SlimDoggy Health Check: Pneumonia

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SlimDoggy cousin, Taj just recovered from a very serious bout of pneumonia and we wanted to share her experience as a cautionary tale as part of our SlimDoggy Health Check Series.
A little background. Taj is a 12-year old Weimaraner. She was a hunting dog and hunted for many years until her retirement a few years ago. The problems with her lungs started several years ago – the result of a perfect storm of circumstances. Taj, like many dogs, will eat anything – she especially liked twigs and bark. Slowly, over time, this diet created irritation and inflammation in her throat and stomach – causing excess stomach acid and occasional vomiting. Just like with humans, dogs can aspirate foreign materials into their lungs and it’s particularly easy to happen when you vomit. Aspiration of even the tiniest particle can lead to pneumonia.
After a bout of kennel cough and then being skunked in the face several times followed by a hunting trip to Mexico, the “perfect storm” of contributing factors came together and Taj came down with pneumonia. She was treated with the usual antibiotics, but all of these factors combined to weaken her respiratory system and make her more susceptible to respiratory disease. She developed chronic bronchitis and pneumonia that eventually could only be managed with a daily dose of antibiotics and other meds to keep her stomach calm and her stomach acid in check.

Taj resting in the ICU

Taj resting in the ICU

The specialist they eventually took her to ran tons of tests, first to rule out any structural defect in her throat (which would lead to the aspiration) and then they attempted to identify the bacteria causing the pneumonia. Unfortunately, they were never able to pinpoint it despite all the testing including mucus samples from her lungs.
The most recent bout landed poor Taj in the ICU at the vets for almost a week with tubes in her nose delivering much needed oxygen, IVs in her arm for medications and overall a pretty miserable pup. There were several days when it was really touch and go. She has grown resistant to the antibiotics, so finding one that can knock out the infection was a challenge. They tried three different medications on her until finally, she started to improve.
Taj is home now, a little more frail and a little thinner, but on the mend. Her most recent vet check showed she was clear of the pneumonia, but she is obviously weakened. No more long hikes for her, but rather short excursions close to home. She’s a tough old girl and I hope she has a few more years with us.

Taj on the mend

Taj on the mend

As I said, this is a cautionary tale – my take away from this experience with Taj is the mindfulness we must all develop for seemingly innocent behaviors or events that can potentially work together and lead to more serious problems. Many dogs eat anything they can, but you never think the resulting hacking and vomiting that results as an opening for pneumonia as it did with Taj.
Taking your dog to new and fun places for swimming, hiking or whatever seems harmless, but my sister is convinced that some of Taj’s problems stem from all the dirt and dust she inhaled over the years hunting and who knows what bacteria she may have been exposed to in the standing water in the fields in Mexico. Our dogs Sally & Tino used to drink from holding ponds near JPL in Pasadena…probably shouldn’t have let them drink stale, stagnant water like that. Tino had an iron stomach, but Sally usually did vomit if she got too much of that water.
There are so many toxins in our environment now, it’s a little scary. We tend to think of them in terms of our own health, and I’ll be honest, in the past I haven’t thought about the variety of toxins our dogs are exposed to constantly, but we should.
In Part II of SlimDoggy Health Check: Pneumonia, I’ll get into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments for pneumonia, but right now I’m going to go check the yard for potential toxins.


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  1. Excellent information, hadn’t thought about all the harmful things our buddies can get into….so glad the old gal is on the mend…

  2. Great and informative article, Kate. We need to be vigilant and as you stated, mindful.

  3. Mom is real picky about where we drink water if we are out walking. Many of the ponds and stuff she says are disgusting and we aren’t allowed near them. Hope Taj continues to do well. Senior dogs are like senior humans, much more vulnerable.
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  4. Oh boy I was afraid you were going to say aspiration pneumonia. That is such a scary thing to happen and it seems it takes forever for them to be feeling better. This was a well written and informative post. I’m glad Taj is out of the woods and feeling better.
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  5. Wow, such a scary situation!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
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  6. So happy to hear she’s on the mend, my heart aches for pet parents who must endure this frightening experience. Praise God for a happy outcome. Well written Slim…
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  7. Poor Taj, I’m glad to hear she’s back home, taking it easy from now on!
    You are so right about all the toxins in our environment and about the seemingly harmless little outdoors habits our pups have. I always pick up all pine cones that fall down in our yard because Missy likes to chew on them..
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  8. Taj sounds like a classic “full-speed ahead” bird dog who still has plenty of puppy in her. Glad she’s on the mend and hope she enjoys her golden years.

  9. Very good article and so true about letting our furry friends drink stagnant water. There are so many things that can be picked up in water, everything from Leptospirosis to Giardia to name a few. Glad Taj is on the mend.

  10. Actually our dogs absorb even more toxins than we do. Not only do they put a lot more junk in their mouths/stomachs than we do just because they are dogs, but their closer proximity to the ground (esp. true for my corgis!) exposes them to many more toxic substances like lawn fertilizers, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, etc. One of the many reason canine cancer is so prevalent!
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  11. Glad she has recovered. A friend’s shepherd mix had a devil of a time kicking a pneumonia bug earlier this year. I could only pray it wasn’t her time and happily she too recovered. Great info as to see what to look for-as always thanks for sharing. 😉
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  12. Glad to hear she’s on the mend. What a scary story! Now I’m glad that I’m a hypochondriac/helicopter dog mom and deny Barley all of the pleasures other dogs enjoy, like drinking puddle water and having a chance to pick up gross things on the beach.
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  13. Great story to share. Totally agree about the toxins… one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in dogs stems from exposure to grass weed killers. Plus snout cancer is so common in long snouted breeds due to sniffing toxins they believe. A real concern around here. Urban dogs have it tough on some things. I’m taking them to manicured local parks much less but it’s a tough call (enjoy life vs potential exposure).

    • We often talk about what it would have been like to have a dog when we lived in Manhattan…I don’t know how folks do it.
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  14. I am glad Taj is better. At 12, I am sure it was very scary. We are fanatics about no stick eating. People look at us like we are helicopter parents, but I know many bad things that were the result of stick eating. We also discourage pond water drinking and try to carry drinking water for the dogs. That being said, there is only so much you can do and hunting dogs are exposed to scary bacterias and fungus in the environment. But you cannot put them in a glass bubble. What kind of life would that be for the dog? Hubby and I have discussed this many times and decided to let then be dogs and look for signs that may need a vet.
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