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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  16 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
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my 14yr.old cocker spaniel is having difficulty breathing.

Customer Question

my 14yr.old cocker spaniel is having difficulty breathing. has history of [email protected] problems.eyes have some muccous.sleeping a [email protected] very little.seems to have dry mouth.wondering if cataracts are [email protected] are in full force with changing weather. concerned about heart. thankyou
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. K replied 8 years ago.
Is your dog coughing?
Does she have a history of heart murmur?
If you lift her lip and look at the gums above her teeth, are they a nice deep pink color or are the pale or bluish/grayish? If you touch them do they feel wet and slimy or dry and sticky?

Dr. K
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Dr.K.Gracie's gums appear to be pink color;seem to be a little sticky to the touch. No heart mu rmorhistory. No coughing either. Thank you
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.


Dr.K is having some problems with her computer and asked me to step in to help you.

Please could you tell me more about Gracie's difficulty breathing. Is she gasping or snorting? Panting? Is she able to lie on her side to sleep, or is she trying to sleep propped up in sitting position? Is she able to go for a walk, or does she lie down exhausted part-way into it?

How are her appetite and energy levels?


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Gracie is panting; not able to lie on her side for a long period of time. She seems exhausted and has low energy loss of appetite. Tries to keep her head elevated [on her pillow] for maximum comfort level. Giving her ice and making sure plenty of fresh water is nearby. has eaten a small amount but not forcing issue.
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

Thanks for the further information about Gracie.

What you are describing is called "orthopnea" which literally translates to straight breathing. This is something that happens when there is fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). If the patient is upright, the fluid sinks to the bottom and allows for easier breathing. But if the dog lies down, they quickly get short of breath.

Most commonly, orthopnea occurs with congestive heart failure. In an older cocker spaniel, this could be caused by a few different things, but mitral valve disease would be the most common. Basically, when the heart beats, not all of the blood inside it is pushed forward as the mitral valve often becomes "leaky" in older small breed dogs. So, now you have more blood coming in, PLUS that leaked blood that didn't go out, so the pressure builds up inside the heart. This then backs up so there is increased pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs. Because of the increased pressure, fluid gets squeezed out of the blood vessels and into the lungs. With water in the lungs, it is very difficult to get oxygen across the lungs into the blood stream.

Here are some links to more information about congestive heart failure (CHF):

This is something for which Gracie needs prompt veterinary attention. She may need injections of a diuretic (such as Lasix/furosemide) to quickly move the fluid out of her lungs so she can breathe more easily. The vet would likely get x-rays of her chest to see how much fluid is there, and what size her heart is.

Once she is stablilized, she will likely go home with Lasix in pill form so that the fluid doesn't build up again, as well as something called an "ace inhibitor" to help the heart function more effectively.

It sounds as though Gracie is having a rough time right now, and it must be distressing to her to feel so short of breath. Please get her to a veterinarian as soon as possible!

If this has been helpful, please hit the green "Accept" button. I will still be here to provide more information if you need it!


Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience: 16 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
Dr.Fiona and 5 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Is there anything we can do to keep her comfortable until we can get into our vet. office in the am? thankyou
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

Prop her up on a wedge so that her head is up higher than her body. If you have something triangular that would help (I slept on a triangular pillow wedge when pregnant, so ask around friends and family, lots of people use these if they have acid reflux). The more upright she is, the better! If you have nothing else, get a wide plank of wood, prop it up 1-2 feet high at one end, and put a blanket on there for her to get her to lie down with her head up.

Do not let her drink any more water.

Keep her quiet and calm.

When you take her out, carry her so she does not exert herself.

Good luck with her, and plan to be on your vets' doorstep when they open!


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Can we give her ice to keep her hydrated?
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

Yes, you can let her lick at an ice cube to keep her mouth wet. I actually *want* her to get a little dehydrated as any less fluid in her body is going to help dry out her lungs a bit.

I was thinking that another option for keeping her comfortable and letting you get a bit of sleep would be for you to lie down, and then put her front legs and head up on your chest or belly. This would elevate her, and also keep her close where you would wake up if she started coughing or gasping. If she did start gasping, try holding her completely even more upright, in a "begging for a cookie" type of position.

I'd love to get an update tomorrow on how she does at her vet visit. Good luck!


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Reply to Dr.Fiona's Post: Dr.Fiona we lost Gracie on the way to the vets office this morning. She had avery rough night.We tried to resusitate her but her heart just couldn't handle it. It is a very sad day here. Thankyou for your advice .
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 8 years ago.

Oh, I am SO sorry to hear this news! Even though I have never met you or Gracie, I feel as though I know you both. I'm so very sorry for your loss. (((HUGS))) Thank you for updating me, and please accept my deepest condolences. I can only imagine the terrible hole this leaves in your life...


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