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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all
I have a little dog named Taco and I need some advice on the best course of action for him. I'll explain more of his history/life story after I get through the more immediate/relevant stuff.

I am pretty sure he has heartworms. He has started developing a cough that seems to be getting worse and worse, it's been going on for nearly 2 months now and has become more frequent and sounds more serious as time goes by. At first I didn't know what the cough might be and figured i'd just wait until I get him seen by a vet, but after it started getting more serious I started googling what could be causing it and based on the coughing and other symptoms like getting winded very easily and avoiding exercise, I am pretty confident his issue is heartworms.

So here is my situation with him... I have literally no money. I cannot take him to the vet or I would've already done so. I've been going to school for the past few months and i'll be able to get a job as soon as I finish because luckily enough my instructor is also an employer and is going to hire me as soon as I finish and get certified and so on so it's a sure thing. But i'm not going to get hired or see my first paycheck from that new job for at least another month... Coincidentally, i'm also going to inherit several thousand dollars from a death in the family several months ago and i'm supposed to receive the check about a month from now. So I have plenty of potential money to spend in the near future, but I have NOTHING right now. It's so bad, i'm using food stamps for food and i've been doing a lot of pretty hard manual labor for my neighbor just to earn enough for gas money to finish going to my classes.

So i'm really worried about Taco. If he can just hold on for about another month, i'll be able to get him treatment but there is nothing I can do for him right now. Will he be ok with this condition being untreated for another month? Just in the past couple of months his cough has gotten much, much worse than it was originally and i'm not so sure... I don't really know what I can do to help him right now. Any advice would be appreciated.

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So here is Taco's story... I had a little Dachshund girl that I raised from a puppy and she was my baby for 20 years, then her little body finally gave out in December of last year. I was absolutely heartbroken and devastated by the entire thing because she was a huge part of my life for the majority of my life.

About two weeks after she died, a strange dog showed up in my yard. It was definitely part chihuahua but I don't know what the other half is. He was very skittish and he was trying to get into my trash. I called animal control to come pick him up because he was just some weird dog that wandered up, but the woman told me that unless I could actually grab him and pick him up that they would have to leave a trap outside and she'd come back and get him out of it the next day, so I decided to go outside and try to coax him over just to make the whole experience over with quicker.

He was very afraid, ran away from me. He wouldn't come to me no matter how much coaxing I did, so I finally just sat down on the ground facing away from him and sat there for about 20 minutes and he came up and sniffed my back a few times, and then he finally laid down on the ground behind me and up against me. I reached back there and started to pet him and it was like he instantly fell in love with the idea of being rubbed. He was so desperate to be pet, he was pushing under my hand wanting more and more every time I stopped worse than any of my "spoiled" pet dogs.

So the animal control officer showed up and I asked what would happen to him and she said since he was so skittish and nervous and afraid to interact with people, they would probably just put him down. And I couldn't allow it, I told them I was just going to keep him myself. That would've been almost impossible for me to accept in any situation, but 2 weeks after my baby girl died there was no way I could do that.

I managed to coax him inside the house with food. He was covered in ticks, I pulled off about 12 of them and he was so ridiculously dirty that my hand turned black every time I pet him. He was hard to get in the house too, he seemed very nervous about that like he'd never been through a door before. It was obvious to me he wasn't just some runaway, he had been living on his own out in the woods for probably his entire life. Oh yeah, and I live kind of in the middle of the woods, not in town.

So it took a lot of time working with him but I finally got him to trust me and follow me around, got all the ticks off him, got him bathed and trimmed his claws. I love the little guy now. He looks like his tail was broken at some point and maybe didn't heal back together just right, I think his hips or perhaps just one of his rear legs is slightly messed up like it doesn't bend just right and he favors it sometimes, its hard to explain. He also has what looks to me like a gunshot grazed him across his belly and whenever we're outside and hear gunshots off in the distance he immediately hits the ground and locks up like he is absolutely terrified.

Unfortunately due to my financial situation right now, I can't get him any treatment. I plan on getting him all of his shots, heartworm treatment and preventative, and I also want some x-rays to see whats going on inside the poor guy bone-wise but I can't do anything right now.

When my little girl was sick and dying, I racked up a $1600 vet bill trying to keep her going that I am still unable to pay off (though I will first thing when I get my new job or the inheritance check, whichever comes first) and the vet won't see any of my animals until that is paid off on top of whatever it would cost to actually help him specifically. I would have never went out and got a new dog with my current financial situation and no way to properly care for it but he was just kind of dropped in my lap. He has no original home or owners to go back to, the shelters will kill him because he's scared of strangers and probably if they find out he has heartworms, I just don't know what to do.

I just want to help my little guy and i'm so scared he is going to die before I can afford treatment or even if he doesn't that he'll have life-long health problems because it took so long and possibly end up dying young as a result.

I just dont know what to do. I need some advice on how to handle this situation.

Despite walking funny on his leg every once in a while and his really bad coughing (usually when he gets excited mostly), he is a very happy little dog now. He looks like just pure joy every time I come home from class and he runs over to me so insanely excited, but it always throws him into a coughing fit from all the excitement. He is very friendly to me now, he loves to play with me, and he is beginning to understand the joy of having toys. He isn't suffering right now, definitely has high quality of life when he isnt in one of his coughing spells.
 

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I'm sorry to hear that your pup is having difficulty breathing and is getting worse. I know how stressful it is to have a sick pet.

Coughing can be a symptom of many things. It could be heartworm, but it could also be heart failure, a respiratory infection, or something else. My dog was coughing, and I was sure it was kennel cough, but it ended up being heart failure. So, don't always trust the internet.

That being said, I'm not sure that I can offer advice, other than try to find a way to get him the help he needs. If that means dropping him off at a no-kill shelter, then maybe that's the best option. I think they try to get medical care to animals who are sick. It's not fair for him to suffer.

I wish you both the best, and I hope Taco has a positive outcome.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Closest no kill shelter is 2 hours away from here unfortunately. :(
The thought had already crossed my mind to try to put him in such a place to get him treatment then i'd go back and adopt him later, but it's just too far away. I'm willing to make the drive, but going 120 miles isn't something I can afford. I just barely am able to earn enough money doing odd jobs for my neighbor to make enough to drive to and from my classes.

Sometimes I have to wait at home with no food for a couple of days just waiting for him to have something he wants to pay me to do just so I can goto the grocery store, otherwise my car will run out of gas before making that trip and getting back home.

There's no way i'll get enough money to travel 120 miles there and 120 miles back.

Taco doesn't seem to be suffering really. He is still extremely spunky, happy, and full of life. The coughing is more like an annoyance to him it seems like. I've even seen him down in the floor playing with a stuffed toy when he goes into one of his coughing fits, and he tries to keep playing with the toy the whole time he's coughing and then after he's done. I think if it was causing him any great pain or anything like that, he wouldn't be as playful.

There are a few reasons I think it is heartworms... The symptoms match up pretty well. His coughing very rarely just "happens", he only goes into coughing fits when he is physically active. So it happens most often when I just come home from class and he is really stoked to see me and dancing around, or when i'm about to go take them all on a walk, or when I wake up in the morning and he is really stoked I just got up. While he is just laying around calmly, especially while he is sleeping, it isn't very common. He was also living completely wild out in the woods for who knows how long. Living outside, he was probably bit by mosquitos constantly every single evening and had nowhere to get away from them and obviously he wasn't on any kind of preventative medication. I think living for years outside, especially in an area absolutely loaded with mosquitos, it would be almost impossible if he DIDNT have heartworms.

If he was miserable or suffering, i'd make sure he didn't have to suffer anymore. But right now he is still a happy little guy and loving life. My biggest concern is if he WILL deteriorate in the month I have to wait before I can get him help.
 

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Do you have family that can help?

Have you tried to apply for CareCredit?

Has your dog ever been seen by a vet since you've had him?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Do you have family that can help?<br />
<br />
Have you tried to apply for CareCredit?<br />
<br />
Has your dog ever been seen by a vet since you've had him?
<br />
<br />

He hasn't been seen by a vet, by the time I got him I was already $1600 in debt to them because of my little girl. So he can't be seen by them until after I pay that off. They are the only vet in probably 50 miles aside from 2 emergency clinics that charge an additional $150 on top of whatever you owe just for walking in the door.

Family won't help. They don't really like or care about animals. I have another dog named Jack who was a rescue dog and they do nothing but criticize me for having him and keep telling me to get rid of him. I got him before I lost my previous job, so he is very well taken care of and in good health. He is extremely well behaved and loving, a perfect little companion for anybody, but they just hate him anyway. They don't like the idea of having pets/animals and think dogs should be kept outside of your house and all that kind of thing. They don't even help me out with essentials I need to live, they certainly won't spend a few hundred on medication for another stray dog. I mentioned him one time and all they said was "put him to sleep" and "cant believe you let that filthy animal into your house" and all that.

I've never heard of care credit before, but like I said until I can pay off that debt, the vet won't see any of my animals anyway. I'm basically resigned to accepting the fact I won't be able to get him any treatment for another month.
 

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Have you looked up collapsed trachea? It's probably heartworm, that there's a chance it could be his trachea is slightly messed up. My boy had that from a collar pressing against his trachea, when he'd get excited and really active he'd go into a fit of coughing. It could also be allergies, you can try giving him benedryl and see if that helps, the does is 1mg per pound of body weight.

If it's heartworm, and he's showing symptoms, then it's pretty far along and while you can wait it'll be getting steadily worse, also the longer you wait the harder, and more expensive, treatment will be.
 

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Unfortunately heartworms, especially an advance case, is very difficult to treat, and not always successful. I see nothing short of a Vet being able to diagnose and recommend a treatment plan. It could also, as Rain pointed out, be a collapsed or collapsing trachea, or allergy's, or any or all combinations of them. Wish you the best, but I really believe a Vet has to be involved, if this dog is to survive.
 

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Have you looked up collapsed trachea? It's probably heartworm, that there's a chance it could be his trachea is slightly messed up. My boy had that from a collar pressing against his trachea, when he'd get excited and really active he'd go into a fit of coughing. It could also be allergies, you can try giving him benedryl and see if that helps, the does is 1mg per pound of body weight.

If it's heartworm, and he's showing symptoms, then it's pretty far along and while you can wait it'll be getting steadily worse, also the longer you wait the harder, and more expensive, treatment will be.
That is possible...
He does seem to have a weird sort of fixation with his neck, he loves to rub it on things and loves to have it rubbed. I'll look up some info on that, might be it. Sometimes when rubbing his neck, because he presses against things including your hand really hard with his neck, he goes into coughing fits sometimes. I just hope it has a better prognosis than the heartworms...

I knew taking him in that he may have problems and might end up having to put him down but I just felt that he deserved at least a chance to live instead of damning him right off the cuff. And he has been with us a couple of months now and he has been living a good life with us so if nothing else, at least his final days were full of love and happiness and security and food.
 

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That is possible...
He does seem to have a weird sort of fixation with his neck, he loves to rub it on things and loves to have it rubbed. I'll look up some info on that, might be it. Sometimes when rubbing his neck, because he presses against things including your hand really hard with his neck, he goes into coughing fits sometimes. I just hope it has a better prognosis than the heartworms...

I knew taking him in that he may have problems and might end up having to put him down but I just felt that he deserved at least a chance to live instead of damning him right off the cuff. And he has been with us a couple of months now and he has been living a good life with us so if nothing else, at least his final days were full of love and happiness and security and food.
Our Pomeranian Nemo has had a trachea collapse since 2012..we knew it from the honking cough..over time it does get worse..he was recently diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension..not from the trachea, but from bronchitis, not sure if its all connected..at first they thought it was heart failure but after doing the pulmonary test they determined its hypertension..if your pup has a trachea collapse he can go years without needing medication, but if he does need meds now they usually give Torbatol for it its what Nemo took, unfortunately it gave him inflammation in his tummy but that is because he already had a very sensitive stomach
 

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That is possible...
He does seem to have a weird sort of fixation with his neck, he loves to rub it on things and loves to have it rubbed. I'll look up some info on that, might be it. Sometimes when rubbing his neck, because he presses against things including your hand really hard with his neck, he goes into coughing fits sometimes. I just hope it has a better prognosis than the heartworms...

I knew taking him in that he may have problems and might end up having to put him down but I just felt that he deserved at least a chance to live instead of damning him right off the cuff. And he has been with us a couple of months now and he has been living a good life with us so if nothing else, at least his final days were full of love and happiness and security and food.
If it's his trachea there are a few things you can do now, that won't cost you much, and will keep it from getting worse. First do NOT walk him on a collar. That alone will help the most. Next, and this may be difficult, find a no choke harness that he actually won't choke in. That was the hardest for me and Zody, it took trying many harnesses before I found one that fit and didn't choke him. Zody has weird measurements though and I eventually had to bite the bullet and get one from someone who hand makes them and is wiling to customize. Hopefully you won't have to do that! What you are looking for is a harness that rides low on the neck, Zody does best in one that is v necked, meaning the neckline forms a v.

If it's his trachea and it's not truly collapsed but just bruised he should be fine. Since I finally found a harness that rarely chokes him, Zody hardly coughs anymore, usually when he does we've been playing and he's managed to press his neck against something. Another trick that sometimes worked when he was coughing was to get him to eat some yogurt, the thicker texture seemed to sooth the cough and get it to stop. It didn't always work though but it was always worth a try.

Thank you so much for taking the boy in! You've given him so much love and care that I"m sure he's certain he's won the doggy lottery or gone to heaven, he's so lucky to have you in his life. I hope he ends up being alright and goes on to have a long, happy, life with you.
 

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Several things can cause persistent coughing in a dog-- my dog had similar issues last year and it turned out to be pneumonia. Is your dog exhibiting any other symptoms?
Additionally, different conditions cause different sounding coughs. Something I actually found helpful was going on Youtube and searching for videos of dogs coughing-- some vets have posted videos of the different coughing sounds and explaining what conditions cause each different cough. This made it easier for me to pinpoint what my dog actually had.

As was previously mentioned, depending on your credit score, you may be able to apply for CareCredit, which is basically a credit card for solely medical expenses (including veterinary bills). If you're approved, you use it like any credit card, where they will pay the vet upfront, and you pay them back in monthly increments. (I think it's also interest-free, so long as you pay them back within a certain time-frame, though don't quote me on that!) If you choose to go this route, you can either use the card to pay your vet bill and get help for Taco there, or you can go to the emergency vet and have them see him. Just call in advance first to ensure that they take CareCredit (though in my experience, most vets do).

In the meantime, if I were you I'd check Youtube to see if you can pinpoint the cough, as some here may have better suggestions if you're able to identify the condition he has.

Wishing Taco a speedy recovery!
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I actually live on 40 acres and have a lake on the property, so I don't use leashes or anything like that to walk any of my pups. We all just pour out of the house and just walk around together. As far as I know, he has never had a collar or been on a leash in his life.

He is a really funny and really cute little boy. He is extremely vocal about things! Most dogs ive had will just walk up to you and jump in your lap or maybe sit there and whine until you pick them up, but Mr Taco growls and sometimes barks. And you can tell it isn't an aggressive sort of growl, it's just the way he is communicating to me. He will growl and moan at me if I refuse to pet him, he will eventually start barking if I ignore him long enough. But I laugh at him because it's cute and encourage him. Sometimes we'll get into growling contests with each other, but he is very polite about it because he knows when not to mess with me like when i'm asleep or working on something on the computer. He always sort of growls to ask permission before he jumps up on me. That seems to be the only time he growls is when he wants me to look at him or speak to him.

He gets super excited about food, i've never seen a dog go as bonkers as he does when I bring out some food. Eyes as big as saucers and totally fixed on it. I wish I could stop him from "gobbling" everything he eats. He just swallows it all whole as fast as he possibly can. Guess out in the wild he had to do that to survive but there isn't a reason for it anymore.

It's kind of nice to be able to just talk about him to someone, everyone I know hates him and wants him gone.

The cough mostly sounds really dry, but he acts like he's trying to hack something up, like he is choking on something. Sometimes when he coughs for a little while it sounds slightly wet, but it may just be the saliva in his mouth making those sounds. He has never coughed up anything, I always watch and expect to see something, especially when it sounds wettish but he never gets anything up. Most of the time it sounds and he acts just like he is choking, like some food went down the wrong pipe or something.

It can happen randomly, but it is pretty rare. 9 times out of 10 when it happens it is because he is excited or really active. When I come home from class he bounces around like a bunny and that always sends him into coughing fits, when I get up to take them on a walk and he's running around excited to go outside he goes into coughing fits, etc. As long as he is laying still or sleeping, it does still happen sometimes but its very few and far between. Activity makes him cough 100% of the time.
 

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As mentioned by others several times now, there are LOTs of things that cause coughing, and for the most part, most cannot be distinguished without radiographs, an exam, and sometimes bloodwork (and sometimes the cause is extremely hard to diagnose no matter what testing is done). Coughs due to heart worms are absolutely identical to coughs due to heart failure... and for good reason... heartwoms only cause a cough because they create heart failure. No way on earth to tell the cause of a heart failure in a dog short of radiographs, blood work and/or ultrasound. Otherwise heart failure is just heart failure and will require heart failure medications (AND heart worm treatment if your pet is also positive for heart worms).

On the other hand, pneumonia, kennel cough, collapsing trachea, allergic or infectious bronchitis, cancers, distemper, pleural effusion, foreign bodies, lung worms, smoke inhalation, collapsed lungs, swallowing disorders etc. can all cause coughing and most of these coughs can sound a lot alike.

Whatever the cause, taking it easy is super important, so try to minimize excitement... when you come home from school, it might be best to ignore your new pet for about 10-20 minutes, pretending he's not even there, and the excitement associated with you coming home might be minimized, as might the associated coughing. Coughing usually brings more coughing, so avoiding behaviors that cause coughing would be a good idea.

Good luck with your new dog and we all hope you can get something done soon with minimum expenditure. But sometimes it can take some time and quite a bit of $$ to work some of these problems out.
 
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