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Smoke Inhalation in Dogs

By: Dr. Anne Marie Manning

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Diagnosis In-depth

  • Thoracic radiographs (chest X-rays) are taken to identify changes in the lungs, due to smoke inhalation. Chest X-rays may be normal for the first 36 hours so, depending on your pet's condition, your veterinarian may need to take a series of X-rays to document changes and/or the development of pneumonia over a period of several days.

  • An arterial blood gas allows the veterinarian to assess the pet's oxygenating ability, which is often compromised following smoke inhalation injury. Not only does it help determine the need for oxygen supplementation but may also be helpful in determining the pet's prognosis. Blood gases also provide information about the blood pH (acidity and alkalinity), which can be altered due to respiratory problems or due to shock. Arterial blood gases are not helpful in determining the extent of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Carboxyhemoglobin levels, which is the amount of carbon monoxide in the blood stream, may be measured to determine the extent of carbon monoxide poisoning present in a patient as well as prognosis. Carboxyhemoglobin levels can be measured only at certain hospitals because the test requires special equipment. However, inability to perform this test has no impact on the ability of your veterinarian to provide appropriate care for your pet.

  • A complete blood count (CBC) may be performed to assess the general condition of a pet and to look for high or low white blood cell counts that may be present with pneumonia.

  • A biochemistry profile is a blood screen done to evaluate the kidneys, liver and other internal organs, which may be affected due to lack of oxygen or due to shock.

  • A tracheal wash is done if pneumonia is suspected. In this procedure, the patient is sedated and a small amount of a sterile saline solution is flushed down the trachea into the lungs and then retrieved by aspiration through a syringe. This sample is examined with a microscope to look at the cells (cytology) and to look for bacteria. The sample is also submitted for culture to identify the type of bacteria causing the pneumonia and to determine which antibiotic should be chosen. Cultures generally take three days to process.

  • A fluorescein stain is performed to look for ulcers on the cornea (surface of the eye). Ulcers are outlined by the green dye and indicate the need for eye medications.

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