DEAR DR. FOX: My healthy 14-month-old Rottweiler developed a hacking cough, which I thought indicated that she had something stuck in her throat. I took her to my vet, and the vet gave her an antibiotic and some cough tabs.
My dog attends a well-run day care facility twice a week. Thirteen days ago, I boarded her there for two nights (I provided the food). On the same day, I gave her a chewable Heartgard after having her test negative for heartworms. The day care owner reports no other dogs with a cough.
Since I am dubious of almost any medication other than herbal for my companion animals or myself, I am now wondering if there might be a connection between the heartworm medication and the cough. I hate giving her an antibiotic.
The cough seems somewhat better after two days of medication. -- C.S., Hendersonville, North Carolina
DEAR C.S.: I doubt there is any connection between the Heartgard and the cough -- unless your dog already had heartworms and the medication is killing them and their remains are getting into the pulmonary circulation. A blood test must always be done before ever giving such preventive medication to be sure the dog is not already infested.
Since your dog is improving on the antibiotic, you should continue the full course of treatment. When that is done, load your dog with probiotics to help recover a healthy bacterial population in the digestive system.
There are lungworm parasites that can cause respiratory problems in dogs after consuming infective earthworms and snails, which should not be permitted, and in rare instances an inhaled grass seed can cause acute respiratory distress.
The stress of boarding and probably barking a lot can make dogs more prone to picking up any bacterial or viral infection from other dogs in the facility.
FOR DOGS' SAKE, GET RID OF THE LAWNS!
Agriculture should not take all the blame for chemical fertilizers and pesticides harming water quality. What MUST be addressed in suburbia is the lawns, soaked in chemicals by homeowners and lawn "treatment" companies that "fertilize" and kill "weeds" with various chemicals that the rains, lawn sprinklers and irrigation systems flush into ground and surface waters, which we eventually drink or that evaporate into the clouds and come back down in the rain.
From my perspective as a veterinarian and from my early memories that make me mourn the loss of night bugs and wildflowers along the highways and byways, I can only shake my head in disbelief. The golden springs of flowering dandelions, so nutritious, packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes and with multiple phytochemicals with properties that can cure certain cancers and improve liver and kidney function, if not the workings of our brains, is a call to arms rather than to reverence and celebration. They are, along with other "invasive" herbs and wildflowers, rooted out or sprayed with herbicides that cause or aggravate the very maladies that the dandelions' leaves and roots, and essences of other wild plants, can cure!
What more to say except that children play on these lawns and sprayed park land, sidewalks and playing fields, where susceptible dogs like the Scottish terrier are likely to develop cancer of the bladder and others, cancer of the lymphatic system.
Some may wonder where the bees and butterflies have gone. Others will not care or remember. Where I live in suburban Minnesota, few homeowners have turned their lawns into rain gardens, milkweed havens and flowering meadows. Every evening we hear the sound of lawn mowers and weed wackers before the smoky stench of outdoor barbecues, converting animal flesh into tasty carcinogens, rises to pollute the gloaming. Then the street and yard lights come on to obliterate the stars, and in a twinkling of recall, I see no more fireflies in the gloom.
But beyond a sense of pending doom, I see a glimmer of hope in the scintillating semaphore of vibrant colors from the wings of the birds and butterflies among our weeds and falling linden trees that speak the universal language of the heart. This war on "weeds" (like other wars triggered by generally unfounded fears, an adversarial and arrogant state of mind and distorted perception) must end, along with our collective ignorance and indifference to all that lives and gives.
(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.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)