Gun­dog vet

Neil McIn­tosh gives a reader ad­vice on his cough­ing dog.

Sporting Gun - - CONTENTS - Neil McIn­tosh GRE­GORY HOB­SON, YORK­SHIRE SG’s gun­dog health ex­pert

This is a very good ques­tion but un­for­tu­nately not one that can be an­swered eas­ily. I cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate your can­dour, be­cause an hon­est, gen­uine his­tory is an im­por­tant part of the di­ag­no­sis in any cough­ing dog. It is worth stat­ing that the re­sults of a four year study at the An­i­mal Med­i­cal Cen­tre of Ni­hon Univer­sity, Kana­gawa, Ja­pan, showed that pas­sive to­bacco smoke ex­po­sure (PTSE) made vir­tu­ally ev­ery ca­nine res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tion worse. While it is likely that PTSE ac­tu­ally causes dam­age, it is very clear that it ex­ac­er­bates pre-ex­ist­ing lung and heart prob­lems. As far as your girl is con­cerned, we would need to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the com­mon causes of cough­ing in older dogs. Ob­vi­ously, most young­sters present with in­fec­tious coughs but geri­atrics can be af­fected by lung and heart prob­lems.

Chronic bron­chi­tis

We can di­ag­nose this when there has been cough­ing on most days over a two month pe­riod. A va­ri­ety of causes, in­clud­ing

PTSE, pre­vi­ous res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions and pure bad luck con­spire to cause chronic in­flam­ma­tion of the air­ways, lead­ing to in­creased mu­cus pro­duc­tion and poor per­for­mance of the cilia (the lit­tle hairs that con­stantly waft mu­cus out of the lungs). As a re­sult, the tiny air­ways, called bron­chi­oles, be­come plugged and thicken.

“Older dogs can be af­fected by lung and heart prob­lems... or both!”

Dogs are usu­ally bright but there is a chronic cough (with oc­ca­sional pro­duc­tion of white froth) and ex­er­cise tol­er­ance is poor. Some­times wheez­ing or crack­ling can be heard. Steroids, an­tibi­otics and bron­chodila­tors can help, but care should be used with anti-cough medicine be­cause this can cause a dan­ger­ous build-up of mu­cus in the air­ways. I pre­fer to only use it at night to al­low rest. Re­mem­ber there are many other lungs dis­eases caused by (for ex­am­ple) al­lergy, par­a­sites and tu­mour. But this is a magazine ar­ti­cle, not a book.

Heart dis­ease

A very com­pli­cated sub­ject but some ba­sic in­for­ma­tion al­lows un­der­stand­ing and what to look out for! The heart is a pump, con­sist­ing of four cham­bers; the right atrium and ven­tri­cle and the left atrium and ven­tri­cle. The atria and ven­tri­cles are sep­a­rated by the mi­tral valve on the left side and the tri­cus­pid valve on the

right. These valves stop the back­flow of blood. The right side of the heart pumps de­oxy­genated blood that has re­turned from the body through the pul­monary artery into the lungs, where it is oxy­genated (if the lungs are func­tion­ing prop­erly). The oxy­genated blood then re­turns to the left atrium be­fore be­ing pumped by the left ven­tri­cle to the body. Most com­monly in older dogs, heart dis­ease oc­curs as a re­sult of valve or car­diac mus­cle prob­lems.

Left-sided heart fail­ure

Dam­age to the mi­tral valve al­lows back­flow of blood from the left ven­tri­cle to the atrium and con­se­quent poor tis­sue per­fu­sion ini­ti­at­ing a change of events that at first helps main­tain blood pres­sure but ul­ti­mately causes more dam­age. Fluid re­ten­tion in the lungs is the re­sult.

Signs to look out for:

• Breath­less­ness

• Cough

• In­creased res­pi­ra­tory rate (tachyp­noea) • Dif­fi­culty breath­ing (dys­p­noea)

• Ex­er­cise in­tol­er­ance • Col­laps­ing/Faint­ing

• In­creased heart rate (Tachy­car­dia)

Right-sided heart fail­ure

Less of­ten, the tri­cus­pid valve is af­fected. (Although Labradors can have mal­for­ma­tion of the valve; a con­di­tion called tri­cus­pid valve dys­pla­sia, which causes a mur­mur to be au­di­ble high up on the right side of the chest. Pup­pies should be checked for this.) In right-sided fail­ure, fluid builds up in the ab­domen and the liver is en­larged.

Signs to look out for:

• Ab­dom­i­nal dis­ten­sion

• Ex­er­cise in­tol­er­ance

• Weight loss

• Breath­less­ness

Heart mus­cle dam­age

This gen­er­ally af­fects large and gi­ant breeds and is called Di­lated Car­diomy­opa­thy. Es­sen­tially, the mus­cle be­comes flabby and use­less as a pump. Un­for­tu­nately, prog­no­sis is poor.

If your old dog is cough­ing, have a heart and take them for a check-up…


Chest X-rays are use­ful in the di­ag­no­sis of heart and lung prob­lems

Smoke ex­po­sure To­bacco smoke ex­po­sure ex­ac­er­bates pre-ex­isit­ing lung and heart prob­lems

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