You’ve probably heard your dog cough before. It’s a part of life for our canine friends, just like it is for you. But not all coughs are created equal. Depending on what your dog’s cough sounds like and what is causing it, coughing could be nothing to worry about, or it could be something serious.
The occasional cough isn’t an issue. Just like you, a dog might cough to clear his or her throat. Since your dog explores the world mostly with the mouth and nose, it’s easy for dust, dirt, grass, and other foreign materials to enter the throat and cause a cough. A simple cough now and again is probably just your dog’s way of clearing those materials out.
It’s when a cough becomes persistent that there is cause to worry. If your dog can’t stop coughing, something’s up it’s time to take them to the veterinarian for an examination.
Types of Coughing in Dogs
Pay attention to the type of cough that your dog is exhibiting.
- Hacking cough – When your dog emits a dry hacking sound, as if she is trying to get something out of the throat or mouth
- Honking cough – When your dog emits a honk noise, almost like a goose honk
- Wet cough – When your dog’s cough sounds moist, or phlegm-filled
- Gagging cough – When your dog emits a high-pitched gag sound while coughing
Causes of Coughing
1. Heartworm Disease
Depending on where you live, heartworm disease may be a more or less likely cause of coughing in dogs. While heartworms are more prevalent in warmer areas. The risk of heartworm disease exists anywhere there are mosquitoes transmitting the disease.
Dogs with heartworm disease may have a cough or they may exhibit no signs at all, it depends on the dog’s size, how many worms they’re harboring and the dog’s overall health. If your dog does show signs of the disease, they may have a mild, persistent cough; low energy; weight loss and reduced appetite. A severe heartworm infestation could result in signs of heart failure, including a swollen abdomen from fluid buildup.
Pneumonia is another common condition that pet parents often worry about when they notice their dog coughing. Dog pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) can be the result of bacteria, a preexisting viral infection (such as canine influenza or distemper), swallowing difficulties, regurgitation or certain metabolic disorders.
With pneumonia, a dog cough sounds moist and soft. If your dog has pneumonia, they’ll likely have a high fever, poor appetite and low energy. They’ll need veterinary treatment, lots of fluids and rest, and they might even need hospitalization to recover.
3. Canine Influenza
Dogs, like humans, are subject to contracting the flu, known in dogs as canine influenza. The cough exists as the result of the respiratory infection that can last anywhere from ten to thirty days.
Your dog will likely be prescribed medicine as a course of treatment. If you have other pets in the home, it is best to quarantine your sick dog to their own area of the home, as canine influenza is contagious between animals but lucky for you, it cannot be transmitted to or from humans.
4. Kennel Cough
Kennel cough is one of the most common causes of coughing in dogs. Kennel cough is extremely contagious and is easily spread among dogs housed together like those in a kennel, hence the name. It doesn’t usually cause serious symptoms unless the infection reaches the lungs, where dangerous problems like chronic bronchitis or pneumonia can develop.
5. Chronic Bronchitis
When a dog’s airways are inflamed and no other cause is found, chronic bronchitis is usually diagnosed. A hacking cough is most often associated with chronic bronchitis, and it typically gets worse when a dog exercises.
6. Lung Cancer
One of the scarier possibilities when it comes to dog coughing is cancer. Cancer of the lungs or other parts of the respiratory tract can cause serious coughing, and the prognosis isn’t always good. When lung cancer is caught early, though, a dog has the best chance of recovery. It’s yet another reason to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice Fido coughing.
7. Tracheal Collapse
Tracheal collapse is a condition that causes the trachea, or windpipe, to become soft and floppy; it affects small and toy breeds most often, including Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, pugs and shih tzus. The official name for the condition is tracheal chondromalacia.
Dogs with tracheal collapse have a dry, hacking and spasmodic cough. They cough repeatedly and have a hard time calming down. Their coughing will worsen if they pull while they’re on a leash.
If your dog’s trachea has collapsed completely, their cough can sound asthmatic. The cough is also worse in obese dogs, dogs who are hot or excited and dogs exposed to irritants or allergens in the air. Dogs with tracheal collapse often have bronchitis and/or heart disease as well, so they might have several different types of coughs.
Treatment for tracheal collapse includes weight loss as well as medicines including cough suppressants, bronchodilators, steroids and antibiotics. In severe cases, your dog’s vet may recommend surgery.
8. Foreign Bodies in the Throat
When your dog gets a foreign object of some kind stuck in his or her throat, they will naturally cough in an attempt to remove it. A foreign object lodged in your dog’s esophagus can block airflow and prove life-threatening. That’s why you should always check your dog’s mouth and throat if you hear them coughing.