Fungal Pneumonia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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


What is fungal pneumonia in dogs?

A deep fungal infection can cause your dog’s lungs to become inflamed. We also refer to this as mycotic infection. 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 fungal pneumonia?

Dogs can become infected with fungal pneumonia by inhaling spores of certain fungi (Aspergillus spp, candida spp, Cryptococcus neoformans, Coccidioides immitis, Histoplasma capsulatum), which leads to hemolymphatic dissemination.

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.

Dogs are more likely than cats to get fungal infections. Aspergillosis is an opportunistic fungus that’s most commonly associated with sinonasal infection in dogs, though systemic infection is rare and appears only in immunocompromised pets. It often infects middle-aged German shepherds.

Fungal pneumonia affects male dogs 2 to 4 times as often as females. Most of these types of fungi are generally not contagious from one dog to another. Fungal pneumonia is a serious disorder that can quickly become a life-threatening emergency if not treated right away, so treatment with a qualified vet is critical to your dog’s health.

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

At Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital, our veterinary team uses advanced diagnostic testing and technology in our in-house lab to provide accurate, precise diagnoses for cats and dogs with medical conditions.

Your vet must 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 vet may also take impression smears, lymph node aspirates, PCR or CSF tap (cryptococcosis) to confirm the diagnosis. Organisms may be highlighted by using special stains.

Treatment

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 pet’s condition and the severity of the illness, he or she 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.

While your pooch is being treated, ensure activities are restricted and that he gets plenty of fluids, to avoid dehydration. Since this condition typically requires a long course of treatment, ensure all prescribed medications are administered and for the amount of time specified by the vet. A high-protein diet of calorie-rich food will also help. Your pet will need to come in for checkups, including thoracic x-ray imaging.

Prevention

Feces and other toxic organic matter can be toxic to dogs. To prevent your pup from contracting fungal pneumonia or other illnesses, ensure his or her living environment is cleaned regularly.

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 Flat Rock veterinary clinic to book an appointment with our veterinary dermatology team. 

Fungal pneumonia in dogs, Flat Rock Vet

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