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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 21648
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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My 12 year old Westie has been having a problem with coughing/gagging

Resolved Question:

My 12 year old Westie has been having a problem with coughing/gagging when he gets excited,eg,barking at TV animals or when he knows he's about to go out for a walk.Our vet saw him and did blood tests,which showed a moderately raised Alkaline Phosphatase level.She said he had crackles in his lungs and that he may have emphysema.She wanted to do chest XRays and liver scan.He is 14Kg,although a large frame dog,overweight,but doesn't get extra tit bits.I am reluctant to pay for expensive tests,besides knowing that XRays are not good if done unnecessarily.Could you advise please?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

 

Now I appreciate that you don't want to undertake expensive testing, but in this situation I would advise that xrays would be a very good diagnostic tool for Hamish. And just to note, 1-2 x-rays in his life will be of little risk and the benefit likely is going to exceed that minimal risk.

 

Now the reason this would be a very good next step here is because this is the best means of letting you look into his lungs to see what is causing his cough. In regards XXXXX XXXXX an xray of his chest could show you, it will allow you to appreciate if he has heart disease (which is not always preceded by an audible murmur), if he has a lung tumor (a concern at his age), or whether he has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (a condition we often call "Westie Lung" due to the frequency that we see it in elderly members of the breed). As I am sure you can appreciate, a definitive diagnosis would allow you to treat him as effectively as possible (where otherwise you would have to treat with trial and error to just see what helps and may miss treating something you should have done). It will also allow you to appreciate what his overall long term prognosis with this respiratory based issue.

 

So, in this case, a chest xray would be highly advisable next step for Hamish. With costs and invasiveness being a concern, if only the Alkaline Phosphatase is moderately raised (with no other liver values), then you could choose to address the lungs first and perhaps check a follow up sample to see if that parameter is still an issue at a later date. As well, since he is a small dog, his vet may be able to get the liver in their x-ray to just make sure it isn't overly large or has an obvious growth on it (of course diffuse issues wouldn't be visible on xray).

 

If this is absolutely not an option for Hamish and yourself, then you will need to speak to his vet about their main suspicions on clinical examination and what treatment options they would consider (ie bronchodilators, diuretics, steroids, cough suppressants, etc). Based on their findings, they can work out the best treatment to try and you will need to gauge his response to find which treatments help kep him comfortable best.

 

Just since Westie Lung (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) is so common in his breed, I would just note a wee website (HERE) for your interest and further information. It is written by an owner of westies with this condition and is a good resource that even includes videos for you to compare to what Hamish is doing at home (which you too could video his coughs for his vet if she hasn't seen him cough at his visit to their office). As well, you may be interested in the website for ongoing research for this condition (HERE) for further information on this.

 

 

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.

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