Douglas is a nine year old Beagle. He first started to cough when he was just one year old, during the summer months. Initially, he was given a general treatment to rule out a simple respiratory infection and lungworm, but when the problem failed to respond, a detailed investigation was carried out. X-ray pictures were taken of his chest, and a sample of fluid was collected from his airways while he was under general anaesthetic. The results showed that he was suffering from a type of allergic bronchitis, similar to asthma. He was treated with a short course of anti-inflammatory steroids,and his cough cleared up completely.
When the cough came back the following summer, he was given the same treatment, and again, he recovered. At that stage, it seemed like a seasonal problem, only happening during the summer, probably caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, similar to humans with hay fever.
Douglas began to cough again
Douglas remained cough-free for the next six years, even in the summer time. Then last June, he started to cough again, and it was worse then ever. X-rays confirmed that the allergic bronchitis had come back again. He was treated with the anti-inflammatory steroids, and as before, he responded promptly, with the cough clearing up quickly.
This time, however, when the course of steroids finished, he started to cough again. He was referred to the UCD Veterinary Hospital,where the next level of diagnostics were carried out, using fibre-optic endoscopes to collect biopsy samples from deep inside his lungs. The work-up confirmed that he had an unusually dramatic type of allergic lung disease that would need a prolonged course of steroids to keep the cough under control.
Anti-inflammatory steroids can be highly effective drugs, but they often have side effects. In some dogs, this can mean a ravenous appetite. In other animals, they can cause gastro-intestinal upsets. Douglas did not suffer from these problems, but they affected him in a different way which caused a major issue in the Bernon household: the steroids cause him to drink much more water than usual, resulting in the production of copious amounts of urine.
Edwina found that she had to fill his water bowl several times daily, and he was drinking from the pond outside as well. This hugely increased water consumption had the obvious effect of filling Douglas’ bladder rapidly and repeatedly, and he needs to pass urine far more often than usual.
Douglas had always been house-trained, and he never had accidents in the house, but when he’s on the steroid tablets, he can’t help himself. Edwina found herself mopping up puddles almost every day. What could be done to help this problem? A human-asthma-type inhaler and face mask was then suggested as an alternative to the steroid tablets.
A long term medication was needed
We know that Douglas needs steroids to control his bronchitis, but because he needs long term medication, it makes sense to use a form of steroids that reaches his lungs directly, rather than via his bloodstream. A special face mask has been designed to achieve this: the “Aerodawg” mask.
Edwina has to hold the maske over Douglas’s muzzle while she presses the inhaler spray. Douglas breathes in and out normally for a few breaths, and as he does that, he inhales steroids deep into his lungs. It isn’t always easy to do this: Douglas is a strong, lively dog.
Edwina is gradually teaching him to accept his new form of treatment: she rewards him every time he allows her to do it, and he’s learning that it’s a simple, painless procedure.
Once Douglas gets used to the mask, life will be much easier for the Bernon household: an occasional blast with an asthma-type inhaler is far better than having to mop the floor several times daily.
- Allergic bronchitis is an unusual cause of coughing in dogs
- Short term treatment with steroids is often very effective
- Long term treatment using a steroid inhaler and mask can have less side effects