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Common Conditions

Wheezing and coughing

August 10, 2019, 8:15 PM
Q: I have a 15 week Yorkie. He’s 2.8lbs right now. He’s has a wheezing cough followed by hacking like he’s coughing up a hair ball. It started just with sneezing in the morning but now It’s been sporadic through the day for the last two and half weeks. He’s had two (different vet) vet visits and both said his lungs sounded good and were not concerned. I just finally saw clear phlegm come up in the last couple days but only twice. He’s eating and playing and overall good attitude so not sure if I should try something to relieve it? We did get him in Ohio (there for 3 weeks with him) and then travelled to AZ this past week where we live. Not sure if the travel and new environments have had anything to do with it?
A: Respiratory infections in puppies during transitions to a new home are fairly common. I compare it to kids at school, it would be rare to visit a classroom that had no coughing, sneezing or runny nosed kids. Stress and immature immune systems are the common denominators in both situations. Many respiratory infections of puppies are mixed infections meaning they have a viral and bacterial component. We need to remember that antibiotics are not effective against viruses but fortunately viral respiratory infections are usually self limiting so they do not last for long periods. As long as your puppy eats well and feels good he will get well. Using a nebulizer or moist bathroom environment for 20 minutes 2-3 times daily, if your puppy will tolerate it, often is helpful. I also like using expectorants to help your puppy to bring up any fluid or debris created by the infection. Guaifenesin is a safe expectorant available as an over the counter syrup, I usually start at 0.1ml per pound of body weight, orally 2-3 times a day. Some veterinarians suggest using cough suppressants but while there may be some artificial improvement in the frequency or intensity of the cough it seems that overall the cough lasts longer. We need to recognize that a cough is part of the body's attempt to eliminate the residue left by Irritation or infection in the airway, suppressing this natural response does not make sense to me. If your puppy is not improving or especially if his attitude or appetite are affected you should contact your veterinarian. After examination your vet may choose to begin antibiotic therapy. While a single 10 day course of antibiotics defeats many infections it is no surprise that some puppies require treatment for longer periods. If your puppy has improved on the antibiotic it should be continued, if he has not improved your vet may change to a different antibiotic. It is sometimes necessary to continue therapy for several weeks. In my experience Clavamox is often disappointing. Please keep me informed.