Last week we celebrated Annie’s 11th birthday, which is a big marker but was a bit tempered because right after dinner she started coughing.
I’ve written about her “old man noises” before. She starts out with 2 or 3 gasps and then expels this horrific, loud noise. I was pretty sure it was her way of coughing because I’ve never heard her cough in a different way. She has done this sporadically since we’ve had her, maybe once every 3 or 4 months but on her birthday she started and couldn’t seem to stop. After 5 or 6 episodes, she was tired and my nerves were rattled.
I couldn’t help but think that she had made it to her birthday and now she was taking a turn for the worse. My heart was aching during her celebration but I know this day will be coming at some point, I’m just not ready yet.
She had a few more episodes and on Friday I took her to the vet. After a thorough examination we sat there talking about what it could be and we both had the sense that it might be some sort of lung disease. Her lungs and heart sounded good when her doctor listened to her chest but we agreed that an x-ray was needed to try to find the answer. It couldn’t be done that day, her doctor wanted to have more people available to help her since Annie is so big so it had to wait until Monday.
Over the weekend, Annie did seem to be coughing less frequently and by Monday it had subsided but I was still bracing myself for bad news. Poor Annie was trembling as soon as we sat down and when the tech came to take her back she did not want to leave me. I walked her back as far as I could go and that seemed to help.
As I sat there waiting, I had rushes of so many different memories. The first time we took her here was very traumatic. She has changed so much and seems so happy with her life. Whenever I get up from the couch or a chair, she is at my feet and I have to stretch over her. We love our walks and she trots out to the car when I say “car ride”. She loves food but she has curtailed her scavenger ways and hasn’t found anything to get into in quite a while, thank goodness. She is still very nervous around strangers, especially men, and isn’t yet comfortable with my son but hopefully by the end of the summer they will reach an understanding. It has been such a joy to have her with us and I am so honored that she has chosen to trust me to take care of her and keep her safe.
After what seemed like hours but was really only about 30 minutes I was able to join Annie in one of the exam rooms. Her x-ray was done, we needed to wait while her doctor looked at all of the pictures. Her doctor came through the door with a big smile which instantly put me at ease. Everything looked great! No masses, no white spots and no foreign objects. There was one tiny spot in her stomach and she went over it with an ultrasound and concluded it was a particle of a stick, stone or leaf that hadn’t digested, all probable since Annie frequently chews sticks when she is lounging in the grass. She looked at her lungs, heart, liver, spleen and trachea and all looked to be just fine. The only concern was evidence of arthritis in her spine, something we both assumed but now was confirmed. Her conclusion was “old man lung” which isn’t something that is treated. When lungs get old they get a little more sensitive. Heat and allergies could have triggered her coughing and it has been hot and she takes medication for allergies.
Since we’ve been home, she hasn’t coughed again. Her energy level, appetite and breathing have all been normal. She’s sleeping by my feet, moaning every now and then as she stretches and seems to be completely content. Once again, she rang my alarm bell and ended up being just fine. She’s an aging dog, and with that comes a variety of health concerns but for now I am relieved.