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Dr. Joey
Dr. Joey, Board Certified
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 4942
Experience:  15 yrs in practice, specialist canine/feline medicine
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my small yorkshire terrier has developed an occasional hacking

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my small yorkshire terrier has developed an occasional hacking cough. what can I do?

Dr. Joey :

Hello I am Dr. Joey. Thanks for trusting me to help you and your pet today. I am a licensed veterinarian with over 15 years of experience. I look forward to working with you.

How often does he have this hacking cough? Is this a new onset cough or has he had this cough for many weeks to months?

Unfortunately this is a nonspecific sign of a respiratory irritation. If this is a brand new problem that just appeared in the past 24-48 hours then I worry about infectious tracheobronchitis (colloquially called kennel cough). This is a short-term cough condition that will last 10 to 14 days no matter what we prescribe, although an antibiotic as prescribed by your vet is indicated since this problem is caused by a combination of a virus and a bacteria (we can treat the bacteria but his body must fight off the virus). Alternatively, if this is sudden and upper respiratory, then there may be another type of irritation in the back of his throat which could be anything from tonsillitis to a mass/tumor/polyp to ulcerations to trauma to a foreign object trapped in this region.

Dr. Joey :

If this is a long-term hacking that has been going on for weeks or months, then this might suggest collapsing trachea which is extremely common in this breed. On one of the tracheal rings that supports the trachea (windpipe) the ligament that supports the cartilage weakens and then periodically collapses when the pressures in teh chest and airway are out of sync. This can be diagnosed sometimes with xray. There are different strategies for therapy to help improve signs when associated with this.

This could also be a deeper cough that reflects something going on inside the chest such as heart disease (an enlarged heart can push on the airway leading to a reactive, irritated cough) or primary airway disease (such as allergic bronchitis, pneumonia, fungal disease, lungworms, etc).

The best next step for him would be to have his veterinarian perform an examination today. Then based on this exam your vet may recommend xrays of his chest or even lab work to screen for certain problems that can be associated with coughing. Once we know the cause then appropriate medication can be prescribed. I am reluctant to make any recommendations on this coughing when we do not have a diagnosis because if, for example, you use an over-the-counter cough suppressant and this is pneumonia, then it could potentially worsen the situation. On the other hand, if this is due to an enlarged heart or collapsing trachea then this medication might help.

Dr. Joey :

(sorry for the gender confusion: I meant "She"...I have a patient who is a he that is named gipsy that comes to mind when I think about Gipsy)

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