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Discussion Starter #1
Anyone have any ideas for us?

We have been struggling with our Cavalier's health for months now. He is 1yr, intact male. From a breeder who health tests all their dogs, and raises naturally (raw, minimal vac's, minimal chemicals for flea/tick etc.) I am at a complete loss, and so is our vet. Finn has had a cough for over 6 months now, and it persists despite LOTS of different avenues explored.

Background: he started coughing at about 5 months old (dec '19)...at first I assumed kennel cough since he had been around other dogs at work with me. So I kept him home, and he seemed to get better (almost) then his cough worsened very slowly, went from him only coughing when he woke up in the AM, to him coughing sporadically throughout the day. I took him to the vet (April '20), their exam found nothing out of the ordinary (checked heart, lung sounds, heartworm test, fecal etc.) Just the cough. Through all of this he had been acting completely normal (very active) and eating well.

It continued to get worse until he started acting sick this June '20 (lethargic and lost appetite) so I rushed him to the vet that day. They did chest x-rays that showed pneumonia, so he was treated with Doxycycline and his cough went away completely. About 3 weeks later the cough was back. I called the vet and they gave me another course of Doxycycline which did nothing this time. We went back to the vet 2 weeks ago because now his eyes are goopy and irritated, and still coughing. They thought it could be allergies, so tried him on an allergy med (can't remember the name), which did nothing. Went back to the vet this week, they started him on an anti-nausea and stomach protectant, thinking that maybe he's having motility/reflux issues. We've been giving that since Tuesday, with no improvement. This most recent visit they also x-rayed his lungs again to rule out another pneumonia infection (none seen), and also did a full blood panel. The blood panel was normal, except slightly high white blood cells-indicating infection somewhere. They offered to try a different antibiotic, or refer us to an internal medicine specialist.

I'm torn as to what we should do...the internal specialist will be $$$, and we are willing to do anything we need to. BUT, at the same time, other than his cough and runny eyes, he acts like a completely healthy dog.

Through all of this, he has also had a couple bouts of giardia and one bout of coccidia. So he has just been unhealthy for awhile now. We have tried a few immune supplements (starting a new one today), he is also on a probiotic/enzyme powder that helps his gut a lot. He has been fed raw since we got him (a variety of meat proteins, supplements and small amount of veggies/fruits), but now I'm second guessing that and wondering if maybe he's missing something in his diet.

We have 2 other dogs who have not picked up any of these illnesses (thankfully!). We are just totally frustrated and sad for our sick little guy. If anyone has ANY suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated.

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I'm a fan of specialists the minute a general practitioner vet can't get a handle on something. So I'd go with the internist referral, or if you have a vet school near you, I'd check out the specialists there. Of course you have to decide if you can afford it and if you want to expend resources that way, but it sounds like when you leave him untreated for a while, things get worse.
 

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Personally, assuming he's not currently in crisis, I'd switch to a limited ingredient commercial food (from a company that does AAFCO feeding studies) for a couple weeks and feed ONLY THAT (no supplements, other treats, chews, etc.), to see how he does with a lot of potential allergens eliminated from his diet and a balanced nutritional profile. Preferably something with a primary protein and starch that he's not currently eating. During that time I would also try reducing environmental allergen contact by vacuuming thoroughly and only using hypoallergenic cleaners and detergents, and by wiping him down thoroughly after going out into nature. Then, if he's still having issues, see a specialist. Some time to let all the various meds and illness aftereffects and whatnot fully clear his system before doing more testing seems to me likely to yield more accurate results anyway.
 

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Also, I hate to say it, but coughing can be a symptom of heart disease, and Cavs are notorious for heart issues. I'd definitely consider seeing a veterinary cardiologist sooner rather than later. The raw diet pings a bit for me with regard to this, too...there's a link between a grain-free diet and DCM. Of course, the common congenital heart issues in Cavs is a mitral valve problem, which is different, but it's still something I'd want to discuss with my vet.
 

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Parus has a point about letting things calm down for a week or two before proceeding, and the heart thing in Cavs crossed my mind too. To check that out, I wouldn't be asking my regular vet, I'd be seeing a vet cardiologist. I know vet bills can be horrendous, but actually finding out what's wrong instead of paying for a shotgun approach that never hits the actual problem can be better in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
The heart issues were the first avenue the vet explored...based on listening (no murmur) and x-ray (no-enlargement) and based on his lack of other symptoms...our vet ruled out heart failure being the cause of his cough. Although if we do go to a specialist, I’m sure an echo will be part of that.

As for the grain free aspect, he does eat mostly a meat-based diet, but I also use grain-inclusive (and lentil free) premix from sojos and honest kitchen (various flavors). I do think I am going to put him on a commercial diet at least temporarily though. Great advice 😀

I guess I didn’t really think of a food allergy causing respiratory symptoms. I just assumed if it was an allergy, it was environmental. I definitely will look into limited ingredient diets.
 

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Food allergies/sensitivities can trigger things like excessive mucous production or inflammation, which can provoke coughing.

Good luck! He's lucky you're on the case.
 

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The cough could be due to an airway issue. Has his trachea ben x-rayed or otherwise ruled out as a problem? In cavaliers, goopy eyes could be a sign of dry eye syndrome (keratitis sicca or keratoconjunctivitis sicca). If he was my dog, I would have him examined by a good holistic veterinarian. Whatever your vets have been trying to do seem to be based upon stopping symptoms instead of determining the causes.

Here is a link to a really good Q-&-A discussion of the causes of coughing in dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
He has not had an X-ray of the upper airway, my vet said he would have to be sedated to do that. Good info though, I dont think there’s a generic problem with his eyes, because when he has been healthy, his eyes were normal. The eye gunk is definitely related to whatever is going on, be it a virus or an allergy.
I do have an appointment with a holistic vet on the 23rd. Hopefully she’ll be able to help! I’m just super bummed because I still can’t go in with him, and it’s a new clinic we are going to 😕 stupid COVID.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, we are going to the U of M vet specialists in a couple weeks (soonest appt they had)...Finn got really sick on Sunday and was super lethargic and not himself at all. We were so worried that we took him to the emergency vet, but their wait was hours long. He perked up some after I gave him pedialyte, so we waited til Monday to take him to our normal vet. They referred us to the internal medicine specialists at the U because they are stumped...he needs more diagnostic tests that they don't have the equipment for. Meanwhile he's on more antibiotics to hopefully prevent it turning into pneumonia again. He's been acting completely normal since Monday afternoon, other than almost constant coughing 😫 poor little man. We are so stressed over Finn and really hope they can figure this out.

Sick on Sunday with his teddy 😍
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