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My dog received her pet vaccinations 5...

Resolved • Response time -54 minutes

13 Feb 2009

My dog received her pet vaccinations 5 days ago. She has a strange gagging like cough and seems to be having trouble breathing. Almost as if she is sniffling and gagging at the same time. She seems more lethargic than usual. Could this be a reaction to the vaccines?

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13 Feb 2009

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Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona
Veterinarian

Hi,
Welcome to Just Answer! I would like to help you and your dog but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.
What breed of dog?
Did she have a kennel cough vaccine? This is also called Bordetella? And was it a squirt in the nose?

13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

My 3 year old Yorkie was vaccinated on Sunday. She seemed lethargic afterwards, but its been 5 days and she has a gagging/sniffling sound. It seems to interfere with her breathing. She also seems more lethargic than her usual self.

Could she possibly have had an allergic reaction to the vaccines?

13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

Could she possibly have had an allergic reaction to the vaccines?

13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona
Veterinarian

Has she been lethargic from the moment of vaccines, or did it come on a few days later?
Did she have a kennel cough vaccine? This is also called Bordetella? And was it a squirt in the nose?

13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

I believe she did have Bortadella. There was a liquid that seemed to have spilled a little on the assistant's shirt, and it may have been inserted in her little nose. She weighs 4lbs.

Her lethargy was immediate on the day she received the vaccines. She seemed a little better afterwards, but seems more lethargic than normal. She seems to be sleeping a lot, and when she tries to play, or she gets excited to see me, she starts the coughing and sniffling.

13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009
Her lethargy was immediate on the day she received the vaccines. She seemed a little better afterwards, but seems more lethargic than normal. She seems to be sleeping alot, and when she tries to play, or she gets excited to see me, she starts the coughing and sniffling
13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

It almost sounds like this sound. She is so small, so it sounds more like she's choking. She only does it when she moves around, or gets excited.

13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

Yes! She sounds like the little Yorkie in the link you sent me.

13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona
Veterinarian

A-HA!!
Videos are great, aren't they?!
Does she have any nasal discharge?
Is she eating and drinking her normal amounts?

13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

Yes, videos are great!

She seems to be eating and drinking normally. She just sleeps a lot more.

13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona
Veterinarian
Ok, that is very helpful.

I just need a few minutes (about 15-20) to type up a detailed answer for you and then I will be right back!
13 Feb 2009
Customer reply
13 Feb 2009

Okay, thank you!

13 Feb 2009
Dog Specialist's response
13 Feb 2009
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona

Hi again,
What you are describing does not sound like a typical vaccine reaction at all.
Some dogs are a little bit sleepy for a day or so after vaccination, and some will have a severe allergic reaction immediately on injection (like humans who are allergic to nuts - it can be life-threatening).
Usually, we see hives, swelling around the eyes and mouth, or vomiting and diarrhea in dogs with allergic reactions to vaccines. This does not sound like what is going on with your dog.
Here is more information about vaccines and reactions:
http://www.petplace.com/dogs/allergic-reaction-to-vaccines-in-dogs/page1.aspx
http://www.thepetcenter.com/exa/vacreact.html
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=527
Instead, there are a number of possibilities for what may be going on. The top 2 things I would consider are kennel cough and tracheal collapse.
Let me explain...
1. Kennel cough
What you are describing sounds a bit like Kennel Cough (Bordetella Bronchiseptica) which is a highly contagious cough. Giving the vaccine intra-nasally provides the most rapid form of immunity, but occasionally it does lead to sneezing and coughing which may start 1-2 days after the vaccination. This happens as the body makes protective antibodies. It usually clears up within a few days, however and is mild.
Here is more on the Kennel Cough vaccine:
http://www.petplace.com/dogs/nasal-or-injectable-which-vaccine-is-best-for-your-dog/page1.aspx
Kennel Cough (Bordetella, infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious cough that is transmitted by saliva or through an aerosol when a dog coughs. With kennel cough, dogs have a cough that sounds like something is stuck in their throat, and after coughing a few times they have what is called a "terminal gag" which means that they sound like they are bringing up phlegm. If you watch closely, you will often see dogs swallow after this final gag - they are in fact swallowing phlegm. Some dogs will even cough up a puddle of clear, whitish, or slightly yellow mucoid fluid. Kennel cough is highly contagious so dogs that have this should be kept isolated from other dogs for 2-3 weeks until it resolves. Most cases resolve without medications, but in some cases patients are put on antibiotics and/or cough suppressants. Antibiotics are used in dogs who are at risk for a secondary pneumonia (very young or very old dogs, or those with a suppressed immune system). Cough suppressants are used when the cough is so severe that the dog cannot sleep. There can be quite a bit of phlegm with kennel cough, and it is better that the dog DOES cough that up, rather than leave it in the lungs by suppressing the cough. However, there has to be a balance where it's possible for the dog and his human companions to sleep.
For dogs that are unable to sleep, I do sometimes advise owners that they can give Robitussin DM. It is very important to read the label carefully and find a cough medicine that contains ONLY dextromethorphan (DM). This can be given to dogs. Here is more about precautions and dose:
http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/dextromethorphan-robitussin-dm/page1.aspx
Watch your dog to see if she is retching or gagging at the end of her coughing episode. If she is, or if she is coughing up puddles of phlegm, she likely has kennel cough. I'll give you links to further information:
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?cls=2&cat=1556&articleid=452
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=600
If she coughs up fluid that is green, or is blood-tinged, or she is lethargic or has difficulty breathing, then you should definitely see a vet. Many dogs with Kennel Cough seem to have a sore throat and thus don't want to eat their dry food. You can soften it with warm water to make it easier to swallow. Keep your dog isolated from other dogs for at least 2 weeks! Keep him as quiet as possible - just out for potty breaks and back in. Kennel cough usually gets worse for 2-3 days, then frequent coughing with phlegm for 2-3 days, then starts to slowly get better. It is also helpful to walk dogs with Kennel cough on a head halter or chest halter, as a leash around the neck can pull on the trachea and start a coughing spell.

2. Tracheal collapse
Now, based on the video, I think what is more likely is that what you are seeing is tracheal collapse. Yorkies are REALLY prone to this!
The trachea is the windpipe that you can feel in your own neck. It is held open by rings of cartilage. Cartilage is the same stuff that your ears are made out of, and as you can tell, it is not hard like bone. The cartilage rings in the trachea can collapse in some dogs, causing the airway to suddenly narrow. The cough that happens in this situation is often described as "goose honking" or like a seal barking.
Tracheal collapse can vary from mild (only occurs very rarely, often when the dog is excited) to severe (occurs constantly, with the trachea not popping back open easily or at all). With the most severe cases, a specialist can place a "stent" in the trachea to hold it open. In the more mild cases, the problem can be managed without surgery.
The first thing I would suggest is that your girl should *never* be walked on a collar. Instead, you should get her a harness that goes around her chest. Thus, if she suddenly sees a squirrel and pulls, she is not going to put pressure on her trachea and cause it to collapse.
Next, if your girl is having an episode, then please have a look at her gum colour (lift her lip over her canine or fang tooth to see her gums). Compare it to the colour it is when she is relaxed. In both cases, it should be a bubblegum pink colour. If it is blue or muddy coloured during a coughing fit, then you should make an appointment with her vet.
When your dog is having an episode, you need to calm her so that she stops gulping big breaths in, as that just keeps the trachea collapsed. What I find works with many dogs is to stand them in front of you, and lift the front legs up, so the dog's back is against your shins. Then, gently rub the belly. This seems to straighten the trachea and calm the dog and often ends the episode.
For more information on tracheal collapse, here are a couple of links:
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1527
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?cls=2&cat=1611&articleid=410
And videos to compare (these are tracheal collapse):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jteFw8jef3c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA-MNCdmAU4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1wT1ccHheo&feature=related
So, in summary, what you are describing sounds like tracheal collapse. I think it is possible that the kennel cough vaccine caused a bit of irritation and this has exacerbated an underlying mild tracheal collapse that is now causing problems.
Your veterinarian could prescribe a cough suppressant like butorphanol which is used as a pain killer but also as a cough suppressant. This should allow all of you to sleep at night until this resolves which I would expect within a week.
Here is more about this drug:
http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/butorphanol-tartrate-torbugesic-torbutrol/page1.aspx
If her gums are blue or muddy during an episode then you should see your veterinarian immediately. If she coughs up any liquid that is green or bloody, you should see your veterinarian promptly.
I hope that helps you.

Customer rating:
Dr.Fiona
Dr.Fiona
Veterinarian
Avg. question only $30
26 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
13 Feb 2009
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