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Vet's advice: How to spot pneumonia in your puppy





Kyra chose Monty carefully as her new family dog: she wanted a cross-bred animal to avoid the common genetic issues and illnesses that are seen in some pedigree dogs. She found out about Monty online: his breeder had taken just one litter from his family dog, and Monty was one of the five puppies.

Owner: Kyra Jones, from Kilmacanogue

Animal: Monty, an 8 week-old cross-bred male puppy

Problem: Monty developed a serious cough soon after arriving in his new home


Monty had been micro-chipped, wormed, and he'd had his first vaccinations. He had been well socialised, mixing with his litter mates and with the humans in the household where he'd been born. Kyra knew that he was the right one as soon as she met him: he's a tail-wagging, bright, cheerful puppy.

Monty was in great form when Kyra picked him up from his breeder's house, and he was well-behaved on the one-hour drive to his new home.

He ate his supper hungrily and he was keen to play with his new human house mates. But a couple of hours after arriving, the problem started: Monty began to cough.

At first Kyra thought that he might have just eaten his food too quickly, inhaling a few crumbs. But he kept coughing throughout the evening, and she heard him coughing overnight when he should have been sleeping peacefully. Kyra brought him in to see me for a check up first thing the following morning.

I checked Monty over carefully. He was bright and cheerful, with a wagging tail, and a normal temperature. But it was clear that he had a serious problem: his breathing was laboured, and he was coughing several times a minute.

When I listened to his chest with my stethoscope, I could hear rattles and crackles, indicating disease changes in his lungs. I decided to take X-rays to find out more about what was going on.

You can ask humans to sit still and even to hold their breath while X-rays are taken - with animals, sedation is needed. Monty was so full of energy that he would never stay in one place for long enough to take an X-ray. I used short-acting sedation, taking a series of different views of his chest before allowing him to wake up.

The X-rays showed that he had patches of pneumonia in his lungs: it was no wonder that he was coughing. There are several possible causes of pneumonia in young puppies, but the two most likely reasons are first, worms, and second, a bacterial infection. It was possible that Monty had a combination of both of these at the same time.

Puppies pick up worms from suckling their mothers: there are worm larvae in bitches' milk. The worms pass from the pup's digestive tract into their bloodstream, and sometimes they settle in lungs, causing pneumonia. Monty had been wormed previously, by the breeder, but repeated worming is always needed for puppies, so I gave him another dose straight away.


I also set him up with an intravenous cannula to give him a high dose of rapidly acting antibiotic.

While adult dogs may only suffer an irritating cough following a respiratory infection, I've seen puppies die of pneumonia within a day of starting to show signs. A high level of antibiotics for 10 days was a critically important part of Monty's treatment.

Monty went home that evening feeling better. He still had an occasional cough, but it wasn't as often as it had been. He scoffed his dinner hungrily as soon as he got home: he was definitely on the road to recovery.