SlimDoggy Health Check: Pneumonia
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.
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.
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.