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Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Doc, There's Something Stuck In His Throat"

The longer I practice, the more surprised I get at certain things. One of them is the number of people who think that their pet has something stuck in their throat.

The situation normally begins something like this. A client brings in their dog because he has been coughing. The pet may or may not have been chewing on a bone or a stick or paper or something like that. The cough is sporadic and not constant and has been going on for a few days. The main concern that the client has is that the dog has something stuck in its throat and that's the reason for the cough.

In order for something to cause a cough, there needs to be irritation in the trachea. Yes, things can get caught there, but it's not a simple thing. If some sort of object is stuck in the trachea it is VERY irritating. This won't cause several days of occasional coughing. This will cause pretty frequent and pretty severe coughing. It may also cause difficulties breathing depending on how big the object is. However, this situation is very rare. In 12 years of practice I have never seen a coughing pet that actually did have something stuck in the throat, yet I frequently have clients who think this has happened (including today).

Now that's not to say that it isn't possible. I've read cases of tracheal foreign bodies or obstructions, and have spoken to colleagues who had to deal with such a case. But it's definitely not a common occurrence.

So if your pet has problems with coughing, definitely take him or her to your vet. But don't automatically assume that something is stuck in the throat. Odds are that this is NOT the case and there is another cause. Listen to your vet and follow the recommended diagnostics and treatment.