Do dogs get respiratory allergies?

[SIZE=2][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]My little dog and I run about two miles 3-4 times a week. I got her in October last year and she had no trouble keeping up. We took about two months off when the snows came. We are now gradually working our way back to two miles.

On Saturday she was breathing so hard I thought she had asthma - even strangers were commenting and trying to give he water. (She didn’t want any.)

I called the Vet and made an appointment - but I’m wondering if she is likely to be having spring allergies or if this might be something worse. (The vet seems to think she is just too chubby, but will check her out when we get there.)

My daughter’s Peke has to take allergy medicine all summer, so I guess her vet thinks they do.

Yep, they sure can. Dog inhalant allergies are more commonly expressed through bad skin for some reason I’ve never quite been clear on, but they can also have inflammation and increased mucus production in the respiratory tract, resulting in coughing and gagging and what they call a reverse sneeze. We get a LOT of calls in the spring and fall from people who think their dog has kennel cough or something stuck in its throat, or is even choking to death, and 99.9% of the time, these calls turn out to be seasonal allergies.

If your dog is only breathing hard, with no wheezing or coughing or gagging and no itchy skin/ears/butt, it seems more likely to be a matter of being out of condition than allergies, but you can get atypical presentations like that, so I wouldn’t rule it out without having the pet seen.

IIRC, Heska has some pretty good materials on canine inhalant allergies, so you might check out their website for more information.

It was bad wheezing and gagging. Even strangers stopped and were concerned. I got home from the run Saturday and my phone was ringing. I picked it up while I was getting her some fresh water and even my buddy on the other end could hear her.

She did not do this last fall and we didn’t stop running for that long. In fact, last fall she easily kept up with me.

Unfortunately, her vet does not agree with you and me.

Her vet said again (after seeing her) that she does not think dogs get respiratory allergies. I’m not buying it, but I’m not sure what to do next.

She often seems to have itchy ears, she is always shaking her head and scratching at the left one. Her vet said she does not have mites.

Has your vet also checked her for overgrowth of yeast and bacteria in the ear canal? Does her ear look irritate, feel rough, or smell funky on the inside? If the answers to these questions are no and yes, respectively, you need a new vet.

Out of curiosity, what’s your dog’s age and breed? It’s most common for allergies to start manifesting between about 2 and 5, getting progressively worse each year, and some breeds are notorious for having allergy issues.

If you feel comfortable with your vet’s evaluation of the ears, you might try a little experiment and put your girl on some antihistamines. The respiratory symptoms are an uncommon presentation and some vets have just never seen it, especially fairly recent grads. If the antihistamines help, I’d mention the fact to your vet at the next visit. If she poo-poos your notes, I’d find a new vet.

How old is your dog? What kind of dog is she? How big is she in pounds/kilos?

When you say breathing hard, do you mean panting hard, or really falling over, turning blue breathing hard? Is there anything else with her or her environment that has changed recently? When was the last time she was checked for parasites like heartworm or roundworm? If your dog didn’t show any symptoms in the exam room (which I’m guessing she didn’t given the reaction of your vet), is there any way that you can replicate the situation and catch it on film?

[vet hat]
Yes, the most common presentation we see for seasonal allergies in dogs are skin issues (itchy feet, itchy bellies, ear infections). However, there are cases of respiratory things like coughing and sneezing. These are less common.

The far more common reasons for acute onset coughing and exercise intolerance in small dogs (<20 pounds usually) are collapsing trachea or heart issues. Other common reasons include arthritis (obviously this makes exercise intolerance, not direct respiratory issues), obesity, and any of a variety of things that irritate the soft pallet, trachea or esophagus directly.
[/vet hat]

Don’t decide your vet is worthless just because the two of you disagree.

The vet has the advantage of medical knowledge and experience in general, but you have the advantage of knowing your pet in particular. If she’s telling you that allergies don’t fit with how the rest of your dog looks in the exam room, then give her some evidence of what your pet does outside the exam room with video. And give her the ability to do secondary tests to confirm the theory, like ear swabs, x-rays, etc. As much as it would make our lives easier if it was otherwise, some diseases just cannot be treated well without tests. The more information she has, the better medicine she can give you and your pet.

She turned 3 in October. She is an Australian Cattle Herder. She is 44 lbs. She is a little short for her breed.

She was checked for heartworm in November and I have no reason to believe that she could have gotten it over the winter. She is on heartworm meds.

Her former owner took her running all the time (and just emailed me last week to say she started her spring runs and missed her running partner.) She loves to run and gets excited when I tell her we are going running. This is a new issue and two months off should not be long enough for her to get that out of shape.

I thought about giving her an antihistamine, but would have preferred that the vet recommend the right one and the right dosage. I think though, that I will give it a try and see how she does.

I do catch her licking her paws, but she seems to have a licking fixation and licks just about everything and everybody. If I give her a bone, she will lick it for far longer than she will chew it.

Neither her paws nor her ears are rubbed raw. Her ears look find both in and out, but she does seem to shake her head a lot.

Thanks for the input.

If you want to try antihistamines, we usually start with chlorpheniramine, which you can find cheap in any health and beauty section. I buy the store brand for my lab mix, the name is something like Chlortabs. You can get a bottle of a hundred for something like $4.

I’m not allowed to tell you the dose, but you can Google it pretty easily–I will note that the first link I found on my search was a)much, much higher than what I have ever seen used and b) not the same as any other results I found, which were all more in line with what I’m used to sending home. I can also tell you that my dog is roughly the same size as yours, and I typically start her on 1 pill three times a day, then as she improves back her down to twice a day.

You can also use diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in dogs, but I’ve only ever seen it used for acute allergic reactions. Dogs can have the same sort of grogginess response to it that humans can, and they seem to have much fewer reactions like that to the chlorpheniramine. Incidentally, they can also have a paradoxical reaction where Benadryl wires them up, just like some humans can.

I tried an allergy pill before our run today. I gave the dose recommended for a child and gave it about an hour 1/2 to work before we ran.

She finished the two miles with no problems. She was breathing heavy when we finished, but nothing like last Saturday or Thursday. No gagging or hacking.

She was even a little (only a little) playful after. She definitely is lagging behind more than she used to, but overall she did well.

I will get her some chlorpheniramine - it should be in before our next run.

What’s that?

This is a reverse sneeze. This one is pretty long.

The dog already went to the vet, right? I’m guessing you told her the same you told us, and about the exercise intolerance and all that, right? Did she give you any suggestions? Did she mention any other diagnostics to run on your dog, other than a physical exam (whether the respiratory or the ears)?

If your doctor doesn’t think your dog has allergies, what did she tell you?

I told her everything. She said we could do some x-rays, but she thinks my dog is too fat. She said to cut her food in half and slowly work up to running in a few months.

I have had a bad decade with my health. Due to that, I keep a medical journal of symptoms and things to ask and all the answers I get.

I started the same for my dog, so the vet got a very detailed description of symptoms. But she had already made up her mind that dogs don’t get respiratory allergies and wasn’t really listening. She had decided the dog was too chubby before I even went in.

Respiratory allergies are not necessarily the top differentials for respiratory distress and exercise intolerance in a dog. I’ve seen a couple (biopsies), but these were taken after everything else was excluded.

Here, look at this chart. Now be honest and use it to score your dog. It may or may not be within the optimal range.

And just because the dog happens to have respiratory allergies does not mean the dog is not overweight. Taking care of a dog’s weight can help alleviate respiratory problems.

If you think that way about your vet, I’d say why not go think about going to another vet? It is not good for you when you go to the doc and he/she doesn’t listen, why tolerate the same from the vet? Conversely, maybe the other one will confirm what the first one said, but get along better with you.