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Q:  I have a beautiful, seemingly very healthy 9 year old male Bichon.  Although this problem with him isn’t new, I am more concerned about it at this age than when he was younger.  Whenever he drinks water he coughs it up – it looks thick but clear.  His vet feels he gets enough water through his dog food as he isn’t dehydrated.  However, he seems like he enjoys drinking water, then he gets a little worried look and coughs it up.  We’ve tried giving only small amounts, and even elevated his bowl, but it made no difference.  He loves walking and enjoys a refreshing drink of water after, only to cough it up.  Is there anything we can do for him?

A:  The good news here is that your veterinarian has already examined your dog and found nothing seriously wrong.  Since this is something that has been happening since your pet was little, it may be a mild abnormality that he was born with.  It sounds like he swallows solid food just fine, and the regurgitation only happens with liquids.  I call it regurgitation because you say the water looks thick when he brings it up, like it has mixed with saliva or other secretions.  Disorders of the larynx, the esophagus and the trachea can all interfere with normal swallowing and make regurgitation more likely. There are potential treatments for all of these issues, but it does require some diagnostic testing to determine the likely source of the problem. It sounds like you have already tried some sensible interventions without any improvement.  If you feel that as your pet is getting older the problem is getting worse, I think it is important to tell your veterinarian this.  Your veterinarian can help you determine if more testing is indicated at this point, or if the problem is mild enough that you could instead try some different symptomatic treatments.

Rita Angelo, VMD

Dr. Angelo graduated from the University Of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She completed an internship in small and animal medicine here at Oradell Animal Hospital and remained on staff as a senior general practitioner at both our Paramus and Fort Lee locations. Dr. Angelo was appointed Hospital Director of Oradell Animal Hospital in 2019.
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