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Pet of the Week: Darla Mae (copy)

Darla Mae, a two-year-old female domestic shorthair mix, finds the fish at Petco enchanting. 

Q: I thought I heard my cat cough the other day but then it seemed like he was coughing up a hairball, but nothing came out. What does it mean when my cat coughs and should I be worried?

A: Coughing is never normal, especially in cats, as it can be an indication of underlying issues with the lungs.

A cough in a cat can sometimes be confused with vomiting but is usually not productive. A cough in a cat can be an indication of several disease processes and, typically, when we examine a cat with a cough we take great care to listen to the lungs.

With a careful examination, we can determine if there are increased lung sounds that might indicate inflammation in the lungs or decreased lung sounds that might indicate fluid.

The next step would be to take x-rays of the lungs to visualize the chest cavity. X-rays are helpful in seeing the structures in the chest as well as visualizing the lungs in detail to look for fluid or inflammation.

We look for certain patterns in the lungs to try to determine the cause of the cough as fluid will obscure the lungs while inflammation of the airways makes them look more distinct.

Once we take the x-rays, we can determine a course of action for your cat. One of the more common causes of a cough in a cat is feline asthma, which is when the lining of the airways become inflamed and then cause difficulty breathing and a cough.

Typically, asthma is cats can be triggered by allergies, smoke, or other noxious air particles. It can start as a very innocent cough but can quickly escalate to labored breathing and, in very serious cases, respiratory distress.

It is important to get your cat checked if he starts to cough as asthma is treatable and if you do not want it to escalate to an emergency it needs to be treated aggressively as early as possible. In any pet, if you see labored breathing it is always an emergency!

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Q: My dog is 11 years old and is starting to slow down and act sore after exercise. What are some things I can do to help him with his discomfort?

A: When a dog reaches the age of 11, he will start to show the signs of aging, which include sore joints, deceased eyesight and hearing, and sometimes illness.

Watching a beloved pet age can be a very challenging time for you as an owner. Many owners feel helpless not knowing how they can help their pets deal with these issues; however, there are many things you can do for your aging pet to help ensure that he continues to have a good quality of life for as long as possible.

The most important intervention for aging pets is to make sure they are not overweight. Keeping your aging pet as trim as possible will dramatically improve his ability to move around and help decrease the pressure that extra weight can put on painful joints.

If your pet is overweight, they need to be put on an aggressive weight loss diet with a low-fat dog food and increased activity.

It is essential that you continue to exercise your dog even if it is low impact exercise for short periods of time. Keeping your pet moving will keep his muscles strong and the joints more mobile.

Adding in a reputable joint support supplement consistently can be very helpful as well as adding fish oils.

Including acupuncture, laser therapy, canine rehab, and an appropriate pain management protocol designed in conjunction with your veterinarian can significantly assist in prolonging your pet’s quality of life as he ages.

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Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com

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