DEAR DR. FOX: My aunt suggested I reach out to you and tell you a little bit about my dog, Jasmine. She's a 6-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel mix whom I rescued as a puppy.
In the last few years, she has become obsessed with swimming. She's gone swimming in pools, lakes, ponds and the bay -- she's even jumped in the ponds in Central Park once or twice.
She developed a cough last June. I didn't take her to the vet right away, but when we finally went in July, she was put on an antibiotic. The vet listened to her heart and said all was good. The cough did not go away; in fact, it started to sound worse and almost like when a human has bronchitis, so I took her to a second vet.
The new vet took chest X-rays and told me her heart was "pristine," though he did see a little bronchitis in her lungs. He put her on a different antibiotic, a bronchial dilator and a cough suppressant. We went back a few times and had another set of X-rays done that were sent to a specialist. The specialist suggested a trans-tracheal wash and a bronchoscopy.
I took her for a third opinion. This vet put her on yet another antibiotic and agreed with the trans-tracheal wash. He also wanted to do a sonogram of the heart to rule out a heart issue common in Cavaliers.
I saw the third vet less than a week ago, and her cough has worsened. She is not eating her food, but I believe it has more to do with the antibiotic bothering her stomach. I have decided to stop the antibiotic so that she can get it out of her system, and so that we can get in to have the trans-tracheal wash and sonogram done sooner.
Have you ever heard of a dog having a cough for so long? Do you have any feedback about Jasmine's situation? -- K.G., New York City
DEAR K.G.: Considering her record of loving to get into any kind of water for a swim, your dog is a prime candidate for having a water-associated fungal infection called blastomycosis, which thrives in rich, moist soils around ponds, along waterways and in swamps.
Antibiotics will not eradicate this proliferating fungus from your dog's lungs and possibly other internal organs.
This disease is quite common in many parts of the United States, possibly aggravated by warmer weather and climate change. The fungus can enter the body via a cut on the skin, or more often via inhalation. So have the veterinarian check for this and let me know the outcome.
DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 16-year-old domestic cat whom we have had since he was 6 weeks old. He has been in good health his entire life, although he's a bit overweight at 17 pounds. He sees our vet once a year to be checked over.
We recently noticed that he may not be seeing that well. I noticed when I gave him a treat, he did not seem to be able to see it, but he could smell it. After a couple of weeks, we took him to the vet to check his eyes, and we were told he had a detached retina in one eye, but he was responsive to light.
We had his bloodwork done, and his blood pressure was high (over 200). He was placed on medication (amlodipine). We also checked him for thyroid issues, and he was determined to be borderline. Our vet suggested monitoring it, but no medication was prescribed. After two weeks on amlodipine, we took him back to check his blood pressure, and it was back in the normal range. He is now taking the amlodipine daily.
Unfortunately, his vision does not seem much better. Our vet said his detached retina looked better, and he is still responsive to light. Our vet felt his vision should improve some over time, but said it's difficult to determine how much better (or worse) he sees.
He seems fine and gets around the house without issue, but it does appear that he walks right up to objects before he sees them.
Is there anything else we can do to help with his vision loss? -- G.P., Arlington, Virginia
DEAR G.P.: Your cat's eye problem is all too common in older cats who develop high blood pressure, which, among other things, can lead to detachment of the retinas.
Being overweight or obese results in the production of inflammatory substances in the fat cells, which can cause harm to the kidneys (which play a major role in regulating blood pressure), to the heart and blood vessels, and to the pancreas, leading to secondary cardiac and circulatory issues and diabetes. Further complications can arise with inflammation of the joints, fatty degeneration of the liver and cognitive impairment associated with changes in the brain, which can resemble Alzheimer's disease.
Giving kittens (and their pregnant mothers) biologically appropriate diets rather than high-cereal diets and poor-quality animal protein might prevent these problems. Some fish oil supplement or a couple of canned sardines every other day would help your cat, and I would not change the blood pressure medication other than having the pressure monitored every three to four months.
BETTER HANDLING MEANS BETTER CARE FOR CATS
Many people don't know how to properly and safely restrain terrified cats, which can be a problem with staff in animal shelters and even veterinary hospitals.
I applaud the initiative being taken by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to correct this serious issue and to facilitate more cats having regular wellness examinations. Far too many cats never see a veterinarian until they are seriously, often terminally, ill. To learn more, cat handlers, owners and veterinarians alike should visit AAFP's Feline Friendly Handling Guidelines, available at catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/handling-guidelines, and the Cat Friendly Practice Program, available at catvets.com/cfp.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.)