When a dog does any persistent sneezing and coughing and at the same time maintains its normal pep and appetite, there is usually not very much to worry about. The causes of dog coughing can be that the animal has a simple cold, and the same common-sense hygienic measures that are used in taking care of colds in humans apply to dogs. This means that the animal must be kept in a room that is well-ventilated and free from drafts and fed light nourishing food. If the coughing and sneezing cause excessive discomfort, the same household cold remedies and nose drops as used by man may be used in much the same way in the dog. Naturally the dosage should be smaller for the dog, but sufficient amounts may be given to bring about obvious relief. In any case, the only function of these drugs is to relieve and not to cure. So far as curing is concerned, the job is best left to nature, for the symptoms will be observed to disappear gradually over a period of from ten days to two weeks.
The only time that any special attention needs to be paid to coughing and sneezing is when they are accompanied by lack of appetite, depression, and fever. In such cases the situation may not be at all simple, and if the common hygienic measures outlined above do not yield improvement within a couple of days, it is best to have the animal examined by a veterinarian. Sometimes neglect of a common cold may lead to an attack of laryngitis, bronchitis, or even pneumonia, and these could be quite serious. At least they are well beyond the scope of the ordinary layman and do not readily yield to household remedies.
In speaking of these respiratory disorders and of any other disorders, for that matter—we often make a distinction between the acute and the chronic form of a disease. When we speak of the acute form, we refer to a sudden and often violent attack, which usually reacts to proper medication and is not long-lasting. Acute respiratory attacks may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. When we speak of the chronic form, we usually refer to an attack of gradual onset that is relatively mild, but somehow does not react readily to routine medication and may persist for a considerable time. Chronic respiratory attacks may last anywhere from four to six weeks or longer. Especially in the case of dog coughing, it may last for many years. Everybody knows that among the human family chronic coughs are very common. The persistent hacking of a heavy cigarette smoker may last throughout the adult life. Older folks, with asthmatic conditions, often have a similar complaint. Chronic coughs are rather common in dogs also, especially as they get older.
These few notes have been written as a general introduction to a more detailed discussion of the common disease conditions associated with coughing and sneezing. It will be noted that, for the most part, treatment is stated only in general terms. This was done on purpose, because specific treatment must be adapted to the individual animal and can be determined only by the veterinarian who is treating the particular case.
Rhinitis is the term applied to an inflammation acute or chronic of the membranes lining the nasal passages. Rhinitis is a rather common and mild disease of dogs, and while recovery from the acute form is often spontaneous or in response to simple medication, the chronic form also very often has a favorable outcome though it is somewhat more refractory to treatment and demands more prolonged medication.
Acute rhinitis may be caused by infection, exposure to cold, inhalation of irritating substances, and the early stages of nasal parasite invasion. Chronic rhinitis is usually the result of repeated attacks of the acute form, though it may result from an ordinary infection, a prolonged parasitic invasion, or from the development of tumorous growths within the nasal passages.
The acute form is characterized first by redness and dry-ness of the nasal mucosa, which progresses to a nasal discharge that may be watery or pus-like in character. This is accompanied by sneezing, rubbing of the nose, and the accumulation of dried matter around the nasal openings.
In the chronic form, the discharge is usually pus-like, the odor from it may be offensive, and sometimes it may be tinged with blood. The animal may suffer violent paroxysms of sneezing. Where the nasal passages are clogged, the animal may breathe through its mouth. When the condition is especially severe, there may be loss of appetite, dullness, and depression.
The treatment of rhinitis consists of the application of proper hygienic measures and the administration of tonics, nasal antiseptics, and germ-killing and alleviatory preparations in tablet, injection, liquid, spray, or ointment forms. If the chronic form proves particularly resistant, vaccines prepared from the nasal discharge have occasionally been used with favorable results. The course of acute rhinitis usually lasts from seven to ten days. The chronic form may persist from three to four weeks or longer.
The larynx is popularly known as the voice box. An inflammation of the lining membrane of the larynx is known as laryngitis. Suddent attacks are called acute laryngitis. Repeated attacks may lead to chronic laryngitis. The condition is very common in the dog. If the factors responsible for the acute form are eliminated, the chronic affection may be avoided.
Acute laryngitis may be caused by excess barking, inhalation of irritating substances, infection and extension of the inflammation from adjacent organs. The symptoms are hoarseness, frequent attempts at swallowing, sensitivity to pressure over the larynx, coughing after exercise or drinking very cold water and a harsh dry cough that gradually becomes softer as the condition becomes alleviated. Chronic laryngitis is characterized by symptoms similar to the acute form though less marked and more persistent, and the larynx is much less sensitive to pressure. There may also be intermittent acute attacks in chronic laryngitis.
The outcome is more favorable in the acute than in the chronic form. Where acute laryngitis appears as an uncomplicated disease, it is usually completely cured in from seven to ten days. In the chronic form, however, the outcome is much less optimistic in that improvement is generally rather slow and complete recovery seldom takes place.
The treatment of both acute and chronic laryngitis consists in keeping the animal warm, making sure that it gets plenty of fresh air, and feeding it warm, soothing foods, such as milk, a cereal mixture of milk and pablum, meat broth, and similar preparations. Medical treatment is based on the administration of drugs that will destroy incriminated germs and on those that will stimulate the flow of saliva. These latter drugs, called expectorants, are useful because the flow of saliva is very soothing to the irritated membranes and will contribute substantially to the comfort of the animal.
Chronic Bronchitis and Asthma
Old dogs commonly become afflicted with severe and raucous coughing spasms that often become aggravated during the night, thereby causing considerable discomfort to the animal and sleepless hours for the owner. These spasms appear rather suddenly and, instead of disappearing like the ordinary cold, the symptoms not only persist but may become worse.
The condition is due to an inflammation of the lining membranes of the bronchi, the respiratory tubes between the throat and the lungs. Such an inflammation is called a bronchitis, and if it persists for many weeks it is classified as a chronic bronchitis. In old dogs the condition rarely appears independently but is ordinarily associated with the breakdown of lung tissue, causing what is commonly known as asthma. It also bears a distinct relation to the gradual breakdown of cardiac or heart tissue. Thus it happens that, when some veterinarians give a diagnosis of chronic bronchitis, and others give the designation of cardiac asthma to the condition, they often refer to the same disease.
The violence of the spasms usually causes the owner great concern, but his consternation is considerably relieved when he notices that between spasms the animal retains its normal appetite and shows no abnormality in the performance of its vital functions. The owner is led to believe that the disturbance is only temporary but, after he has spent a few sleepless nights and is on the verge of nervous prostration from lack of sleep, he is finally driven to solicit the benevolent assistance of a veterinary surgeon.
Most of the time chronic bronchitis is incurable and the veterinarian can offer only relief measures in the form of syrupy cough mixtures, bland diet, honey, heart stimulants, and the like. The cough mixture will contain some form of cough sedative to relieve the violence of the spasms, and it will also include some agent that will cause the bronchi to dilate so as to make breathing easier.
The average owner finds the cough spasms so disturbing that the animal is often put to sleep before it can live out its natural life. Though the cough is a detriment to health, the animal can live an appreciable time with it. Thus, whether or not euthanasia (putting an animal to sleep) is decided upon is entirely at the discretion of the owner.
Dogs with acute bronchitis act very much like dogs with chronic bronchitis, with the difference that the cough is usually more severe, but it gradually subsides and finally disappears in from ten to fourteen days if the animal is given routine cough medicines, proper hygiene, and certain germ-killing drugs when they are necessary. Most often this form of the disease occurs as a complication of a bad cold.
Pneumonia is not readily amenable to definition in nontechnical terms. For all practical purposes it is sufficient to state that pneumonia refers to an inflammatory process of the small tubules known as bronchioles and the related structures in the lung tissue. At one time pneumonia was considered to be, almost invariably, a fatal affliction. But with the advent of some of the newer drugs of modern medicine, its danger has been considerably curtailed. None the less, it is still a boldly significant disease condition, the neglect of which may have fatal consequences.
Pneumonia may be caused by the inhalation of irritant substances. Changeable weather and improper hygiene may predispose an animal to it. It may occur as a result of a specific infection, or as a secondary manifestation of certain infectious diseases. Pneumonia may also be produced by the extension of an inflammatory condition higher in the respiratory tract. Thus, the neglect of a common cold or of acute bronchitis may lead to pneumonia. A form of the disease known as foreign-body pneumonia may result from the in-gestion of various substances into the lungs. This may be caused by improper swallowing due to faulty technique in the administration of medicines. People who insist on excessive home treatment of dogs should take particular note of this fact.
The most characteristic symptom of pneumonia is labored breathing with a unique intermittent puffing up and relaxation of the cheeks. In severe cases, a sonorous, crackling sound may be heard when the animal breathes, and sometimes a peculiar rumbling actually can be felt when the palm of the hand is placed over the ribs. This is accompanied by high fever, depression, and sometimes restlessness. Often there is a deep, sharp cough with some nasal discharge. If the disease process runs its course, the animal dies of asphyxiation. The veterinarian usually diagnoses the disease on the basis of the symptoms.
The outlook in cases of pneumonia is favorable if the disease is caught in time, less optimistic if it is treated in an advanced stage, and unfavorable in foreign-body pneumonia.
Treatment is based upon the maintenance of clean, well-ventilated quarters and proper hygiene, the feeding of highly nutritious, easily digestable foods, and the administration of appropriate drugs, usually in the form of penicillin, au-reomycin, terramycin, and the sulfa preparations.
Tuberculosis is rather uncommon in the dog. The germ that causes it most often gains entrance into the body by inhalation or by ingestion with the food. Though dogs may conceivably transmit tuberculosis to man, and may likewise acquire it from man, the possibility is insignificant from the standpoint of public health.
Tuberculosis is a chronic, wasting disease and its symptoms develop very slowly. The affected animal appears generally unhealthy, and in spite of a good appetite becomes gradually emaciated. When emaciation sets in, the distinctive symptoms manifest themselves with greater emphasis. If the germ infects the respiratory system, it will give rise to the pulmonary form of tuberculosis, characterized by a short, dry cough that later becomes moist and is accompanied by labored breathing, exhaustion after mild exercise, and the accumulation of phlegm, which is usually swallowed. Where the germ has gained entrance into the body by way of the digestive system, it will give rise to the intestinal form of the disease. This is characterized by chronic diarrhea refractory to treatment. The disease may run its course over several years, but emaciation is indicative of the latter stages of the affliction, and death ensues within a short time after it sets in.
Because of its relative rarity, tuberculosis is often diagnosed only by post-mortem examination. While the animal is still alive, the tuberculin test might be applied, but this has been found generally unreliable in carnivorous animals. The better approach would be to attempt to identify the tuberculosis germ by means of a bacteriological examination of the sputum or the bowel discharge. An X-ray may assist materially in diagnosis. Obviously tuberculosis is a problem for the veterinarian.
If the diagnosis of dog coughing
can be established in the early stages, treatment may be attempted in the form of good nutrition, potent tonics, and good hygienic measures. In the latter stages of the disease, a favorable outcome is very unlikely and putting the animal to sleep is the only humane alternative.
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