumonia can be a bad thing for a puppy, but they can also recover in amazing ways.
      -Doc Truli

      • Dannie Tapout permalink
        August 14, 2013 9:15 pm

        Thank you. We here hope she pulls through. We had a test done and she has fungal pneumonia.. the vet called it blasto-something. We got her the correct medication and was told the first 72 hours with the meds is the most it can kill the fungi but at the same time it can cause an anti-inflammatory response and she could go into respiratory distress. She travels every day from the normal vet’s oxygen cage to our local emergency vet through the night. We are going day by day. She ate wonderful the last couple days for them so we are praying and keeping our fingers crossed.

      • August 16, 2013 8:06 pm

        That’s wonderful that they got her on the right medicine so quickly.

  5. kim permalink
    March 3, 2013 7:57 pm

    my 11 week old puppy, just came home from 4 days in the hospital with the same pneumonia problems as above, but she doesn’t want to eat or drink, she just sits and moans, what should I do? any suggestions?

    • March 5, 2013 9:00 pm

      Dear Kim,
      Please, please, please call your vet with this report of how your pup is doing. She needs to eat or she could die. Plus, the moaning does not sound like a normal part of the healing process. Please consult a veterinarian near you for personal advice.
      Good Luck,
      -Doc Truli

      • kim permalink
        March 5, 2013 9:18 pm

        she has been hospitalized for almost a week, then sent home for the weekend, when i posted this… she went back into the hospital monday morning, she died this morning… we are so upset, thanks for caring!

  6. alex permalink
    March 13, 2012 5:28 pm

    I just came from the vet have to leave Dexter a 8 week old lab, started with coughing and shoke like symptoms, at 9pm start it just like once on a while cough, but early in the morning he start getting worst, we took him to the hospital. really sad when we found out he have severe pneumonia. He has to stay in the hospital a least 3 day for treatment. His vital are fine and blood work came out good. He also was found with a parasite named cuccidia. I only have it for 2 days, dr. said that hi had the virus before i brought home. perhaps that changing of place and leaving his mom, low his inmune system and he got sick. I contact the breeders as a recomendation of Dr. justi in case some other dogs will result sick. Like a said is only being 2 days but my love for Dexter grew at moment i hold him in my arms.
    Finding this blog it make me wish for a hope. thank for reading this.

    • March 15, 2012 7:39 pm

      Good Luck Alex. VirtuaVet was invented to give hope and inspiration. I hope your puppy recovers and lives a long, full life!

      -Doc Truli

  7. November 10, 2010 11:45 am

    Thanks Doctor Truli. You have been more than helpful! We got some more Baytril for him; this time a higher dosage since he has gained 10 pounds, doubling his size, since we first took him in to see the vet. When the other medication and the first batch of Baytril ended, we took him into the vet again for a checkup, they didn’t take a second x-ray, they just listened to his chest through the stethoscope, said he sounded fine and sent him home with us. Not too long after, he started getting a cough again. We made another appointment for him for Saturday; it’s very hard for us to keep taking off of work during the week to bring him in. Luckily the appointment is with a friend of a relative, so hopefully we won’t get the “weekend service”. 🙂 It is a little farther than we hoped to travel, but we feel more comfortable bringing him to someone who we know will take good care of him and hopefully at least x-ray & blood test him.

    – Jennifer

    • November 11, 2010 11:45 pm

      Good Luck Jennifer! I’d love to hear how your little one is doing!

  8. October 13, 2010 11:59 am

    My 10 week old boxer puppy was just diagnosed with pneumonia. I have to say, it is a very scary thing. He was so frail and wouldn’t eat or drink anything. Anything we hand fed him including water and medicine, he would throw up. He couldn’t keep anything down at all. Luckily after only a few days of being on his medication, he is starting to eat normally and the best part is that for the most part, he is keeping everything down. He has shown a lot more energy as well. My puppy’s pneumonia stemmed from a kennel cough that he had since we had picked him up from the breeder.

    • October 13, 2010 4:33 pm

      Dear Jennifer,
      What’s your puppy’s name?
      I hope he feels better soon. There’s a new test panel in America run through Antech diagnostics (they do about 95% of the small animal labwork for the US). The test searches for the DNA from about 10 different causes of “kennel cough” looking symptoms. Like H3N8 dog flu, H1N1 flu, parainfluenza (saw a pup with that a few weeks ago), and, of course, Bordetella bronciseptica. Research shows most puppies from a breeder will not usually have bordetella (like puppies from stores or shelters) but actual bacterial pneumonia. Luckily, your veterinarian put him on good medication. Think of it like a kid getting a cold when they go to preschool. Life happens!

      • November 4, 2010 4:55 pm


        Thanks for the reply, sorry it took so long to get back to you. His name is Sammy. I did not know about the new test panel, thanks for that information – that is very interesting that technology has come so far even for our precious animals. It’s been about 3 weeks since we took him to the animal hospital, he finished all of his medications, he seemed fine for a few days, but recently we have started to hear the cough come back yet again! I think we are going to take him to a different vet this weekend for a second opinion. Any suggestions?


      • November 7, 2010 10:48 pm

        Dear Jennifer,
        Puppy pneumonia often takes longer than two weeks of antibiotics to resolve. Perhaps yours stopped too soon. If they feel you need it, I would let them take x-rays, perhaps a blood test (CBC, respiratory panel), check your antibiotics and doses. Ask them for a detailed recheck schedule and do not stop antibiotics until they have rechecked him and told you that it seems safe to stop. I’ve had pneumonia pups on antibiotics for 6-10 weeks sometimes! Other times, the problem was actually viral, and they just were coughing a little bit for weeks to months. Nerve-wracking, yes, but no antibiotics were needed!
        Definately take him to the vets. Plus, you’ll get better service on a weekday than a weekend. That’s true at people hospitals, too!
        Doc Truli

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