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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Different Dog, Same Cough

Here's the last reader question sitting in my inbox (for now), so I'm officially caught up for at least a little while...

My mom had a miniature poodle, black one. It did that snorting/reverse-sneeze/hacking sound for a few years. Activities, excitement, drinking, eating, etc triggered episodes. She passed away from respiratory distress or failure (I believe thats what they called it) in Feb. 2012, the following Oct or so I found a nearly identical poodle and she took it in.( I don't like this one, its not nice. So I do not bond, nor spend time with it.). A few months after being in the home, she developed the same noises, exactly. The same triggers even. But, not as often (yet). Could it be something in the home? Her last dog, whom I adored(!), she used to lick the registers. (Air vents). And both stick their noses into everything. My mom is limited income, I told her to get the dog in but what could they check for. My mom doesn't always remember things so I'm afraid she may not mention enough, like what she sneaks to the dog. Lol! Her last one was overweight and this one is getting there. I think she over feeds them comfort foods. She sees them pretty much as little people.

Poodle 1 licked registers, ate chocolate in small amounts, ate table scraps regularly, mostly ate soft dog food and treats, choking sounds, was active, friendly, loving, nosy, and wandered off a few times. She was also epileptic.

Poodle 2 eats table scraps often (daily), eats treats often, choking sounds, is active, aggressive, doesn't like people except my mom, nosy, wanders outside yard but not as far, Ma watches a little better and we put up a gate to help. Otherwise healthy but gaining weight like the other one. Is missing some teeth in the back. Was abused allegedly but definitely neglected to some degree and not properly socialized.

Both dogs like to hang out in an old window and behind a couch. My mom has used bleach on the couch several times. Some things that belonged to poodle 1 remain out to this day.

The house is old but there is no carpet. Air does come up from basement (possibly mold down there) and what mold we've found has been sprayed with bleach water then painted.

My fear is a repeat death. I've read on kennel cough, toy poodle trachea issues, asthma but I also know plants and other toxins may be there. Where to start? What to test for? What to tell the vet if I can get her to take the dog?

There are a couple of things to talk about before we get to the main point, and I don't think I'm going to be telling you anything you don't already know.

1.  People food and table scraps are BAD.  Your mother needs to stop feeding these right away.  When fed in this way such foods can lead to pancreatitis, obesity, nutritional imbalances, and picky eating.  Chocolate is NEVER acceptable, even though small amounts are not toxic.  Your mother can be setting her dog up for numerous health problems, and if she is on a fixed income this could be financially burdensome to her.  However you need to do it, emphasize that she could be creating poor health in her dogs by doing this.

2.  Overweight dogs are unhealthy.  Like in humans obesity can lead to heart and respiratory problems, joint discomfort, diabetes, and other serious health disorders.  I've seen many pets who have difficulty breathing because of their obesity.  I know that many people equate giving their pets food and treats with love, but it shows more love to NOT give these things, thus allowing them to live a longer, healthier lives.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to the main point of the discussion.

Reverse sneezing is common in small dogs, including poodles.  You can do a quick search on YouTube and find numerous videos of dogs doing this, which actually helps see whether or not that is what is going on in this case.  A reverse sneeze is essentially a sinus spasm and forceable ejection that goes back into the throat rather than out the nose.  Anything that tickles or irritates the nasal passages can trigger an episode:  dust, pollen, panting, high activity, stress, an intranasal vaccine, and so on.  Though they seem very distressing, they are harmless.  If it happens often enough you may consider talking to the vet about using over-the-counter antihistamines, especially if it seems there is an allergy component to the timing.  This won't always help, but is usually worth trying.  Otherwise you are left with avoiding the triggers which isn't always easy or even possible.  And I've never heard of reverse sneezing causing complete respiratory failure.

Another common reason for coughing in small breeds is a collapsing trachea.  This is a minor genetic defect where the cartilage rings in the trachea are weak, allowing it to "collapse" and narrow when there is rapid air movement or pressure is put on the throat.  When the sides of the trachea touch receptors are triggered, stimulating a cough.  This is a very "typical" cough, and not the snort/sneeze/hack with a reverse sneeze.

The vet should be able to do a thorough exam, palpating the trachea, listening to the lungs, and otherwise trying to rule out most of the common problems.  In order to be extremely thorough the vet may want to take x-rays of the throat and chest.  If there isn't anything wrong I would consider working on reducing air particles and dust mites.  Have the ducts and vets cleaned, install high-quality air filters, and try to reduce the amount of air fresheners or other aerosols.  Perfumes, smoke, dust, and strong cleaners can all cause irritation to the sinuses and trigger a spasm.  It may also be a good idea to have a professional home inspector check for mold that may not be obvious; this would be good for your mother's health as well as the dog.  With similar symptoms in both pets I would be suspicious of an environmental cause, so this should be ruled out.

Good luck!