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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Breeder,Behaviorist, formerVet Asst
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 18817
Experience:  Former vol Vet Assistant.Breeder 18+ years Dog trainer / behaviorist
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My dog has a dry cough intermittently and is spastic tonight

Resolved Question:

My elderly dog has had a dry cough intermittently for the past two months, coughs a bit then is fine. The past two days it's gotten worse, tonight it is spastic. He is a 17 yr old poodle, well loved with a history of bradycardia under anaesthesia, thus his bad teeth. He hasn't had a good surgical cleaning in years. He is a laid back loveable dog, not a barker. Most people don't think he's a poodle at all. He is deaf and his vision is poor. He is very loved.

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 years ago.

Hi Sir or Madam,

Dogs don't get colds like humans, but they can develop upper respiratory illnesses such as kennel cough and canine influenza as well as bronchitis and inhaled allergies. I'm going to go over the various reasons for coughs THEN discuss your dog specifically. You can read about bronchitis here:

It's possible that if there is sneezing and nasal congestion, that it can be due to an allergic reaction to an inhaled substance. This is the time of year when we see dogs react to pollen. If this is the case, Benadryl can be given to your dog, the dose is up to 2mg per pound every 8 hours. You can read about these here.

Kennel cough is normally contracted when a dog has been boarded or kennelled or around a large number of dogs such as at a dog show, dog park or pet store. Here is a website with more information on kennel cough.

Canine influenza is now becoming more prevalent and like it sounds it is a canine flu. Here is an excellent site on it.

You will want to monitor your dog's condition looking for colored discharge from the nose or eyes, a productive cough (coughs stuff up), stops eating or lethargy. These are signs of a possible bacterial infection as well and my require antibiotics. If your dog appears to be having a difficult time breathing, you will need to see your vet as some dogs dog get really sick with canine influenza and need support to recover.

To help your dog breathe easier you can run a NON-medicated humidifier in the room your dog is in, or sit in a steamed up bathroom with your dog to help keep the mucous moving. Robitussin DM at a 1/4 teaspoon per 5 pounds can be used to control the cough. Dosages can be obtained at this website.

There are other reasons for coughs such as heart problems which should be investigated if your dog is not on heartworm preventative or is an older dog. The following site goes over canine coughs.

Your dog could be doing what is called a reverse sneeze or a collapsing trachea. Here is a site on reverse sneezes and one on collapsing tracheas.

Since your dog is quite elderly, I think you are right to worry about a possible heart condition. Especially since dental issues can release infection into the blood stream which does lead to heart issues. However, a collapsing trachea might also be to blame. Owners of dogs with collapsing tracheas report that rubbing the throat lessens the severity and duration of the episode. Try that and if it helps that might be a good indication of the cause. If your dog is not on other medication, then try the cough medication and see if there is improvement. I would suggest a senior check up with bloodwork.

I hope you find this information helpful.

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Could you please give me more information on tracheal collapse? Medical treatment and palliative care? He is too old to have surgery and like I said, cannot tolerate anaesthesia so it wouldn't be an option. He doesn't have any other symptomatology of an infectious or viral process. He does have that honking cough. He has quieted down now. Thank goodness.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 6 years ago.

A honking cough is indicative of kennel cough. Almost every time a client describes the cough as honking it has been kennel cough. Given the age of your dog, you should have your vet prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent secondary infections. He may have a bit of a cough due to heart issues but have contracted kennel cough recently. If so then he should improve after a couple of weeks of coughing.

As for tracheal collapse, non surgical treatment includes cough suppressants such as hydrocodone or torbutrol, bronchodilators, corticosteroids such as prednisone (to control inflammation), and/or antibiotics and long term prognosis is good. If your dog is overweight then getting the weight down helps prevent episodes.

Jane Lefler and 4 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you

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