Coughing is not a disease but rather a sign of an underlying problem in an animal. Dogs and cats cough because their airway is irritated, which can begin from inside the airway or as a result of disease processes in the tissues surrounding it.
Identifying the Problem
If your pet has coughing problems, the underlying cause must first be identified to ensure that your pet receives the correct treatment. A wide variety of diseases are associated with coughing, including:
Bacterial and viral infections
Some problems can occur more often in specific breeds or in pets with certain conditions like heart disease. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests to determine the source of the cough. Sometimes the cause can be inferred from your pet’s history and physical examination. Other cases are more challenging. Your veterinarian may recommend a combination of tests, for example, taking samples of blood and/or fluid from the lung for examination or using technology that allows for visualization of what’s going on inside the airway (radiography, echocardiology, or bronchoscopy).
There is no single type of treatment used to treat all coughing pets. Treatment will be tailored to your pet’s specific illness. One of the most frequent causes, bacterial infections, are often simple to treat with a brief course of antimicrobial administration at home. More serious underlying problems like heart failure may require in-hospital care. Whatever the cause and/or treatment plan, your veterinarian may also recommend that the pet be given a medication to control the cough and help relieve discomfort until the problem can be resolved.
The Importance of Deworming
Do you ever wonder why your veterinarian wants to check a sample of your pet’s feces on those routine examinations or any time your pet is vomiting or has diarrhea? Well it’s to look for evidence (e.g., eggs) of worms that could be living in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. Some worms can live in relative harmony with your pet and you may never know they even exist, but most gastrointestinal worms pose risks to your pet’s health. Some worms are a health threat to humans, especially children, because these parasites contaminate the soil.
What are the clinical signs of intestinal parasites?
Signs and the severity depends on the parasite involved, the number of worms, the age and immune system of the pet, and the presence of other worms or diseases. Clinical signs can vary from constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, lethargy, poor haircoat, pale gums, poor growth rate in puppies and kittens, a “pot belly” appearance, “scooting” on the rear end, vomiting, weakness, and weight loss. In the worst cases, some of these parasites can eventually cause death.
How can I prevent intestinal parasites from infecting my dog or cat?
All puppies and kittens should have a fecal examination twice a year and should be treated for roundworms and hookworms even if the examination is negative. This is because eggs can be shed intermittently (and therefore may not show up on the day that the stool is examined). Adult pets should have their stools checked once a year.
Can any of these intestinal parasites be transmitted to the rest of my family?
Yes. Diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals are known as zoonotic diseases. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly, especially after handling pets or cleaning up pet waste. Remove pet droppings from your guard at least 2 to 3 times a week. Children should avoid playing in known animal toileting areas, and be sure to cover sandboxes when not in use.
Flea Bite Hypersensitivity
Flea bite hypersensitivity is an allergic reaction caused by exposure to flea saliva. When fleas bite and feed on dogs or cats, their saliva can cause an allergic reaction in the skin.
Signs of Trouble
In many cases, dogs and cats with flea bite hypersensitivity will bite the base of their tail and scratch frequently. Many dogs experience characteristic hair loss or thinning hair above the tail base that may become more generalized and extend to the inside of the thighs, or abdomen. Dogs may occasionally develop secondary skin infections and other skin lesions. Cats may develop small circular crusts at the base of the neck or base of the tail and/or red raised areas on their skin.
Diagnosis is based on patient history, physical examination, skin testing with flea antigen, and response to treatment. The presence of fleas or flea dirt along with the characteristic pattern of hair loss is also a helpful finding. The absence of fleas does not rule out a diagnosis because some sensitive animals may require only periodic flea exposure to develop skin problems. Your veterinarian may need to perform additional diagnostic tests to rule out other secondary skin issues caused by flea exposure and the allergic reaction they caused.
Treatment and Prevention
Since fleas cause the hypersensitivity, flea control is essential. Even if you no longer see fleas, you should continue use of the year-round flea control product because immature flea stages may be lurking in your environment. Medication may also be provided to help treat the skin irritation associated with flea bite hypersensitivity and make your pet more comfortable.
The Importance of Prevention
The best way to protect your pet from fleas is prevention. Many of these products are easy to administer and need to be given only once a month year-round, making it convenient for today’s busy pet owner.
Upper Respiratory Infection
At-Home Respiratory Infection Care
A majority of upper respiratory infections are virally induced. The only real cure is supporting the body so that the body can mount an immune response, similar to how your body fights the common cold. To assist in your pet’s recovery there is much that you can do at home, in a nursing sense. The secretions the body creates in response to a respiratory virus must be expelled from the respiratory tract. To aid the body, the more moisture present the easier it will be for the secretions to be moved. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you confine your pet to one room and have a steam vaporizer running. The extra moisture will help the body expelled mucus created. To reduce the amount of mucus, it is recommended that you add a liquid menthol (Kazz or Vick’s) to the water – the menthol is soothing to the respiratory tract. To further assist your pet’s body we recommend that you also added nasal decongestant to the home treatments. We advise you to use “Little Noses Decongestant” with a drop applied to each nostril every few hours. This helps dry up the nasal secretions. There are additional medicines that can be used if there is a limited response to the above suggestions, but we ask that you call our office for guidance as to medicines and proper dosage. Remember, this is a viral infection and it takes the body some time to mount an immune response.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common disorders affecting dogs. It has been estimated that nearly one out of every seven dogs will be affected by this type of problem over the course of their lifetime.
Fortunately, this problem does not occur often in healthy cats. However, other diseases can damage their normal urinary tract defenses and leave feline patients vulnerable to developing urinary tract infections as well.
Signs of Trouble
If your pet has a urinary tract infection, the most likely signs include:
Blood in urine, which may also have a foul odor
More frequent urination
Urinating in inappropriate places
Any of these signs are indicative of a serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health problem and should prompt you to call your veterinarian immediately.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If a urinary tract infection is suspected, your veterinarian will want to take a sample of your pet’s urine to confirm the diagnosis and determine the specific type of bacteria responsible. The signs of a urinary tract infection are similar to those of a urinary blockage, so it is important to identify the true problem so that the correct treatment can be given.
If a urinary tract infection is diagnosed as the culprit, your veterinarian will prescribe an antimicrobial that is effective against the type of bacteria that caused the problem. It is important that you give the drug exactly as your veterinarian has instructed. Missing a dose or two, or not completing the entire course of the treatment, can have serious consequences and lead to a relapse of the condition.
Once you’ve finished giving the medication to your pet, your veterinarian may take another urine sample to make sure the infection is gone. If not, you will need to continue the medication for a longer period. Recurring infections may indicate problems with urinary stones or other conditions and warrant further testing.
Urinary infections are common, but usually not serious, if caught early. With prompt treatment, your pet will feel better quickly.