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Tammy F., Not an active Expert
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Why does my bichon have a chronic cough

Resolved Question:

My bichon frise is 6 years old and was purchased directly from a breeder in Wisconsin. She is virtually never around other dogs, certainly has never been boarded with other dogs. Her first 4 years were spent in Portland, OR, and since then in the central San Joaquin Valley of California.   She has had a cough for her whole life, which comes on both at rest and after running around, more when inside the house than when outside. It is a hacking cough and sometimes she looks like she's trying to cough something up. It is always dry. She has received all routine vaccinations including Bordatella.

One vet told me it was "collapsing trachea" and it would get worse as she ages. Another said it was kennel cough. Neither has offered suggestions for treatment.

She is otherwise healthy. Eats Little Cesar twice a day and Beneful kibble as snacks.

Is there anything I can to to rid her of this affliction?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Tammy F. replied 9 years ago.

If it's happening when he's excited or active, this is very likely caused by a collapsing trachea. It's VERY common in this breed. I would want to see the vet to confirm this. Most dogs with this condition do not need treatment (aside from anti-tussins) and live a very normal life.

Aside from that, heart conditions can also cause a cough with exertion so I would want to have the vet pay a little close attention to the heart.

This CAN become a habit, particularly if he has been doing it this long. When he starts to cough, be sure to distract him with a toy or even just affection so that he will stop. If it's a habit, this will help.

But I would definitely want to look further at tracheal issues and the heart.

Respiratory illnesses are also a common cause of coughs but if your dog has not been exposed, I would not jump to that first.

You can read more about robitussin and its use dogs, including dosage information and the precautions:

Let me know if you need more help.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Tammy Falkner's Post: Thank you for your reply. Would a cough that occurs most severely when she is active or excited but which also occurs at rest be consistent with collapsing trachea? If so, is your suggestion to give anti-tussins when it is most severe, and when coughing occurs at rest to try to distract her?

A heart disorder is a new thought: Are you suggeting some abnormality which would cause her to have heart failure/hypoxia? She is such an athletic dog that it is hard to imagine a cardiac problem. However, what should I ask for from my vet to rule that out? I've taken her for routine check ups--what more should Rugby have done to evaluate her heart?
Expert:  Tammy F. replied 9 years ago.

Yes. Coughing can become a habit in some dogs. If you distract her, you might be able to break the habit, as opposed to letting it continue.

An excitable cough (one that presents with excitement) is often because of tracheal issues. If this is the case, your vet can prescribe anti-tussins to help. Some dogs require surgery to repair a severely collapsed trachea.

Your vet can listen to the heart to check for a murmur, which would be indicative of a cardiac issue. Worst case scenario, you can get a cardiac ultrasound to rule out heart problems.

Kennel cough is still a concern but time/antibiotics should clear that up for you, if that's truly the cause.

Tammy F., Not an active Expert
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 9168
Experience: Not an active Expert
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