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Coughing Dogs

Updated: Mar 22, 2020

I was wondering what I should write about today for the ‘case of the day’ and was on a hunt for a newish dog food brand that an owner told me that it was a good diet because it has never had recalls. On went my spiel about grain-free diets contributing to heart disease, and off when her ability to listen. So, I move on.

But my search for this diet brought my brain to coughing dogs.

I have had 4 to 5 coughing dog cases in the past week. Today’s was a young one, about 18-week-old male intact mini poodle. He started coughing yesterday and the owner thought it sounded like kennel cough. During the history taking, the Mrs. reports that there was some smoking in the home and wondered about this. The puppy had access to two adult dogs who were not sick. Mrs. thought maybe he was depressed, and had a reduced appetite.

On physical, the pup was quiet, alert, but wagged his tail and took some treats from me, which were good signs. His lungs sounded clear, but on gentle pressure to his trachea he started to cough. Mrs. also showed a video of him coughing. On further history, he was at the groomers the week before, which may have been the source of possible infectious tracheobronchitis aka kennel cough. I offered x-rays which were declined, and we opted for a trial of cough suppressant and monitor.

Friday’s case of a coughing dog was a 12-year-old female spayed Shih Tzu. She was coughing and vomited once after coughing. She also seemed to have a reduced appetite, but she was generally lazy, so the owner didn’t notice any increase in cough with exercise. On physical, she had a grade 4/6 heart murmur, heard loudest in the left apex, but heard on the right as well. These owners agreed to chest x-rays and there was obvious cardiomegaly (heart enlargement). Given that these owners were part of our outreach program, I only had approval for in-house diagnostics, so no echocardiogram was approved, but I ran some blood work which was pretty well normal. Interpreting x-rays in early heart failure cases can be a bit of a challenge. I find myself convincing myself that I see some pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs. There are other things to look for as well, enlargement of the pulmonary vessels, especially the veins. Maybe you notice some crackles or harsh lung sounds when you listen. But since this particular dog was coughing and more lethargic, I opted to start medication for heart failure. I am still learning on which cases to reach for that furosemide and which ones are coughing due to the pressure on the main stem bronchi, which often happens with an enlarged heart.

The third coughing dog, I saw on Saturday, has been in and out of a vet clinic or emergency clinic for what seems like a month now. Really, she was in and out for various reasons, not just coughing. This one is a 6-month-old spayed female dachshund, with great energy, great appetite, and a history of diarrhea which was treated. But this cough just seems to be waxing and waning. When I first saw her, it was on a recheck, she wasn’t coughing, and things seem to be improving. Then, things got worse again, still no x-rays have been taking, but she’s on a trial of antibiotics for possible infectious bronchitis. Recently, she started sneezing, which stimulated my conversation with the owner about allergic bronchitis. It’s not as common in dogs as it is in cats, but maybe this is what’s ailing her.

So common things are common, but we can’t forget that the things that are rare are there!

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