We commonly see upper respiratory viruses in cats which are very similar to when people get a cold. Often there is not a lot that we can do for the cats. Sometimes I will put them on an amino acid supplement called lysine which can help them fight the virus a little quicker. But, I usually don’t prescribe antibiotics or other medications unless a cat is quite sick.
So, if your cat has some sneezing and mild congestion you may not need to see a vet. Most cats will get over these infections on their own within 1-3 weeks.
Reasons to see the vet include:
- greatly reduced appetite
- a green discharge from the eyes or nose
- the cat is very lethargic
If your cat seems a little stuffed up one thing that can help is to place him or her in the bathroom next to a steamy shower for ten minutes. The steam will help to loosen up the congestion in the nose.
Suspected Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough is a frustrating virus, usually caused by a virus called Bordetella that is very contagious. It tends to produce a nasty hacking cough. Often the complaint I will get from owners of dogs with kennel cough is that it sounds like their dog has something stuck in his throat. I actually often have a hard time convincing some owners that there is nothing stuck in there!
If you do a Google search on Kennel cough you will find a lot of information that tells you that it is absolutely necessary to see your vet to get antibiotics in order for the cough to go away.
This is not true!!!
I would estimate that I prescribe antibiotics in about five per cent of the dogs that I see with suspected kennel cough. Antibiotics do not do anything to fight a virus. However, if the virus has done enough damage to the respiratory tract we can end up having a bacterial infection which will need antibiotics.
I do sometimes prescribe a cough suppressant such as a medication called Hycodan to help dogs who are coughing excessively. However, the vast majority of the time I do not prescribe any medications when we suspect kennel cough.
So, if you suspect your dog has kennel cough you may not need to see the vet.
Here are some tips to help you know whether or not you need to make a vet appointment if your dog is coughing:
- Is the dog bright and happy and eating ok? If the dog is really lethargic or hasn’t eaten in over 24 hours then a vet visit is a good idea.
- Is there any green or yellow discharge from the nose or eyes? If so, this can be a sign of a bacterial infection and your dog may indeed require antibiotics.
- Do you have a senior dog? If so, the cough could be a sign of something more serious such as a heart problem. This is more common in little dogs.
- When your dog is not coughing, is he having to struggle at all to breathe? If you think he is breathing very rapidly or taking extremely large or extremely shallow breaths as compared to normal, then a vet visit is a good idea.
To summarize, if your dog is coughing but otherwise bright and happy it’s ok to wait it out for a while. If the cough persists past 4-5 days or if you are seeing any of the symptoms above then a vet visit is a good idea.
I always tell people, though, to follow their gut instinct. If you think something is not right with your dog, then it is better to be safe than sorry and visit the doctor!
Does your dog have repeated skin infections?
Has your dog had multiple skin problems over the last year? Lots of hot spots? Bacterial infections? Infections between the toes?
The cost of these visits can really add up. Most of these problems are treated with antibiotics and usually we will treat for an extended period of time of somewhere between 3 and 8 weeks.
In many cases there is an underlying problem that is causing these recurrent skin issues.
I would recommend asking your vet if it is possible that your dog has a thyroid problem. Dogs with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) will have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Recurring skin infections
- Ear infections
- Weight gain
- Poor or bristly hair coat
- Sometimes bald patches on the sides of their body or at the end of their tail
If your dog has a thyroid problem, then placing him or her on a thyroid supplement medication will greatly reduce the number of skin problems that are encountered.
Another thought to consider is the presence of allergies. In my practice I see many animals who have allergies. While people with allergies tend to have runny eyes and stuffed up noses, dogs tend to get skin issues. The following symptoms are associated with allergies:
- Itchy red feet/toes
- Itchy ears
- Repeated ear infections
- Sometimes a dog can have red itchy skin on the face, the anus or other parts of the body.
- This irritated skin can predispose the dog to repeated skin infections.
If your dog has allergies, then keeping the allergies at bay will greatly reduce the number of skin infections that we see. There are many ways to treat allergies in dogs. Most of the time we don’t know what a dog is allergic to, but sometimes we can determine that the allergy is to an ingredient in the food. In this case, we can put a dog on a special prescription hypoallergenic food. While this food will be more expensive than regular dog food, in the long run you will save money because of the reduced number of vet visits and other medications that are needed.
Many dogs with allergies will need small doses of steroids to control the allergies. And some dogs do well on antihistamines.
Article by Dr. Marie