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Fungal Pneumonia in Dogs

Fungal pneumonia can lead to a number of symptoms, including chronic cough, difficulty breathing, acute respiratory distress, and more. In this post, our Rock Springs vets discuss fungal pneumonia in dogs, including causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is fungal pneumonia in dogs?

A deep fungal infection in a dog's lungs can cause them to become inflamed. With this type of pneumonia, inflammation may happen in the lungs’ peribronchial tissues (tissues around the bronchi, the airways extending to the lungs from the windpipe); interstitial tissues (spaces between tissue cells), and lymphatic vessels (vessels in the body that move lymph liquid rich in white blood cells).

What causes a fungal lung infection in dogs?

Dogs can become infected with fungal pneumonia by inhaling spores of certain fungi, namely Aspergillus spp, candida spp, Cryptococcus neoformans, Coccidioides immitis, and Histoplasma capsulatum.

Contact with one of these fungi can lead to fungal pneumonia, which can occur in pets with and without compromised immune systems. Most fungal infections are believed to originate from soil, feces or bird droppings, but based on the specific type of fungus, the exact method of contraction can vary. Cryptococcus neoformans typically enter through the nasal cavity before migrating to the central nervous system or eyes. Blastomyces dermatitidis often gets into the body via the lungs. Aspergillosis is an opportunistic fungus that’s most commonly associated with sinonasal infection in dogs, though systemic infection is rare and usually appears only in immunocompromised pets.

How serious is fungal pneumonia in dogs?

Fungal pneumonia in dogs can be a serious condition that requires prompt veterinary attention. If left untreated, it can lead to severe respiratory distress and potentially life-threatening complications. 

What are symptoms of fungal pneumonia in dogs?

Symptoms of fungal pneumonia may vary. They can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Chronic cough
  • Thick discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Inflammation of the lungs or other affected organs
  • Abscesses
  • Fever
  • Weight loss or emaciation
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Increased respiratory rate and effort
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Crackling sound in lungs while breathing
  • Acute respiratory distress

Diagnosis of Fungal Pneumonia in Dogs

At Mountainaire Animal Clinic, our veterinary team uses advanced diagnostic testing and technology in our in-house lab to provide accurate, precise diagnoses for dogs with medical conditions.

Your veterinarian will usually take a biopsy of a lymph node or have skin nodule samples analyzed to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Diagnostic methods also include serologic testing, or detecting fungal antigens in urine (for Blastomyces and Histoplasma). Urine antigens are more sensitive than serologic testing.

Skeletal, abdominal, or thoracic radiographs may also be taken to look for swelling and other symptoms that may otherwise be invisible. Your veterinarian may also take impression smears, lymph node aspirates, PCR, or CSF tap (cryptococcosis) to confirm the diagnosis of fungal pneumonia.

Treatment for Fungal Pneumonia in Dogs

Oxygen therapy and a prolonged course of systemic antifungal medication can be used to treat fungal pneumonia. Your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications.

Depending on your dog's condition, and the severity of the illness, your pet may need to be hospitalized. Fungal pneumonia may take a significant amount of time to treat. Fortunately, we have an onsite pharmacy, allowing us quick access to medication.

After being sent home, ensure activities are restricted and that your dog gets plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Since fungal pneumonia typically requires a long course of treatment, ensure you give your dog all prescribed medications exactly as directed by your veterinarian. A high-protein diet of calorie-rich food can also help. Your dog will need to come in for checkups, and possibly thoracic X-ray imaging.

Preventing Fungal Pneumonia in Dogs

To prevent fungal pneumonia in your dog, it is important to keep their living environment clean and dry. Regularly clean and disinfect their bedding, toys, and any areas where they spend time. Additionally, avoid exposing your dog to environments that are known to harbor fungal spores, such as damp or wooded areas. 

If you live in an area where fungal infections are common, consult with your veterinarian about preventive measures, such as antifungal medications, that may be suitable for your dog's specific needs.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog showing symptoms of fungal pneumonia? Contact our Rock Springs veterinary clinic to book an appointment with our veterinary team. 

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