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Pulmonary Contusion – Lung Bruising in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Bruising and damage to the lungs can easily occur from trauma to the body. Falling, automobile injuries and being kicked are common traumas that readily result in lung damage. Gunshots, animal attacks and stabbing can also result in significant lung trauma.

Lung damage or pulmonary contusion is defined as bleeding or fluid accumulation within the lungs. A common sign associated with pulmonary contusions is difficulty breathing. Since the lungs are responsible for oxygen supply for the body, damage to the lungs results in a decreased ability to take in oxygen and difficulty breathing occurs.

Rapid treatment of lung damage can result in full recovery. Unfortunately, some traumas are so severe that, despite aggressive medical treatment, the pet does not survive.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing pulmonary contusions is based on a recent history of chest trauma as well as physical exam findings. The pet usually has difficulty breathing, weakness and possibly a pale gum color. Listening to the chest with a stethoscope may reveal harsh and excessive lung sounds, possibly with crackles and wheezes. Palpation of the chest may indicate broken ribs, skin bruising or evidence of air leakage from the chest to the underlying skin. X-rays of the chest may be necessary to determine the severity of the lung damage. Since the full extent of the injury may not show up on x-rays for several hours, your veterinarian may need to repeat the X-rays several hours later to determine if additional damage has occurred. X-rays can also be used to determine if any ribs are broken.

Treatment

Oxygen support is crucial in the treatment of pulmonary contusions. Since the lungs are unable to function fully, additional oxygen can help lessen their burden and reduce the amount of work required by the lungs. Pain control is important since breathing rates generally increase with pain and increased breathing rates can delay healing. Many pets with severe lung damage are also in shock and appropriate fluid and possible steroid treatment may be needed. Cage rest with minimal exercise is crucial in lung healing. Generally, improvement will be seen within 48 hours but may take up to 10 days to recover fully. Be aware that despite aggressive medical care, some lung traumas are so severe that the pet will not survive.

Home Care and Prevention

After trauma, there is no recommended home care. Examination and treatment by a veterinarian is strongly encouraged. After treatment, home care includes significantly limiting exercise and careful observation of your pet's breathing patterns. Additional x-rays may be needed in the future if the pet has not fully recovered within two weeks of the injury. Pneumonia, collapsed lungs and lung cysts can occur following a traumatic incident.

Preventing chest trauma is key to preventing pulmonary contusions. Keeping your pet confined to your house and yard can greatly reduce the risk of automobile injuries and gunshot wounds. Careful observation of your pet around horses, cattle or other large animals can reduce the risk of kicks. Keeping windows screened can also reduce the risk of falling from an upper story. If, despite all your efforts, your pet is involved in a traumatic incident, immediate examination by a veterinarian is strongly recommended.

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