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Aspiration Pneumonia in Newborn Puppy

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Aspiration Pneumonia in Newborn Puppy

Aspiration pneumonia in newborn puppies generally affects orphaned young puppies due to inhalation of some foreign substance, as it may happen with feeding milk replacers using the tube method. When milk formula or other liquids mistakenly enter the puppy's lungs, this can cause serious complications as puppies have an immature immune system that can't fight off the presence of an inhaled substance as well as an adult dog. For this reason, it's extremely important that new puppies owners learn how to properly bottle feed newborn puppies and recognize signs of trouble so to report to the vet immediately.


Causes for Aspiration Pneumonia in Newborn Puppies

The most common cause of aspiration pneumonia in newborn puppies is improper administration of liquids such as medicines or liquid foods. When these liquids enter the windpipe instead of the esophagus, with the end result of reaching the lungs, aspiration pneumonia is likely to happen.

Contributing factors to aspiration pneumonia in newborn puppies are certain medical conditions such as some congenital disorders such as the presence of a cleft palate and improper feeding practices.

How does the aspiration pneumonia happen in the first place though? It's often a matter of not feeding correctly or with the wrong equipment.

"Any liquid that's given via syringe, whether medication or food, must not be given any faster than the animal can swallow, or the risk of aspiration pneumonia becomes very real," explains veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker.

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"Feeding with an eyedropper should be discouraged due to poor accuracy, tendency to give food too rapidly (increasing risk of aspiration) and the rigid nature of an eyedropper, which can cause soft tissue injury to the oral cavity. A bottle might be best." Dr. Rebecca Remillard

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Symptoms of Aspiration Pneumonia in Dogs

If a puppy is suffering from aspiration pneumonia, one or more of the following symptoms may be evident. One of the most common signs of aspiration pneumonia in newborn puppies is milk or other aspirated fluid coming out of the puppy's nose.

Other signs include trouble breathing, choking, vomiting, refusal to feed, weight loss, fever, pale gums, weakness. If your puppy is struggling, there are several things you can do to help a puppy who has trouble breathing, but veterinary care is important as aspiration pneumonia is a serious condition that requires prompt aggressive veterinary assistance.

 Treatment for Aspiration Pneumonia

What can puppy owners do if they suspect aspiration pneumonia? One important consideration is keeping the puppy warm, (making sure he doesn't become overheated) as puppies suffering from aspiration pneumonia tend to chill pretty quickly. Puppies with too cold of temperatures should not be fed.

Patting or tapping the chest all around can sometimes help bring something up. Tilting the puppy's head down may help drain out any remaining fluids that may have been stuck in the pup's nasal cavities, explains veterinarian Dr. Scott; however, newborn puppies suffering from aspiration pneumonia often require a course of antibiotics if a secondary infection has set in.

If the puppy develops labored breathing and pale gums, it's imperative to have the pup see the vet promptly. At the vet's office, the veterinarian may put the puppy under intensive care. In cases where the puppy has inhaled foreign substances, airway suction treatment may be required. To ease the breathing distress, doctors may give an oxygen supply. In some cases, like the cleft palate, the veterinarian may recommend a surgical procedure.


The consequences of aspiration pneumonia due to passage of food into the windpipe can be hazardous and pose severe life risks. However, this is sometimes a curable disorder if taken proper measures at the right time and the puppy is put under prompt intensive care and treatment.

Photo Credits:

jeffreyw Orphaned pup, 4 days old, being fed by hand at the rescue shelter., CCBY2.0

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