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Category: Dog Veterinary
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Experience:  breeder/ vet assistant.
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My chihuahua mix hacks like she has a hair ball stuck in her

Customer Question

My chihuahua mix hacks like she has a hair ball stuck in her throat. She doesn't do it that often, but this morning she couldn't stop. What could it be? I could never video her because she always did it randomly but I was able to video her today.
Submitted: 1 year ago via Dog-Health-Guide.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Its a 30 second video, I tried to attach video it said it was too large. Don't know how to make it smaller.
Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

Hi JaCustomer,

My name is ***** ***** I’ve been involved professionally with dogs in the health and behavioral fields for over 18 years. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.

In order to supply you with an informed answer, it is necessary for me to collect some additional information from you. When I receive your response or reply, it will likely take me between 30-45 minutes to type up my reply if I am still online when I receive notice that you replied. I hope you can be patient.

How long has she been doing this?

If it has increased in frequency, is it significant and just this morning?

Has Molly been around other dogs at all even if it is through a fence?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She has been doing this for over a year, maybe two. She used to do it once in a while. Not enough to be concerned about. Now she seems to be doing it more. Early this morning it was like an attack. She couldn't stop, it went on for over an hour. She drank some water but then when she hacked she threw it up. It's like she has something stuck in her throat. She'll breathe weird first and then hack.
She finally fell asleep and she's stopped for now. We have another dog, a miniature dachshund. But they are never around other dogs. Is there an email where I can send the video too?
Thank you
Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for the additional information. It is helpful. You should be able to use the paperclip to upload video or send it to***@******.*** but that can take some time. Let me give you my answer and some links to various videos and you can compare them to what your dog does.

There are various causes for a dog to cough which is basically what you are describing. Often it is the result of an illness such as an upper respiratory illness like kennel cough. Kennel cough usually only last about 3 weeks unless a bacterial infection develops as well. They can also develop other illnesses like bronchitis or canine flu. These would not last years undetected.

It is more likely to be a reverse sneeze situation or collapsing trachea or even Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome which we do see in dogs with short muzzles. You can read about this here:

Here is a video of a dog with this condition:

Here are websites and videos on reverse sneezing and collapsing trachea.

This should help you determine which is the cause. At that point, your vet can help you determine if surgery is warranted or not. Most dogs with a collapsing tracheal do just fine without surgery but there is always the chance it may collapse and not open back up. They do say stroking the throat reduces the severity and length of the attack.

I hope this information is helpful to you. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have . If you do find this helpful, please take this opportunity to rate my answer positively so I am compensated for my time.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I looked at the links you sent me, which I was familiar with those conditions and it is definitely not those. I am going to send you the video via email.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sent video to the address you told me and put Attn: Jane Lefler. Please let me know if you received it. Thanks again.
Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

I'll be waiting to see if it gets to me. With the airway disease, the palate can become elongated and cause a gagging since it is entering the airway. You may need to have your vet do an endoscopy to exmine the throat. They might also do a tracheal wash to determine if there is any infection. I'll let you know when I receive notification on the video being received.

Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

I got the video and it looks and sounds like tracheal collapse to me. However, an elongated soft palate might also lead to an airway obstruction that sounds similar as well. You might try the technique mentioned in this video and if it works, then it wouldlikely be a soft palate causing a partial obstruction.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I watched the video and a few other videos with the tracheal collapse, but it doesn't sound like a tracheal collapse. I know I'm not a vet but I honestly don't think it's that. But do you the it could be heart disease? I've watched videos and some match very much to my dog. If you do think it could be that what is the outcome of it?
Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

Coughs can be from heart and lung conditions. Causes include heartworms or congestive heart failure or even bronchitis. However, those types of cough generally are ongoing and don't come and go though you will see coughs related to heart issues during exercise. Also the way your dog is opening her mouth suggests an obstruction or blockage of the airway. Of course, if a regular cough goes on for a long period of time, you might get some gagging when bile comes up from the stomach.

Now that was one thing I didn't think of before. Perhaps this newest episode is the result of some excess bile or acid reflux. She would possible cough and gag to get that out of her throat. If you think that may be a possibility try some pepcid. Read about Pepcid dosages and usage information here:

It will take about 45 minutes to take affect, so perhaps just give it to her first thing in the morning. Mornings are usually worse for this due to having an empty stomach all night, so a small meal at bedtime can help as well. Adding a good probiotic to her food can put good bacteria into her gastrointestinal tract and cut down on excess bile if that is contributing to the gagging cough.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I watched a video on you tube that seemed a lot like my dogs situation. He mentioned about heart disease and when it effects them when they are at rest.
She eats dinner at night anyway.
Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

A small dog like yours should eat a minimum of two meals a day and 3 is usually better. Tiny dogs can experience low blood sugar which can lead to seizures and even death.

The only way to know for sure what the cause of your dog's cough is to have a complete check up done at your vet and let them run diagnostic tests if necessary. If she hasn't been on heartworm medication, then the vet might check for heartworms which could certainly cause a cough. Most heart conditions do lead to exercise intolerance. Congestive heart failure can lead to coughing at rest. For your dog's breed, though, she is young.

Your vet will likely want to go ahead and do some imaging depending on what he hears during his physical exam. As I mentioned, he might do a tracheal wash to check for infection. Anyone can try and guess based on a video, but she is going to need to be seen and examined by your vet to get a true diagnoses.

Expert:  jadedangel57 replied 1 year ago.

Hi Again,

I just thought I'd check in to see how things are going for you and your dog. Let me know if my answer was helpful.