Boy was one of the lucky few older dogs at the local
animal control facility. He was adopted. It was
estimated that he was about 9 years old, and the guess
was he was a mixed breed terrier. His new family has
been caring for him for almost four months and he fits
in very well in his new digs.
does have one ongoing problem though — one that he
cannot seem to shake. His caretakers are not only
frustrated but worried a bit as well. Barley Boy, aka
BB, has a persistent cough.
BB’s adopter, has taken BB to his veterinarian on
three different occasions, starting just four days after
he was adopted. Each time, the presenting complaint was
BB’s persistent cough. Because of his history as a dog
from the animal control service, BB was initially
treated for 10 days with an antibiotic, under the
assumption that he had contracted "kennel
reports there was little if any improvement, and she
returned BB to his veterinarian about three weeks into
his new life. Anna was again given an antibiotic, a
different one, to be used for two weeks.
was not sure if she was being hopeful, but she did think
that BB’s cough lessened with the second course of
antibiotics. It did not, however, disappear. A third
visit to the veterinarian ensued, two months into BB’s
new life, still dealing with a cough. This time, BB was
prescribed a cough suppressant and yet another
cough greatly improved, making Anna, and I suspect BB as
well, quite happy and relieved. Anna still harbored some
concern because she was never sure what was causing BB
to cough and her concern heightened when he recently
began to cough again.
would like to commend Anna on her inquiry as it
contained a very good history of BB’s problem, which
makes my guessing a bit more educated. The first thing
we need to realize with a coughing patient is that a
cough is a symptom, a result of some type of insult to
the respiratory system.
system starts with the nose and mouth, continues down
the throat through the trachea (windpipe), and down into
the lungs via the main bronchi and bronchial tubes. An
insult from the throat on down can lead to a cough. The
list of possibilities is very long and especially so in
an older dog like BB.
concern that we do not know what caused/is causing BB’s
cough is paramount. We need to strive for a definitive
diagnosis and the first step after a good physical
examination should be imaging the respiratory tract.
is done by taking pictures (radiographs) of the chest
and possibly the throat. With these images, we can
determine if there are any abnormalities visible that
might be causing BB’s cough.
radiographs, we may need to perform what is termed a
trans-tracheal wash on BB. This is a procedure in which
we flush some sterile fluid into BB’s bronchial system
and collect some back for analysis and culture for
bacteria. This can be a very rewarding tool in trying to
diagnose a cough.
would also recommend a heartworm test for BB, as this
parasite occurs in part of the vascular system
associated with the lungs and causes coughing.
there are many possibilities as to the cause for BB’s
cough. We must do everything we can to positively
identify the underlying cause in order to affect a
have touched on some of the testing needed and there may
be more. Obviously, antibiotics are not the sole