Honking cough could be collapsing trachea

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Our little yorkie dog, Bamboo, has had a cough for a while now.
He’s overweight for his age (11) and he isn’t very active. He feels
fine, other than the cough. But now it sounds like a loud honk when
he coughs.
Q: Our little yorkie dog, Bamboo, has had a cough for a while now. He’s overweight for his age (11) and he isn’t very active. He feels fine, other than the cough. But now it sounds like a loud honk when he coughs. Here’s the problem. We took him to the vet, who heard a heart murmur and says he has an enlarged heart. They took some x-rays and ran some blood tests. Can a heart problem cause this kind of cough? They want to start some medication to help the cough, but I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do. Help!


Many dogs with heart disease develop a cough, although usually it’s not as dramatic as Bamboo’s. Your story makes me wonder if he has heart disease or perhaps another problem.

A lot of older dogs have a slightly enlarged heart. But not all of these dogs need medication for congestive heart failure. In other words, veterinarians sometimes find a slightly enlarged heart shadow on the x-ray and it isn’t always significant. The degree of enlargement and other findings are key factors.

Bamboo’s cough might be related to a different condition called collapsing trachea. Here, the windpipe literally collapses on itself when the patient inhales, and there is a reflex cough to clear the closed airway. Yorkies and some other small breeds, especially those that are overweight are susceptible to this problem. And typically, this condition causes a honking cough. So Bamboo’s symptoms suggest he should be evaluated.

A veterinary cardiologist can determine whether or not his cough is caused by a heart problem or airway disease. He may need treatment for both conditions, but both can be managed with proper medications. A definitive diagnosis is important here. Ask your regular vet for a referral and you and Bamboo will feel much better.


Our 18-month-old Newfoundland has just been diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. Our vet suggested that there may be a genetic component to the problem. How common is this? I did some research online and see that significant complications can arise from the surgery to remove these. How safe and how successful is corrective surgery or are there any alternatives to surgery?


Cataracts occur when the protein in the lens of the eye changes and becomes opaque (white). They can result from trauma, or be caused by several different medical conditions. Genetics can make a dog more likely to develop bilateral cataracts. In fact, inherited cataracts are common in certain breeds. And while Newfoundlands are not high on this list of breeds susceptible to inherited cataracts, genetic disease should be considered.

However, you didn’t mention whether or not your veterinarian ran any blood tests when your dog was evaluated. It’s important to rule out whether or not he has diabetes; cataracts are a common side effect of this disease. If he is diabetic, he’ll need immediate evaluation and treatment to control his blood sugar before other health issues arise.

Have your furry friend evaluated by a veterinary ophthalmologist. It’s critical to make sure that there are no other factors involved in his condition. The specialist can also give you the best options for treating him, whether it be surgical removal or other methods.

I’ll tell you this; the cases I’ve referred for surgery have always done well. The success rate of surgery in qualified patients (without medical complications) is very high. To be sure, there are risks with any anesthesia and surgery, and the ophthalmologist will spell these out for you during your visit.


We give our cat, Timmy, ice cream once in a while. Vanilla is his favorite. He gulps it down and I often wonder why he doesn’t get a headache from this. I have to eat mine slowly or I get what my grandchildren call a “brain freeze.” Why doesn’t Timmy?


Who knows why Timmy is so lucky? I can tell you that one of my childhood cats, Stumpy, suffered from a lot of these headaches. He loved ice cream and popsicles. And if he ate too fast, he’d suddenly stop and lay down for a few moments, his eyes closed while he rubbed his face with his feet. Poor guy, he never learned to eat slowly and suffered with this many times. I don’t think he minded too much; he got to eat a lot of ice cream!

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