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Dr. Drew
Dr. Drew, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16844
Experience:  Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
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My 7 yr old pitbull started coughing, hacking, and wheezing

Customer Question

Hi. My 7 yr old pitbull started coughing, hacking, and wheezing very bad. I took him to the vet they gave him a steroid shot and lasik shot and said he had allergies. Well that didn't work so I took him back. he did the same thing gave him another 2 shots. And of course that didn't work again. So I took him to a different vet. They done bloodwork and X-rays and diagnosed him with asthma. They put him on a water pill 2 times a day, antibiotics, antihistamine, and hydroxyzine. That's been 3 weeks ago and he is still no better. I was wondering if there was some kind of meds for asthma that you may know that works well that I could ask my vet about?? Thanks for your help in advance.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 1 year ago.
Hello, thanks for your question today! I am Dr. Drew, and I am a licensed veterinarian. I'll be happy to help you in any way I can.
Asthma is not actually something that is a recognized illness in dogs, so I am quite suspicious of the diagnosis. Dogs can develop a chronic allergic bronchitis, which can cause coughing, but generally a steroid would have reduced the coughing to a significant degree, in the case of allergic bronchitis. Incidentally, true asthma is very responsive to steroid treatment, so in either case, it sounds like something is being missed here.
I would want to know if monthly heartworm prevention is being used, since heartworm disease can cause coughing. A blood test can be done to diagnose heartworms.
Water pills are typically prescribed when a cough is due to heart problems. If there's not a heart problem, then the water pill may be making the cough worse.
The next diagnostic steps in this case, after confirming that heartworm disease is not the problem, would be a Bronchoscopy, which is a procedure where a camera is inserted into the airways.
I would also consider trying a prescription cough suppressant such as Hydrocodone, in order to see if resting the airways may make the dog more comfortable. Over-the-counter cough suppressants are not as useful, but can be tried. Robitussin-DM, 1mL per 10 pounds of body weight, every 8-12 hours, could be tried.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for your help. They tested him for heart worms and it was negative. When they done an X-ray on him they told us his bronchicular(not sure of spelling) tubes were inflamed. But I'm really worried he's gonna die before we can find out what's going on with him. He is MISERABLE.
Expert:  Dr. Drew replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for the reply.
It sounds like they saw what's known as a "bronchial pattern" on the x-rays, which means that the tubes that carry air, are thickened, and presumably inflammed. Steroids should have improved that, but if there is an underlying infectious cause, then other treatment may be needed.
A culture taken from the lower airways would help identify if there is a special type of antibiotic that might be useful. Also, I'd consider a dewormer such as Panacur, which may eliminate Lungworms, which can cause coughing but can be tricky to diagnose.