Overview of Canine Pyothorax
Pyothorax is an infection of the chest cavity generally caused by bacteria, although less commonly it may be due to other organisms, such as viruses or fungi. The infection causes fluid to accumulate in the chest cavity – the space between the lungs and the body wall – which causes difficulty breathing. This is a serious condition in dogs and is often fatal if not treated promptly and aggressively.
The route by which the thoracic cavity becomes infected is often not apparent and there are numerous ways that infection can occur in the chest cavity.
Causes of Pyothorax in Dogs
There is usually a fairly long gap between the incident that caused the infection and the development of clinical signs. When the infection is caused by an animal bite, the wound has often healed and the owner has forgotten about it by the time that the pet becomes ill.
Pyothorax is particularly common in hunting dogs where the infection is related to the entrance of a foreign body, such as a piece of plant material, into the chest cavity through the body wall. Alternately, the plant material may be inhaled and migrate through the lung.
What to Watch For
Signs of pyothorax in dogs include:
In some cases, despite aggressive treatment, pyothorax can be fatal.
Diagnosis of Pyothorax in Dogs
Diagnostic tests are needed to determine why your dog is having difficulty breathing and to determine if there is an underlying cause. If your pet is diagnosed with pyothorax, he will require veterinary care. Your veterinarian’s efforts will be directed at three things:
Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:
Most animals tolerate chest taps and the procedure can be done without any sedation, but occasionally your veterinarian may need to give your pet some sedation or even general anesthesia in order to remove the fluid.
Treatment of Pyothorax in Dogs
Home Care and Prevention
Administer all medications that your veterinarian prescribes until they are gone. Observe your pet closely for evidence of difficulty breathing. If he becomes lethargic or stops eating, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Do not allow your pet to fight with other animals. If you notice a wound on the chest wall, have your veterinarian examine it. Take note of any wounds so that if your pet develops a problem later you can point it out to your veterinarian.
Do not feed your pet bones or other hard objects that might become lodged in the esophagus and cause perforation.
There is very little else that you can do to prevent your animal from developing pyothorax, but being alert to the signs will allow the condition to be diagnosed earlier and may allow treatment to be more effective.