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Vet help
Vet help, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2736
Experience:  12 years experience as small animal vet, 21 years experience in the animal care field
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My 5 year old maltese has started panting heavily in the ...

Resolved Question:

My 5 year old maltese has started panting heavily in the last month.
My vet screened her for cushing disease which was negative. He
can't seem to give me an answer as to what the problem
is. I am concerned that there is a serious problem. She sems to be worse at night. Please help. Should I find another vet? Thank you,
J. Weeks
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Vet help replied 9 years ago.
HiCustomer Thank you for asking your question on Just Answer. The other experts and I are working on your answer. By the way, it would help us to know:

- Does your dog exhibit any signs other than the panting? (i.e., excessive drinking or urination, increased or decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, etc.)
- Does your dog cough?
- Is your dog currently on any medicines (either prescribed by the vet, over-the-counter, or supplements of any kind)? If so, please list them.
- How much does your dog weigh? And have you ever been told that your dog is overweight?
- What tests have been run so far? Specifically, what type of blood work including what test your vet used to rule out Cushing's? Have x-rays been done?

Thank you again for trusting us with your problem. Please reply as soon as possible so that we can finish answering your question.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to RGK's Post: The only other signs are excessive itching which the vet diagnosed
as allergies. He gave her a shot for that on Feb. 7th of this year.
She does not have nor has ever had fleas. She is treated with "advantage" each month.She weighs 7 pounds and I've never been told she is overweight. She does not have a cough and is not on
any medication at this time. The tests that were done are listed
below. She has not had x-rays. The panting is worse at night.

AntechK-9Comp Screen
Antech Thyroid Panel
Tapeworming 0-20#INJ
Expert:  Vet help replied 9 years ago.
Thank you for your thorough answers, it helps to rule out a number of conditions.
7 pounds is the higher side of normal for a Maltese but is certainly not obese, so we can probably rule out a weight issue as a contributing factor. Heavy dogs have fatty deposits within the chest, on the chest wall and in the abdomen which pushes up on the diaphragm and reduces the space in which the lungs inflate.
The K-9 Comp Screen that was done would have included evaluation of all major organ function. This test is not specific for Cushing's disease. I believe what your vet was looking for was elevation of an enzyme called Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP), as about 80% of dogs with Cushing's disease have high levels of ALP. However, since your dog's bloodwork is normal and she has no other signs of Cushing's, it's unlikely that this is the problem. But if you wanted to completely rule this out you'd need to have him perform more specific testing- either an ACTH stimulation test or a Dexamethasone Suppression test.
Dogs with low thyroid levels may have breathing issues, so it's great that this was ruled out as well.
The injection that he gave her for itching in February was, presumably, a steroid. Steroids can cause panting. Some vets will give a long-acting steroid injection called Depo-Medrol. This medication will control signs of itching for up to 3 weeks, and side effects such as panting may last a bit longer.
I'm assuming that when your vet ausculted (listened to your girl with a stethoscope) he did not hear any abnormal heart and lung sounds. Problems with the heart or lungs can cause excessive panting. We can't completely rule out a heart or lung issue based solely on auscultation, however. An x-ray of her chest would give a better indication of whether or not there was heart enlargement or any abnormal changes in the lung field. I'd recommend speaking with your vet about this. If anything remarkable is noted, particularly in regard to the heart, an ultrasound of the organ is indicated in order to determine extent of disease.
As a Florida resident, you are no doubt aware of the prevalence of heartworm disease. I'd strongly recommend she be tested for this if she is not on heartworm preventative (like Heartgard, Iverhart, Sentinel, or Interceptor). Severely affected dogs exhibit coughing, but panting could be a sign of early infection.
Toy breeds, like the Maltese, commonly have collapsing tracheas. The cartilage rings that hold the wind pipe open are weakened and decrease the diameter of the airway. The vast majority of cases exhibit a honking cough, which you are not seeing. However, if you do have the chest x-rays performed they could easily include her trachea in the picture to rule that out as a contributing factor.
Finally, other possibilities include: pain- often associated with an orthopedic issue like arthritis or a back issue, anxiety, or over-heating.
In summary, I'd definitely request a heartworm test and a chest x-ray. If all comes out ok, a thorough orthopedic exam to rule out any areas of physical discomfort. Provided all of this is normal, then take a look at the home environment and think about whether there have been any changes that might be making her more anxious or insecure (birth, death, new surroundings, etc.).
I hope this information is helpful and this issue resolves happily for you.
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