“A cough is a natural reflex to clear the airways: just as most humans cough from time to time, so do many dogs.”
When your healthy dog coughs every now and then, you’re not likely to worry about it. That’s how Smudge’s cough started. Every now and then. It could have been caused by anything. But then Smudge started coughing more and more.
Persistent coughing does require investigation and diagnosis.
Kennel cough is the most common and well-known cause of coughing. If your dog has recently been boarded, groomed, visited a daycare of other places with a lot of other dogs, kennel cough is a likely suspect. Kennel cough may or may not need more than supportive care.
It’s not always Kennel cough.
The potential cause behind your dog’s cough can include parasites, heart disease, fungal infections, foreign bodies, cancer, and other serious problems.
Lungworm is something few people ever heard off.
It is what it sounds like–a parasitic infection of the lungs and trachea. Dogs that spend a lot of time in the woods or fields can become infected when they drink water or eat critters that carry the parasite’s larvae. Depending on the geographical location, it can also be contracted by eating slugs and snails in the garden.
During his veterinary exam, Smudge seemed to be in excellent health. Smudge’s lungs and heart sounded fine. But when Smudge coughed, it sounded deep and raspy–definitely not normal.
Potential causes are many and full work-up to investigate every differential diagnosis is costly and really not always needed. Once the truly severe causes are ruled out during the physical exam, it is most likely to receive a treatment that is simple and likely to cure most cases.
However, not every generic treatment works for everything. A reasonable assumption based on history and lifestyle needs to be made.
A therapeutic trial.
Because lungworm is relatively common where Smudge lives, his vet decided to forego the workup needed to diagnoses lungworm conclusively and give the lungworm treatment instead.
Smudge stopped coughing within a day after the treatment.
The fine line.
There are times to agree to a therapeutic trial, and there are times to insist on confirming the diagnosis first. I have agreed to a therapeutic trial before. For example, when Jasmine was coughing and had enlarged lymph nodes and the vet figured it was a toss-up between infection and lymphoma. Fortunately, it was an infection and responded to treatment within a day also.
What is going around in your area?
Is there a high incidence of a particular disease? Kennel cough outbreak? Canine flu? Lungworm? Heartworm? How about fungal infections?
What is your dog’s lifestyle?
Does your dog meet a lot of other dogs? Spend time in the woods? Spends a lot of time digging?
All these things need to be considered. If the suspicion is high and finances short, a therapeutic trial can make sense.
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Coughing
Smudge Developed a Nasty Cough