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Mysterious Chronic Illness in Cavalier

2648 Views 11 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  DaySleepers
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.

Dog Mammal Vertebrate Canidae Dog breed
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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.
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.
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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