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Ask the Vet-NOT Dr Google

The Internet offers some good general advice – but Dr. Google can’t listen to your cat’s chest, interpret his chest X-rays or tell you what’s going on with your own special feline family member. Only your veterinarian can do that.

Dear Daisy Dog: Our dog has been drinking and urinating excessively, and she pants a lot. Her veterinarian diagnosed Cushing’s disease. Are there any home remedies? What is the lifespan of a dog with Cushing’s?

Daisy responds: Cushing’s disease, officially called hyperadrenocorticism, is excessive (“hyper-“) production by the adrenal glands (“-adreno-“) of the hormone cortisol (“-corticism”).

Clinical signs may include excessive drinking and urination, a voracious appetite, panting, a pot-bellied abdomen and sparse hair coat. Some dogs also develop urinary tract infections or diabetes.

Unfortunately, there are no home remedies for Cushing’s disease. Most dogs with clinical signs are treated with trilostane or mitotane to reduce the excessive production of cortisol.

Depending on the study, median survival times for trilostane-treated dogs have been reported to be 662 to 900 days, and for mitotane-treated dogs, 708 to 960 days.

Dear Christopher Cat: My cat has been coughing for six months. I looked up cough on the Internet, and I now suspect he has heartworms, which can’t be cured. What can I do for his cough?

Christopher responds: We cats cough for many reasons, only one of which is heartworm-associated respiratory disease. So your first step should be an appointment with your veterinarian, your best resource for advice about your own cat.

It’s best if your cat sees his veterinarian at least annually, because the vet will spot any changes from previous exams that may be developing too gradually for you to recognize; for example, weight changes or dental disease. Also, your veterinarian can evaluate body parts you can’t, including the heart and lungs.

When there’s a problem, such as a cough, your veterinarian will develop a list of differential diagnoses, that is, the disorders most likely to be causing the problem. This list of differentials is based on your pet’s age, breed, underlying conditions, the history you give your veterinarian about the details of the cough and the physical exam findings. From there, your veterinarian may recommend X-rays or lab testing to reach a conclusive diagnosis.

In cats, coughing is associated with many diseases, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, bacterial or viral infection, lung worms or flukes, fungal infection, heartworm-associated respiratory disease, a polyp in the back of the throat, an inhaled foreign body, heart disease, pneumonia or fluid within the chest cavity. Ask your veterinarian to make the diagnosis.