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The forgotten complication: aspiration pneumonia in the canine patient

02 April 2018
8 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 3


Aspiration pneumonia is a common complication, with many risk factors, seen in canine patients in referral centres and first opinion practices. Nurses play a vital role in recognising signs of aspiration pneumonia: cough, changes in breathing rate and effort, and abnormal thoracic auscultation. Treatment centres on supportive care, while providing antibiotic therapy for the bacterial infection. This article will focus on management of the canine aspiration pneumonia patient.

Aspiration pneumonia is a disease that can occur in both canine and feline patients, however it is far more common in canines. It is caused by the inhalation of foreign matter (such as gastric contents, hydrocarbons, chemicals or water) into the larynx and lower respiratory tract. Aspiration of contaminated material can cause aspiration pneumonitis, which is the pulmonary injury that occurs after an aspiration event. Aspiration of gastric acid is an aseptic injury, but this adversely affects the lung's defences against infection, predisposing the lung to secondary infection (Tart et al, 2010). Aspiration pneumonitis and aspiration of contaminated material can both lead to aspiration pneumonia, the term used to describe the presumed secondary infection (Tart et al, 2010).

Aspiration pneumonia is usually associated with an underlying disease and there are several predisposing risk factors:

Many of these risk factors occur in critically ill hospitalised patients, so regular monitoring for changes in respiratory function is paramount.

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