Happy New Year, Dallas Voice readers! I am super excited to start a new year with all of you, and I want to welcome to my first Woof column of 2023. I am hoping that the symbolism of a new year brings us new and amazing memories.
For this column, I have chosen to discuss respiratory issues because we are, unfortunately, seeing an outbreak of canine influenza and kennel cough (Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex or Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis) in the DFW region. Before we start, please know that the microorganisms that cause these diseases are not transmissible to humans.
From my experience, it may be challenging for some pet parents to differentiate between a cough and a sneeze when observing their kitties and pups. It can also be challenging to determine when these things may be concerning.
It is important to note first that it can be completely normal for dogs and cats to sneeze or cough here and there, just like with us humans. That being said, it becomes concerning when the frequency increases and/or when we see that they are not feeling well. These respiratory conditions can be caused by quite a few different things — some of them may not be concerning at all, and some can actually be life threatening.
One common issue we can see is reverse sneezing, which is typically not alarming but sometimes does need to be addressed. Reverse sneezing can be caused by allergies to the environment and, rarely, by an actual particle or object stuck in the nasal passages among other causes (including nasal mites).
Collapsing trachea is another respiratory tract condition that can lead to coughing and can be severe, as some dogs may not be able to stop coughing without medical management. If a dog has severe collapsing trachea, it can even be life threatening.
Both reverse sneezing and collapsing trachea tend to be seen more with smaller dogs even though larger dogs can also experience them.
Other conditions affecting the respiratory system and leading to coughing or sneezing include trauma and foreign objects lodged in the nasal cavity or the windpipe and infections of the nasal cavity, airways or lungs with a virus, bacteria, or fungus with both dogs and cats. Some of these can certainly progress and
become very serious and even life-threatening conditions, like pneumonias.
Some parasites, like heartworm, can lead to excessive coughing. Heartworm is common in Texas and is transmitted to both dogs and cats through the bite of an
infected mosquito. Cats can also suffer from asthma, which leads to coughing.
Heart disease, including congestive heart failure, can lead to coughing, and this can certainly be life threatening. Sadly, there are also certain types of tumors and
cancers that can involve the respiratory airways and lungs.
As mentioned earlier, we are seeing a rise in cases of canine flu and kennel cough, which are commonly seen after a dog is boarded or exposed to other dogs that may be sick with any of the organisms that cause these diseases. They are both highly contagious diseases, and, even though there are vaccines against the canine flu and Bordetella, a bacteria known to cause kennel cough, dogs can still get infected with other organisms that cause kennel cough and can still get the flu.
If your dog has been exposed to other dogs and/or has started coughing excessively, please consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible, as these infections can lead to pneumonias and even life-threatening complications.
I always recommend that parents record a video of what they are seeing at home and bring that video to their appointment or send it through email prior to the appointment so that the doctor can more accurately identify the issue, as many times dogs and cats will not cough or sneeze when they are at the hospital.
Once you arrive at the veterinary hospital, the doctor or medical team will collect information on what is going on and will likely recommend testing in order to diagnose what’s wrong. Based on what they find, your doctor may recommend a heartworm test and/or general blood work. But radiographs will often be one of the first steps in seeking answers.
Your doctor may recommend collection of samples from the airways for analysis and sometimes even cultures to find out what type of organism may be present in your baby’s respiratory tract. In more advanced or complicated cases, your doctor may recommend advanced imaging, like an MRI or a CT scan, or specialized sample testing like PCR.
Treatment of coughing or sneezing varies, of course, based on the cause. Some of these conditions cannot be cured and can only be managed long term with medical approaches. When it comes to kennel cough and canine influenza, it is very important to always address them as soon as coughing is identified.
It is also important to monitor your baby closely and to have open communication with your doctor, as sometimes minor changes can be significant enough that they need to be addressed differently. Timely communication is typically vital for most of these issues and will likely lead to better outcomes in the long term.
Thank you for taking your time to read my Woof column, and I hope it was beneficial. I hope this new year brings positive experiences and that we continue to grow and become better people. Big abrazos for everyone.
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110, Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com.