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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 21199
Experience:  Hello, I am a small animal veterinarian and am happy to discuss any concerns & questions you have on any species.
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My 13 yr old dog thumbs her nose up at food.. she is drinking

Customer Question

My 13 yr old dog thumbs her nose up at food.. she is drinking a lot of water and is voiding normal. She has loose stool and small amount. She has sort of a horrible cough? She is my life and I'm very worried.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
How long has she been showing these signs?
Did the cough start the same time as all her other signs?
Any nasal or eye discharge?
Any vomiting, retching, drooling, gagging, gulping, or lip licking?
Did she start refusing food suddenly or was it a gradual decline?
Are her gums nice and pink (not white/pale)?
If you press on her belly, does she have any tensing, tenderness, discomfort, or pain?
What does her stool look like?
Is she also passing large volume of dilute urine?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Cough has been for a couple months, symptoms of not eating has been for 2 weeks, she will nibble. her gums are pink. She has tenderness when I press on her belly but she has favored that since she had uterus removed 2 yrs ago.. she does have a hard lump on her stomach. No vomiting, drooling, retching or gagging. And does have eye discharge. Her stool looks mucusy.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you,
Now your lass does sound to have a few issues bombarding her at the moment. To start, I suspect the decline stool volume is related to her reduced appetite and the mucusy soft stools are likely a secondary opportunistic issue (ie GI bacterial overgrowth, etc). Those aside, our major concerns are the lingering cough, the appetite loss, and especially the increased thirst.
With these in mind, can you tell me when the increased thirst started?
In the past 2 weeks or long term as well?
Has the cough been quite harsh or soft?
Does she bring anything up when she has a coughing fit?
Does her belly look distended at all?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The increased thirst started with the decline in appetite. And the cough is more of a gagging sound I guess but she only does it once. Then seems fine, it happens a couple times a day. Her belly is distended. She has been over weight since her hysterectomy. Her breathing seems labored as of today. I look at her at she just wags her tail.
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you again,
Now I have to say that I am quite concerned about your lass.
With all her signs, it is a case of teasing out what is related to the primary issue and what are side effects of it. If her thirst has only increased since the appetite has dropped; then this may not be clinically significant. We are likely see her lack of water intake via food translate to drinking more. Again, as I noted, the stools are also likely a secondary issue.
With this all in mind, we have to appreciate that the cough is likely related to our main concern for her. And while we can see coughs with infection, the extended duration of her signs, distension (especially if she feels like a water balloon and isn't just fat) and her elevated labored breathing make me worried that this condition is coming to a head. And these signs raise concerns that this condition may be related to her heart. We can often see all of these signs with heart disease. Other potential issues we'd also have to consider would be heartworm infections, lung worm, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and tumors involving the lungs.
In this case, I would be most concerned about the above and suspect that the more visible issues are just a result of this getting her down. Therefore, I have to say that it'd be best to have a check with her vet as soon as possible (as long as her gums are pink and she isn't having breathing distress, you can monitor her until her vet is open). Her vet can listen to her heart and lungs +/- xray her chest to see what is present. Depending on their findings, it may be a cause of antibiotics (if infection is suspected), bronchodilators, or heart medication if her heart is enlarged. And if we can address the triggering cause for her main signs, we can hopefully get her feeling better and back to eating, passing normal stools, and being generally more active for you.
In the meantime, I do want to outline some supportive care if she is not eating well. Further to the hamburger/rice diet, I do want to note some other light diet options. Alternatives would be cooked white rice with boiled chicken, boiled white fish, or scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk). There are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used in cases of gastroenteritis (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity).
Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food into her. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D or Royal Canin Recovery from your local vet. These are critical care diets that comes as a soft, palatable pate. Both are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some more calories into her even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet (which this could be a sneaky way to get food in if she will drink). It is actually by the same people who make Ensure, but is formulated to meet out pet's dietary needs. Your vet should be able to order it for you but it is available without a prescription. And if you cannot get ahold of these right now, you can also use wet puppy food as a substitute (either watered down to syringe or to feed directly). This way it would a means of getting food in, and buying you time to uncover the reason for her signs.
Finally, while she is drinking well, I would advise monitoring her hydration. Some of these conditions can cause increased thirst but compromise the hydration at the same time. To check her hydration status to make sure she is not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether she has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this HERE ( ). If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your wee one seen by her vet before this gets out of control for her.
Overall, I am very concerned about your lass. I suspect her current signs are just side effects of a bigger issue. And with that chronic cough, distension, and changes to her breathing; I would be concerned about the state of her heart and lungs. Therefore, do consider the above to continue to support her but do consider having a check once her vet is open to pinpoint which of the above is a concern and whether there is anything we can do to help get her more stable and feeling better.
Please take care,
Dr. B.