Here's a question sent in by Malinda...
I read your article about people thinking that their dog has something stuck in their throat. I guess I'm one of those people. I have 2 Great Danes. The one in question is 7yrs old. He keeps "coughing" or gagging. I'm not real sure what I would call it. I plan to take him to his own Dr. Monday. He has quit eating, acts like he feels bad. He does this coughing thing mostly when he moves around a lot. Before he quit eating, he would regurgitate his food.
My question, if they don't have something in their throat, then what can it be? I have also noticed him doing the "wobblers" thing with his head. Could this be related to the problem?
He's also been having trouble getting up and down. Something with his back legs or hips. I have been giving him an aspirin hoping to make him feel better, at least until I get him to the vet. I plan to have his Dr. check that too. I pray that he's not just getting old on me. I LOVE my two boys so much. I've just lost one dog that I had for 16yrs. I don't think I could bare another loss right now.
What do you think all of this could be. Maybe help prepare me for what his Dr. is going to tell me. I'm pretty scared.
Malinda, as you're probably aware, seven is pretty old for a Great Dane, and many things can go wrong. You're doing the right thing by taking him in to the vet, as his doctor will have a better ability to determine the problem than I can.
Based on what you've described, I would be concerned about a disorder of the esophagus or stomach. If he was regurgitating or throwing up food, some may have gone down into his lungs and possibly created an aspiration pneumonia. This could be either a problem with his ability to swallow and hold down food, or could be a problem in his lungs causing fluid and mucus. Danes are prone to heart disease, which in advanced cases can cause fluid accumulation in the lungs, which can then cause coughing. The wobbling of the head is strange, and I'm not sure that I could tell what's going on based on what you've described. There is a condition called "wobbler's syndrome" that involves a problem with the spine in the neck. However, this much more common in Doberman pinschers than other breeds. It's difficult to say whether this has anything to do with the coughing issue.
The difficulty getting up and down is likely due to arthritis or hip dysplasia. Both are common in the breed and he's definitely the age when this can happen. I don't recommend aspirin use, as dogs are much more prone to the side-effects than are humans. Gastrointestinal irritation is a strong possibility and can even lead to ulcers in the stomach and intestines. Pain medications designed for dogs may be more expensive, but are safer and cause fewer problems.
This is one of those situations that can be very difficult to describe and diagnose. That's why it's so important to actually see a vet. Every day we get calls from people trying to to get us to tell them what's wrong with their pet over the phone, and may even get upset when we can't tell them exactly what it will cost to see their pet or what tests will be run. And that's why I have the disclaimer on this web site!
Malinda, I wish I could give you a better idea what to expect, but this is something that really needs to be examined directly. Expect your vet to want to do x-rays and likely run some blood tests. I hope this turns out to be nothing serious and that your Dane can be around for several more years.