Dog Coughing | Causes and Treatment Options

The sound of a dog coughing sets alarm bells screaming in most dog owners’ minds. Is your dog sick? Is he choking? Should you contact your veterinarian? A dog cough may have various reasons, some of which are very harmful. Here is everything you need to know about the reasons of coughing in dogs and what you can do about it.

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Closeup low angle shot of male and female vets examining Golden retreiever puppy with a stethoscope. The dog is completely healthy and happy.
(Image Credit: Getty Images)


Why Do Dogs Cough?

Dogs investigate the environment with their nose—and sometimes their mouth. Your dog comes into touch with all sorts of things, including dust, pathogens, and the odd grass stem. All of these factors may induce coughing, which makes it hard to tell whether your dog’s cough is severe or just the sound of your dog cleaning her throat.

An occasional cough may be typical dog activity and is not a reason for worry. Repetitive coughing, on the other hand, may be a symptom of a more severe issue, particularly if there are changes in breathing sounds or patterns.

Types of Dog Cough

One of the methods to limit down the potential reasons for your dog’s cough is to determine the kind of cough. This is essential information for you to collect, as it may assist your veterinarian make a better educated choice regarding your pet’s care. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it a deep, dry, hacking cough?
  • Is it a high-pitched, gagging cough?
  • Is it a wet, phlegmy moist cough?
  • Is it a deep, honking cough?
  • Does your dog cough in his sleep?

Each of these kinds of cough suggests a specific issue. Make sure you describe the sound of your dog’s cough when you contact your veterinarian, because this may help identify whether or not it is an emergency or whether it might be a contagious illness like kennel cough or canine influenza virus.

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Perfect patient. A male middle aged vet making an injection for a small maltese dog holding a patient.
(Image Credit: Getty Images)

Common Causes of Dog Cough

Kennel Cough

A deep, dry, honking canine cough may be a sign of kennel cough or tracheobronchitis (upper airway, meaning not the lungs) (upper airway, meaning not the lungs). Kennel cough is a very contagious illness caused by bacteria OR a variety of viruses. It usually causes only minor sickness and pain, but it may descend into the lungs causing severe issues like pneumonia or chronic bronchitis.

Dogs can pick up kennel cough in boarding and doggy daycare facilities, and any other places where dogs congregate. It is usually not a severe illness, but your veterinarian may prescribe some medicine to help treat the cough and may suggest that you keep your dog away from other dogs until the contagious period is finished.

Sore Throat

A high-pitched, gagging cough may be indicative of upper airway irritation, illness or even a partial obstruction. Either your dog has a painful throat, which may be subsequent to tonsillitis (quite rare in dogs), due to infections of the mouth, or sinus, or perhaps a foreign body or substance trapped in his throat causing discomfort and a sore throat. Foreign items stuck in the throat are hazardous, and impede normal breathing and swallowing. A foreign item that finds its way into your dog’s esophagus may be potentially life threatening and needs urgent veterinarian care.

Lung Problems

A wet, phlegmy “moist” cough may be a sign of lower airway or lung (pulmonary) disease. Those moist, gargling noises suggest that there may be fluid in your dog’s lungs. Unlike with other coughs, the breathing will be difficult even when the dog is not coughing. This requires urgent veterinary care, which means you need to get on the phone with your veterinarian and make your dog an appointment ASAP.

Pneumonia typically affects dogs with underdeveloped or compromised immune systems including young pups and elderly dogs. There are numerous causes of pneumonia in dogs, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungus, or aspiration due to inhalation of foreign material after vomiting or following exposure to toxins, such as petroleum distillates/gasoline, etc.

Tracheal Collapse

Toy breeds are at an increased risk of tracheal collapse. One of the signs of tracheal collapse is a honking cough that sounds like a goose. This sound may grow more prominent when your dog is straining on his collar, and fat dogs are at a higher risk of suffering tracheal collapse. It may also show up in hot, humid conditions during activity.

Heart Disease

There are many types of heart disease in dogs. When the heart is not working correctly as a pump, fluid may start to collect in the lungs. This is termed Congestive Heart Failure.

Dog breeds that are prone to heart disease, such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, may start coughing as the illness advances. This kind of coughing usually occurs while your dog is resting or laying down and indicates that fluid is building up around your dog’s lungs. This is a severe symptom, so be careful to speak to your veterinarian about treatment options for congestive heart failure.

Less Common Causes of Dog Cough

The aforementioned reasons of coughing in dogs are all severe, but there are several other, less frequent causes of coughing that your vet may wish to rule out.

  • Distemper
  • Heartworm
  • Canine influenza Virus
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Cancer

Treating Dog Cough

Coughing in dogs is generally treated. Before your veterinarian can treat your dog’s cough, however, he or she has to diagnose the underlying cause of the cough. Veterinarians diagnose based on a mix of testing and clinical indications. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, listening to your dog’s heart and lungs, taking your dog’s temperature, and performing diagnostic tests, as necessary, to determine what is bothering your dog.

Once he discovers the underlying reason, your vet will explain a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s particular requirements that addresses both your dog’s coughing and the underlying cause or illness.

When Should You Call Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Cough?

If your dog is coughing, you need to contact your veterinarian. Many of the reasons of dog cough are curable, but all need medical care. The sooner you bring your dog in to visit your veterinarian, the sooner your dog may be on his road to feeling well. Catching a cough early may also improve the prognosis for your dog, particularly with life-threatening diseases like as heartworm disease, distemper, and heart disease.

Also Read : What Causes Cat Coughing | How to Help
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