Bichon Frise Alfie is having a bad hair day when The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton treats him for a cough

The waiting room was already at capacity and because of this – and also because the patient had a cough with canine respiratory disease almost as infectious as pesky Covid – I headed out to find Alfie in the car park.

Alfie has problems with his new haircut and the static in the car

We’ve seen a few cases of infectious tracheitis recently and it’s better to not have a coughing dog in the waiting room, where infection can pass to other dogs.

Similar to whooping cough in children, infectious tracheitis can be a nuisance. It causes a dramatic and harsh cough, just as if something is stuck in the throat, and often culminates in a wretch of frothy mucous.

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Dogs rarely seem to feel very poorly with this disease, which is caused by a mix of viruses along with a bacterium called Bordatella, although puppies and older dogs can be more seriously affected. It is simple to diagnose and easy to treat, although the irritation can persist for some time.

We’d seen this little dog regularly at the practice over recent months, because of a persistently sore eye. He was well known and well liked.

The little Bichon Frise was very cute but he stubbornly resisted all attempts to treat his eye. The delightful ball of cotton wool turned into a whirling dervish when approached with eye-drops, so it was all hands on deck every day.

Fortunately, the eye condition was resolved several months ago and a happy relationship with the vet had been resumed.

But today he was coughing and I searched the carpark for a small, white fluffy dog looking out of the car window. Not one was to be seen.

In one vehicle a barking hound that looked like a standard poodle, frothed at the inside of the window as I approached. I turned and went to look elsewhere, to no avail. I couldn’t find Alfie anywhere. Maybe he’d gone for a walk? Maybe a colleague was seeing him? I called my next client in.

But Alfie was still highlighted on the screen as waiting to be seen, so I returned to the car park a second time. This time, Alfie’s owner was standing outside the car, trying to attract my attention.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you there,” I apologised. “I saw a dog but it looked much bigger than little Alfie- I thought he was a large poodle.”

His owner was opening the back door for Alfie to leap out.

“Well, he’s just been to the groomers for a bath and trim and shampoo, so his ears and head are very fluffy,” he explained, “And the other thing is, he always gets static from travelling in the car, so his hair stands on end. He looks much bigger than usual when he’s inside the car!”

Sure enough, little Alfie stood there, fluffed up like a frightened cat, twice his normal size but oblivious to his exaggerated proportions. I bent down to stroke him prior to my examination with a stethoscope but, at the last moment, changed my mind.

“Will I get an electric shock if I touch him?” I asked- just to check. But, of course, I didn’t. As he walked around on the ground, the electric charge obviously dissipated because his bouffant hairdo subsided to the level of a normal dog after a grooming.

I listened to his chest and windpipe where, sure enough, there was a rasping noise on a par with Darth Vader’s breathing. Gentle manipulation of the larynx confirmed a super-sensitivity and he coughed on cue; it was simple to make a diagnosis.

As I went inside to organise the medication he’d need, we chatted and laughed about his hair. “What happens when the weather gets humid? I bet he’s even bigger then?”