Ask the Veterinarian/dog cough


My 7 year old Australian Shepherd has developed a sort of spasmic, hoarse cough followed by gagging but no vomit.  It is infrequent, only a few times a day for the past couple of days.  She is otherwise acting completely fine--good appetite, active, no diarrhea or vomiting, etc..  She has not been boarded or with other dogs (aside from my other two dogs) and is up to date on bordatella, so I don't think it's kennel cough.  I am thinking it may be seasonal allergies (starting to get some pollen here in CT) or possibly some sort of tracheal collapse.  I have been giving her Benadryl (she is about 55 lbs. so she's getting 50 mg. every 8 hours) but I'm not sure if it's helping.  I'm concerned it could be her trachea because she spends a lot of time outside on a cable and has a bad habit of running too fast and yanking and choking herself on it.  I have noticed that if I rub her chest, just below her neck, it consistently triggers a coughing episode.  My last thought was heartworm.  She is on HW prevention (Iverheart Plus) in the warm weather, but has not had it since last October.  I was going to start her on it again now that it's getting warmer, but am reluctant to give it to her now on the off-chance she might be positive.  I don't really think it's likely given the extremely cold weather we've had for the past five months and that she was on meds throughout last summer, but I suppose it's possible.  So my question is, does the fact that she coughs every time I rub her chest indicate a tracheal problem?  And if so, is it something to see the vet about, or will it resolve on its own?  Thank you so much for your time.

Dear Amy,
My guess is that most likely she does have "kennel cough". the vaccines really are not that good, and you can bring the organisms home on your clothes. Good for you to not give heartworm preventative. I seriously doubt that your dog has heartworms. It does take 4-6 for the larvae to migrate to the heart and become adults that could possibly cause coughing. She has been coughing too short a time to think it is heartworm, so I think a very small chance. I would go ahead and start the prevention, if you really think that is necessary (read my article on my site - wait until there have been 2 weeks where the temperature is consistently over 65 degrees.  I would not do Benadryl as that can have side effects.

Personally I think having a big dog who pulls on a cable is potentially very very harmful. We now know that dogs walked using a collar rather than a harness can have itchy paws, itchy ears and face, low thyroid and severe damage to the cervical vertebrae and my guess is that a dog with the bad habit of yanking and choking could cause inflammation of the trachea or even more damage.

When a cough starts after rubbing the chest or throat it is called an "inducible cough" and indicates merely that there is enough inflammation in the trachea to trigger the cough.

I think you can safely wait a week before having her checked by a veterinarian. I strongly recommend finding an integrative veterinarian with whom to work. This is a person trained in many different approaches, including using conventional drugs only when absolutely needed. Working with one can increase the chance that your cherished companion can live a long and healthy life after recovering from this current problem. There are good ones and great ones, and a few homeopathic veterinarians will consult by phone or email. You can go to the web sites for each type of holistic practice and use their referral list to find one near to you. Many practitioners are members of only one or two of the organizations, so you do need to go to every site to find who is near you: (there are many great ones in connecticut).
1. Wide range of other treatments:, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and   
2. Homeopathic veterinarians (these can often help you by phone if no other holistic practitioners are nearby that you like): and
3. Chiropractic and Osteopathic -; (they treat dogs, too)
4. TCVM (Acupuncture and Chinese medicine):, &
5. Herbal -

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Dr. Christina Chambreau


I can give you the holistic approach to any problem, mostly for dogs and cats and some farm animals and horses. Depending on the condition and the type of animal, I will be able to give very specific treatment suggestions such as what flower essences, homeopathic remedies, nutritional supplements, diet changes, lifestyle changes or herbs that may be helpful - not drugs. I can also suggest where you can go for further education or to find a specialist in a specific holistic field. I can help you understand why your animal is ill and what improvements can be expected. I do not check messages more than every one to two days, so PLEASE DO NOT ask about EMERGENCIES - call your local veterinarian. I cannot diagnose your animal. I cannot prescribe specific treatments. I am no longer very current with conventional treatments, so cannot answer questions on those. I am not an expert on birds or small critters. I am not an expert in breeding, birthing or babies.


I graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980 and began using homeopathy in my practice after a client introduced me to it. By 1988 I was using exclusively holistic treatments. I began lecturing in 1987 and have spoken at veterinary conferences, health food stores, people's homes, churches, veterinary college conferences - anywhere people want to learn more about keeping their animals healthy.

Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (I helped found this one) American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association National Center for Homeopathy American Veterinary Medical Association

I have written in many magazines, journals and newspapers. A few include Bark Magazine; Journal of the AHVMA; Baltimore Dog Magazine; Whole Dog Journal; Tiger Tribe; Wolf Clan. I have also been frequently interviewed on radio and TV. I am Associate Editor for the Integrative Veterinary Care Journal, so often have articles there.

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Certified Veterinary Homeopath (CVH)

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