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Why is My Dog Drinking So Much Water?

By Caitlin Ultimo

While it’s normal for dogs to take water breaks throughout the day, you may be a bit concerned if you notice your pet drinking excessively. Can a dog drink too much water? And, could it be a sign of something larger? “An owner should be concerned if their dog drinks the entire bowl at once and continues to drink every time water is offered,” shares Dr. Elizabeth Appleman, staff veterinarian at NYC’s Animal Medical Center. Further, if you find yourself constantly refilling the water bowl, if your dog suddenly starts drinking water from the toilet, or if you happen to notice that your dog is urinating more than normal, it could be a sign of a potential disease or condition. It’s a good idea to get a feel for how much your dog typically drinks when he’s healthy. If you notice a significant change, alarm bells should go off.

Why is My Dog Drinking So Much?

Drinking more water is medically referred to as polydipsia, and it is one of the most common problems seen in veterinary medicine, according to Appleman. Polydipsia has a wide range of underlying causes, “Certainly dogs can become polydipsic during warm weather, particularly right at the start of the change of seasons and before they have time to adjust to the hotter temperature,” says Appleman. Dogs will also drink more if their bodies are losing water through watery diarrhea, excessive panting or blood loss. “This represents the body’s attempt to rehydrate and restore normal blood volume,” she says.

Can Excessive Water Drinking Be a Sign of an Underlying Disease?

If your dog is drinking more than usual—some dogs even drink so much and so quickly, that they will regurgitate it right back up—it could be a sign of a medical issue. “It can be a long diagnostic process to figure out why a dog is drinking and urinating larger volumes, and sometimes it is difficult to ultimately find an answer,” says Appleman. Polydipsia, along with increased volume of urination (polyuria), can be caused by the following, amongst other things:

• Kidney insufficiency

• Diabetes mellitus

• Diabetes insipidus

• Adrenal hormone disease (such as excess cortisol production, called Cushing’s disease; or cortisol deficiency, called Addison’s disease)

• Liver disease

• Infection

• Abnormal electrolytes (high calcium, low potassium)

• Treatment with certain drugs (corticosteroids, diuretics, etc.)

• Psychogenic polydipsia

Is it Ever Normal for My Dog to Drink Excessively?

While excessive water drinking that is out of character for your dog may signal an issue, some dogs may simply drink a lot of water. “Some dogs are naturally excessive water drinkers,” says Appleman. “These tend to be large-breed, playful dogs that like to amuse themselves by drinking water, or are very active and need to replenish water loss from panting.” The most important aspect in deciding if there is a problem is identifying a change in baseline of water consumption. Try to be aware of how much your dog drinks on a regular basis, take note and consult your vet if the amount suddenly increases or decreases.

What Should I Do If My Dog is Drinking Too Much?

While most of the diseases that correlate with excessive water drinking have successful treatment options, “The difficulty is determining the correct diagnosis,” says Appleman. “Once the diagnosis is made, your veterinarian can almost always reduce (though maybe not fully resolve) water consumption and ameliorate the constant thirst and urination the dog is experiencing.” Many of the conditions that can cause dogs to drink a lot of water are quite serious. If you have any concerns about your dog’s water consumption, make an appointment with your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

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Image:  via Shutterstock

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Why is My Dog Coughing? Common Causes and Treatment Options

by Jennifer Coates, DVM

The occasional cough in an otherwise healthy dog is usually nothing to worry about. But just like us, when a dog’s coughing becomes a constant or recurrent problem it can be a sign of serious illness. Knowing some of the most common causes of coughing in dogs can help you determine when you need to worry.

Coughing is associated with many different diseases in dogs and cats. Here are a few of the most common and some of the available forms of treatment.

Coughing Related to Infections

Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites can all infect a dog’s upper respiratory tract, lung tissue (pneumonia), airways (bronchitis), or a combination thereof (bronchopneumonia), and cause dogs to cough. Kennel cough is the most common infectious cause of coughing. It can be caused by several different viruses and bacteria, alone or in combination. Canine influenza virus is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States and leads to symptoms like coughing, fever, and nasal discharge.

Supportive care is an important part of treating coughs caused by infections. Dogs should be encouraged to rest, drink, and eat. Cough suppressants can help with especially severe symptoms.

Antibiotics are effective only against bacteria. Viral infections generally have to run their course. Other medications are available that work against some types of fungi and parasites.

Coughing Related to Heartworm Disease

Heartworms are transmitted through the bites of mosquitos that pick up larval forms of the parasite from one dog and pass them to another. The larva migrate to the heart and lungs of the newly infected dog, where they mature into spaghetti-like adults. Their presence and the inflammation that results can lead to potentially fatal heart and lung damage.

Heartworm preventative medications are extremely safe and effective. On the other hand, once the disease develops, treatment is costly and can be quite dangerous.

Coughing Related to Heart Disease

Many different types of heart disease can make dogs cough, including mitral valve endocardiosis, dilated cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure from multiple causes, and more.

Depending on the specific type of heart disease a dog has, a veterinarian may prescribe some combination of medications that make the heart pump more efficiently, normalize blood pressure, and reduce the abnormal build-up of fluid (e.g., pimobendan, enalapril, or furosemide). Other interventions like surgery or the placement of a pacemaker may be appropriate in some cases.

Coughing Related to Collapsing Trachea

Small dogs are at increased risk for a weakening of the cartilage rings that partially encircle the trachea. This causes the trachea to collapse in on itself, which leads to tracheal irritation and a chronic cough that is often described as sounding like a goose honk.  Medications that dilate airways, decrease inflammation, suppress coughing, and treat secondary infections can help, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary to provide these dogs with an acceptable quality of life.

Coughing Related to Laryngeal Paralysis

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis cannot fully open the passageway into their windpipe (called the larynx) due to weakness of the nerves that control the muscles surrounding it. This leads to coughing as well as noisy breathing and shortness of breath.

Surgery to permanently hold open one side of the larynx can help ease the breathing of dogs with laryngeal paralysis, but it also puts them at higher risk for developing aspiration pneumonia… another cause of coughing in dogs.

Reverse Sneeze

While technically not a cough, many dog owners mistake the sound of a reverse sneeze with coughing. Reverse sneezes tend to occur in clusters and are produced when something (postnasal drainage, foreign material, parasites, etc.) irritates the back of the nasal passages.

Just like “normal” sneezes, reverse sneezes are nothing to worry about when they occur infrequently, but if they become severe or frequent, the dog should be seen by a veterinarian for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Coughing Related to Chronic Bronchitis

When a dog is coughing due to chronic inflammation of the airways and no other cause can be identified, chronic bronchitis is the most likely diagnosis. Dogs with chronic bronchitis tend to have a dry, hacking cough that worsens with exercise or excitement and worsens over time.

Treatment includes medications that decrease inflammation (e.g., fluticasone or prednisolone) and dilate airways (e.g., albuterol or terbutaline). Ideally they are given by inhalation to reduce potential side effects, but they can also be given systemically if necessary.

Coughing Related to​ Foreign Objects

Sometimes dogs will inhale foreign material or objects that become lodged in their airways. The body’s natural response is to try to cough it out. If this is unsuccessful, the material must be removed either through the use of an endoscope or via surgery.

Coughing Related to Cancer

Coughing can be one of the first symptoms that owners notice when a dog has cancer of the lungs, other parts of the respiratory tract, heart, or surrounding tissues. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or palliative therapy.

Diagnosing the Cause of a Dog’s Cough

The first step in treating a dog’s cough is figuring out its underlying cause. Your veterinarian will start the process by asking questions about your dog’s health history, travel, preventive care, the onset and progression of symptoms, etc. He or she will then perform a complete physical exam. Sometimes a tentative diagnosis can be reached at this point, but oftentimes reaching a definitive diagnosis will require some diagnostic testing. Depending on your dog’s unique situation, some combination of the following tests may be necessary:

  • A blood chemistry panel
  • Complete blood cell count
  • Serology to rule in or out various infectious diseases
  • A B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood test for heart disease
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • Chest x-rays
  • Echocardiography (an ultrasound of the heart)
  • Measurement of blood pressure
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • An examination of fluid samples taken from the airways

When is Coughing Serious?

If your dog has just recently developed a mild cough and seems to feel fine, taking a few days to see whether the condition will clear on its own is reasonable. However, if the cough is especially severe, worsens, or fails to improve over the course of a week or so, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Also, if your dog is lethargic, has difficulty breathing, isn’t interested in food, or has any other potentially serious symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately.

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Image: Sneezing Dog, by Eric Sonstroem / Flickr

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Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Poisoning in Dogs

Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs

Acetaminophen is one of the most commonly used pain relievers, and it can be found in a variety of over-the-counter medications. Toxic levels can be reached when a pet is unintentionally over medicated with acetaminophen, or when a pet has gotten hold of medication and ingested it. Pet owners often do not realize their animals may break into medicine cabinets or chew through medicine bottles. It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of toxicity, so that you can properly treat your pet if is has accidentally ingested medication.

Symptoms and Types

The effects of acetaminophen poisoning are quite serious, often causing non-repairable liver damage. Dogs will typically experience acetaminophen toxicity at over 75 mg per kg body weight. The most common symptoms that you may notice in pets suffering from acetaminophen toxicity include:

  • Brownish-gray colored gums
  • Labored breathing
  • Swollen face, neck or limbs
  • Hypothermia (reduced body temperature)
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish color to skin, whites of eyes), due to liver damage
  • Coma

Diagnosis

If you believe that your pet has ingested acetaminophen, it will typically be treated as an emergency situation. Seek the advice of a medical professional immediately, as treatment may be necessary. Your veterinarian will perform a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis to determine the level of toxicity, so that a potential treatment can be prescribed.

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness