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Dog Coughs - What Causes Them and What Can Be Done To Help

Common Causes and Treatments for Coughing

By Sora Wondra. September 17, 2013 | See Comments

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Dog Coughs - What Causes Them and What Can Be Done To Help

A cough can be something as little as an irritation in your dog's throat, or it could be a symptom of something else. Learn more here on what to look out for when it comes to your dog's coughing and when it's time to take them to see the vet.

Dogs cough just like humans, though it sounds a little different. How do you know if a dog cough is a result or a simple irritation or something more?

Some illnesses that can cause a dog to cough, like kennel cough, usually resolve on their own, but others, like heartworm or heart disease, will require treatment by a veterinarian. Ultimately, your vet will need to diagnose and recommend treatment, so avoid giving your dog any cough suppressants or other medicine unless directed.

How to Recognize a Dog’s Cough

Dog coughs can sound a lot like sneezes and it can be hard to distinguish between them. If you notice your dog has developed a cough (or sneeze) take notes on the frequency and timing to share with your vet. Details about the cough will help your vet make a diagnosis. Some things to observe include:

  • Dry vs. deep and wet cough
  • When it started and how often it happens
  • If it happens more after eating or during the night
  • Coughing up mucous or blood
  • Any accompanying symptoms, such as eye or nose discharge, vomiting, or fainting

Possible Causes of Coughing in Dogs

Since coughing can be caused by many different conditions you should contact your vet for a diagnosis. During
examination, vets will usually consider the symptoms, induce a cough, and may even use a bronchoscope to collect throat samples. While your vet may prescribe treatment for the cough itself, it's more important to treat the cause.

Kennel Cough and Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs)
Dogs often catch illnesses from other dogs, particularly when in big groups, like at kennels or dog shows. This kind of cough is usually a dry, hacking cough. Dogs should recover completely within a week or two with rest, and occasionally medication, but are highly contagious while sick.

Inhaling Foreign Bodies
Dogs often inhale seeds or grasses when running in fields. They can also get hairballs. These foreign materials are usually coughed up, but they could get stuck in the throat or lungs leading to infection, choking, or pneumonia, making coughing worse.

Parasites
Some parasites, such as lungworm and heartworm, can cause persistent coughing and breathing difficulty.

Pneumonia
When coughs sound like gurgling, or as if there is fluid in the lungs, it could be a sign of pneumonia, which is potentially life threatening if untreated.

Heart Disease
One common symptom of heart disease in dogs is heavy coughing, particularly at night. This is why a thorough vet exam is so important, to catch serious conditions early on. Heart disease can be treated through weight loss and medications, like Vetmedin for dogs, but early detection is key.

Collapsing Trachea
Toy dog breeds, especially older ones, are at risk of a collapsing trachea. This can be made worse from pulling on a collar, obesity, or frequent bronchitis. This cough almost sounds like a goose honking. Weight loss is usually the first treatment, but veterinary treatment will be needed to keep the problem from getting worse.

Allergies and Asthma
Dogs can also have respiratory allergies or asthma that cause coughing or wheezing attacks.

More on Dog Health

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Flea and Tick Questions, Answered
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Dog Coughs at a glance

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  • 1Dogs may cough as a symptom of different conditions, like URIs, heart disease, heartworm, or allergies.
  • 2A gurgling cough can be a sign of pneumonia.
  • 3A dry, hacking cough can be a sign of a URI.
  • 4If the cough is getting worse, take notes on the timing and type of cough, and contact your vet.