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Love Your Pet: When Your Pet Coughs and Sneezes

Recently, we have seen a number of dogs and cats coming into our hospital for coughing and sneezing.

There are many potential causes for these problems, including infections, allergies and irritants. We start by taking a thorough history.

— Has your pet had this problem before?

— Are there other pets at home with the same problem?

— If your pet is coughing, is the cough a dry hacking cough or a moist or honking cough?

— Is there a particular time your pet has this problem?

Bringing a video of the episodes can help your veterinarian.

We then perform an examination to see if we find any nasal or ocular discharge. We feel the throat area to see if it is sensitive, and we listen to the chest. Blood tests and radiographs are sometimes required. If some fluid is found in the airways, we can collect a sample under some sedation to submit for microscopic analysis and culture.

The most common reason we see coughing and sneezing at this time of year is due to allergies. We live in an area where a lot of plants grow. All the rains this spring are bringing out a lot of pollen. Pets can have allergies to pollens and other things in the environment, just like people do.

Other environmental allergens include dust, smoke, molds and aerosol sprays. There has been a considerable amount of spraying in our skies recently, and we are not aware of what is being used, but these substances can also cause lung problems. We do know that many outdoor pollutants permeate indoor spaces. Pollutants can cause many problems in pets, including asthma, rhinitis and even chronic neurological conditions. We saw a lot of cases of pets having coughing and sneezing problems during the fires, and whatever is being sprayed in our skies may be causing similar issues.

More serious potential causes of coughing and sneezing include congenital tracheal issues, infection, heart disease, parasites, foreign material and even cancer.

Many pets are now treated for these symptoms with inhalation therapy – by use of a nebulizer or inhaler. If you have any concerns about your pet’s sneezing, coughing or wheezing, please contact your local veterinarian. Let’s help them, like we help ourselves, to breathe clearly!

Dr. Ron Resnick has been in practice for more than 32 years and previously operated two veterinary hospitals. He taught at Harvard University and graduated from Tufts University, considered the best veterinary school in the world. He operates an animal hospital in Simi Valley.


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