How to Deal with Aspiration Pneumonia in Puppies

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How to Deal with Aspiration Pneumonia in Puppies
How to Deal with Aspiration Pneumonia in Puppies

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when liquids or solid materials end up in the lungs when breathing. It often happens in puppies, especially in puppies that are not properly tube fed or with a cleft palate (an abnormal opening in the roof of the mouth). This condition requires immediate and intensive veterinary care. Do you have any puppies with this disorder? Take him to the veterinarian immediately, take care of him at home after being released by the professional, and read this article to learn how to prevent this type of pneumonia from happening again.


Part 1 of 3: Taking to the Vet

Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 1

Step 1. Get in touch with the professional as soon as possible

When a puppy inhales anything other than clean air (such as water or food, for example) into its lungs, this action is called aspiration. This develops aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection caused by bacteria that can get worse in a very short time. When you notice symptoms that the puppy has inhaled food, liquid or medicine – for example, milk running from the snout – go to the vet as soon as possible. Other symptoms include:

  • Breathing with your mouth open.
  • Noisy, wet breathing.
  • Blue gums (pink is normal).
  • Weakness.
  • Breathing hard.
  • Cough, with the possibility of a wet sound.
  • Fever.
  • Lethargy (apathy).
Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 2

Step 2. Ask the veterinarian to examine the puppy

He will examine you and do tests to confirm the diagnosis. During the physical examination, he will listen carefully to his lungs for abnormal lung sounds. The following are the possible diagnostic tests that the veterinarian will perform:

  • X-rays of the chest.
  • Blood test.
  • Pulse oximetry, which measures the amount of oxygen in your blood.
Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 3

Step 3. Allow the veterinarian to administer supportive therapy

If the aspiration pneumonia is severe, the puppy may need to be hospitalized so the veterinarian can begin immediate supportive therapy. This therapy will not cure the disorder, but it will help the puppy feel better and stronger. Here are some examples of this therapy:

  • Oxygen therapy to increase low blood oxygen levels.
  • Medication to facilitate breathing (bronchodilators).
  • Intravenous fluids for rehydration.
  • Antiemetics to prevent vomiting.
Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 4

Step 4. Let the veterinarian start an antibiotic treatment

They will be needed to treat the bacterial infection that caused the aspiration pneumonia. In case the vet has taken a fluid sample from the puppy's lungs, he will prescribe an antibiotic to target the bacteria causing the problem.

If such a sample cannot be obtained, the veterinarian will likely prescribe a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which will target a wide range of harmful bacteria

Part 2 of 3: Taking care of the puppy at home

Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 5

Step 1. Continue antibiotics

Lung infection may take some time to heal. When the dog is strong enough to go home, the veterinarian can prescribe antibiotics for a few weeks' treatment. Apply the full course of antibiotics, without missing any doses, to ensure all bacteria are eliminated.

Do not stop treatment even if the puppy looks better. Stopping it sooner may not kill all the bacteria, as survivors can multiply and become resistant to other antibiotics

Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 6

Step 2. Take him for reassessments

Your veterinarian will likely want to check you often during antibiotic treatment to make sure your pneumonia is getting better. At the time of reassessments, the veterinarian will do x-ray exams to observe the pet's lungs.

Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 7

Step 3. Address the puppy's megaesogaphy

If he has megaesophagus, he may experience frequent regurgitation of food and he may accidentally inhale these foods, causing aspiration pneumonia. After the veterinarian's treatment for the disorder, take care of the little one at home, properly administering this esophageal dilation:

  • Get him on his feet and give him water and food.
  • When he's finished, keep him still standing for 20-30 minutes.
  • Add water to the food to make it easier for the food to pass through the esophagus.
  • Give medication as prescribed by the veterinarian.

Part 3 of 3: Avoiding Future Problems With Clutter

Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 8

Step 1. Feed the puppy carefully by tube

When this procedure is done incorrectly, putting too much food or the tube into the trachea instead of the esophagus, an aspiration pneumonia can appear.

  • Make sure there are no air bubbles in the milk formula (artificial milk or powdered milk).
  • Before placing the feeding tube, put the puppy on its side and measure the tube from the mouth to the last rib.
  • Slowly slide the tube under your tongue and down your throat.
  • Place your thumb and forefinger along the dog's neck to feel the windpipe and tube.
  • Do not hold it by the abdomen on the part after the end of the tube.
Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 9

Step 2. Be careful when giving liquid medicine

When giving medicine by mouth using a syringe, there is a risk that the liquid will easily enter the lungs, causing the disorder. As a way to avoid this problem:

  • Hold the pet's head with the supporting hand and the syringe in the dominant hand.
  • Place the syringe in your mouth and point it to the side. Do not point it towards the back of the throat as the medication can enter the lungs directly.
  • Apply the medicine slowly. Drop a few drops at a time into his mouth, giving him time to swallow and breathe.
Handle Aspiration Pneumonia in Young Puppies Step 10

Step 3. Fix the cleft palate

Surgery will likely be needed to correct the cleft palate and prevent aspiration pneumonia from happening again. During surgery, your veterinarian will close the opening in the roof of your mouth, decreasing the chances that liquids or solids will enter your lungs.

  • Surgery will also be necessary if the puppy inhales any foreign objects.
  • When deciding on the surgical procedure, the veterinarian will take special precautions to ensure that the little one does not accidentally inhale something before he is fully awake from the surgery.
  • This type of surgery is often expensive. In case you don't have the money, you'll have to talk to the vet about it when deciding whether the puppy should be operated on.


Puppies can be born with certain conditions that increase their chances of being affected by the disorder. In addition to the megaesophagus and cleft palate, a right aortic arch (blood vessels that compress the esophagus) can cause aspiration pneumonia


  • In puppies, bacterial infection caused by this disorder can quickly become fatal.
  • Aspiration pneumonia can lead to a poor prognosis despite treatment.
  • Treatment for this type of pneumonia can be very expensive.

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