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Cash, in healthier times, gives a kiss to Richard Barron (who is holding Gremmie, who passed away five years ago).

It’s been a rough few weeks for our older dog, Cash.

He’s a rambunctious 12-year-old who still has plenty of energy to play and go on long, fast walks. A 60-pound Rottweiler mix, Cash has never been prone to sickness.

But in August, he started getting a dry hacking cough.

And Cash’s illness is so unusual for him.

You see, unlike other animals we’ve had, Cash has been the lowest-maintenance pet I’ve ever known.

When he was young, he had immaculate house-training manners, he loved his crate, and his only problem was that he huffed at children, whom he even now only tolerates.

But when his closest pal Gremmie, our black cat, died five years ago, he was clearly upset and slept hours on end.

So we got Junior, a goofy hound mix with lots of digestive and anxiety issues.

He was 2 years old when we adopted him and was immediately terrified of everything. But he immediately bonded with Cash. His older “brother” was a stable influence who was literally a strong shoulder for Junior to lean on.

We have photos of our new boy resting his head on Cash’s back while seeking a little comfort in his new home.

So Cash’s small illness is a surprise on many levels.

I guess we should have seen changes coming in our older dog. A few months ago he started becoming fussy about his food, walking away from the dry, grain-free mix he had enthusiastically gobbled for years. He has now dropped from a robust 60 pounds to 55, and that concerns us, too. He used to have a tendency to get fat.

He still jumps at the odd crumb or piece of cheese that falls from the table, but we’re having to resort more and more to juicy canned food to hold his interest.

When the cough started, we didn’t think much of it.

But the hacking has deepened to a persistent cough despite treatment with antibiotics and an extended stay with the vet.

We went on a nine-day vacation recently and the usual boarding kennel said Cash would have to stay somewhere else because of his cough and runny nose. So he stayed with the vet and got some extra care.

They gave our boy more antibiotics and he was forced to rest more than usual.

But when we came back, his cough had only worsened. Now, whenever he gets excited Cash starts hacking with a slight wheeze.

The vet is still not convinced that Cash isn’t suffering from some kind of severe allergies. He said older dogs can have those problems and he is not ready to send Cash to an expensive specialist to probe whether something more serious is happening.

So we recently started him on a short run of hydrocodone to suppress his cough and cortisone pills to ease the inflammation.

As my wife, Rachel, said, it reminds her of when she had a terrible cough that she couldn’t shake several years ago. Codeine finally did the trick and allowed her to heal while keeping the cough in check.

It’s not an ideal solution, but sometimes you’ve got to go in conservative steps.

It’s hard to see an older pet suffer, but we’re doing all we can for the time being.

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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