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Why Does My Dog Keep Coughing? Possible Causes & Solutions

August 11, 2023

As a dog owner, it can be distressing to see your furry friend constantly coughing. However, it's important to understand that coughing is a common symptom in dogs and can be caused by a variety of factors.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind your dog's chronic cough. We will discuss the common causes, such as respiratory infections, allergies, heart issues, and tracheal collapse. We will also provide potential solutions to help alleviate your dog's discomfort.

dog coughing

Key Takeaways

  • Coughing is a common symptom in dogs and can be caused by various factors.
  • Possible causes of chronic coughing in dogs include respiratory infections, allergies, heart issues, and tracheal collapse.
  • It's important to seek professional help if your dog's coughing is severe or persistent.
  • Home remedies, such as honey, humidifiers, and steam therapy, may provide some relief for your dog's coughing.

Understanding Coughing in Dogs

Coughing in dogs can be caused by various factors, from respiratory issues to heart problems. In general, coughing is a reflex action that helps clear the airways of foreign substances, such as mucus, dust, or irritants. However, persistent coughing can indicate an underlying health condition that requires attention.

Some common signs of coughing in dogs include:

  • Dry or moist cough
  • Hacking or gagging sounds
  • Coughing fits or spells
  • Wheezing or labored breathing
  • Lack of energy or appetite

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it's important to monitor them closely and seek veterinary care if the coughing persists or worsens.

Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs

If your dog is experiencing persistent coughing, it could be due to a respiratory infection, allergy, heart condition, or tracheal collapse. Here we will explore these causes in more detail.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and canine influenza can cause dogs to cough. Symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. Treatment may involve antibiotics, supportive care, and rest.

Allergies

Allergies can also cause dogs to cough. Common allergens include pollen, dust, mold, and certain foods. Symptoms may include coughing, sneezing, itching, and skin irritation. Treatment may involve identifying and avoiding the allergen, and in some cases, medication may be prescribed.

Heart-related Issues

Certain heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, can result in persistent coughing in dogs. Symptoms may include coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Treatment may involve medication, lifestyle changes, and/or surgery.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a condition that can cause chronic coughing in dogs, particularly in smaller breeds. Symptoms may include a honking cough, difficulty breathing, and exercise intolerance. Treatment may involve medication, weight management, and in some cases, surgery.

It's important to note that these are not the only causes of coughing in dogs. Other potential reasons include lung tumors, foreign objects lodged in the throat, and dental disease. If you suspect your dog's coughing is due to any of these causes, it's best to consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Kennel Cough: A Likely Culprit

Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection that can cause a chronic cough in dogs. It is highly contagious and is often spread in areas where dogs congregate, such as boarding kennels, dog shows, and grooming facilities.

Symptoms: Dogs with kennel cough typically have a dry, hacking cough, often described as a “goose honk.” They may also gag or retch, act lethargic, or lose their appetite.

Transmission: Kennel cough can be spread through direct contact with an infected dog or by exposure to contaminated objects, like food bowls or toys.

Treatment Options:Prevention:
- Rest and isolation to prevent the spread of infection
- Cough suppressants and antibiotics to control symptoms
- Nebulization therapy to help reduce inflammation
- Vaccination
- Minimizing exposure to other dogs in high-risk areas
- Sanitizing shared objects and surfaces regularly

If your dog is experiencing the symptoms of kennel cough, it's important to isolate them from other dogs and seek veterinary care. With proper treatment and prevention, however, your furry friend can recover fully and avoid future infection.

Respiratory Infections and Allergies

Respiratory infections and allergies are common causes of chronic cough in dogs. Some of the most prevalent respiratory infections include:

InfectionSymptomsTreatment
BronchitisCoughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, feverAntibiotics, cough suppressants, anti-inflammatory medication
PneumoniaCoughing, difficulty breathing, fever, loss of appetiteAntibiotics, oxygen therapy, cough suppressants
Canine influenza virusCoughing, sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, eye dischargeAntibiotics, antiviral medication, cough suppressants, hydration therapy

Allergies, on the other hand, can be caused by a variety of triggers, including pollen, dust, and certain foods. Some common signs of allergies in dogs include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy skin
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose

Treatment for allergies may involve identifying and avoiding the allergen, as well as medication to alleviate symptoms.

Alternative Treatments for Respiratory Infections and Allergies

In addition to traditional medication, some pet owners may choose alternative treatments to help alleviate their dog's coughing. These may include:

  • Herbal remedies
  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care

However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian before trying any alternative treatments to ensure they are safe and effective for your dog.

Heart-related Issues

Coughing can also be a sign of heart-related issues in dogs, particularly congestive heart failure (CHF). In dogs with CHF, fluid builds up in the lungs, causing coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.

Other heart conditions, such as heartworm disease and pulmonary hypertension, can also lead to coughing in dogs.

Signs of Heart-related Issues

In addition to coughing, dogs with heart-related issues may exhibit the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Bluish gums or tongue
  • Fainting

Management Strategies

Managing heart-related issues in dogs typically involves addressing the underlying condition to improve heart function. Treatment options may include medication, surgery, or a combination of both.

Your veterinarian may also recommend reducing your dog's salt intake to help manage fluid buildup.

If your dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, it's important to monitor them closely and follow your veterinarian's recommended management plan.

Tracheal Collapse: A Breedspecific Concern

Tracheal collapse is a condition where the trachea, or windpipe, collapses or narrows, making it difficult for your dog to breathe and resulting in a persistent cough. This condition is more common in smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Toy Poodles, but can occur in larger breeds as well.

The collapse of the trachea can be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, obesity, respiratory infections, allergies, or irritants such as cigarette smoke. Symptoms of tracheal collapse can include honking or wheezing sounds when breathing, difficulty breathing, and a persistent dry or moist cough.

Veterinarians may perform a tracheal wash or endoscopy to diagnose tracheal collapse. Treatment options can include medication to reduce inflammation, weight loss, avoiding irritants, and surgery in severe cases.

Prevention Tips:

  • Keep your dog at a healthy weight to decrease the risk of tracheal collapse.
  • Use a harness instead of a collar to prevent strain on the neck and trachea.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to cigarette smoke and other irritants.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups, including X-rays, can help detect early signs of tracheal collapse.

Other Potential Causes

While respiratory infections, allergies, heart conditions, and tracheal collapse are some of the more common reasons why dogs cough, there are other potential causes to consider.

One possibility is that your dog may have inhaled a foreign object, such as a piece of grass or a small toy, which is causing irritation in the respiratory system. Another possible cause is acid reflux, which can lead to coughing and gagging.

In some cases, coughing can be a side effect of certain medications or a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as cancer or a thyroid issue. Finally, exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants can also contribute to respiratory issues and chronic coughing.

If your dog's coughing persists despite addressing more common causes, it's important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying issue and appropriate treatment plan.

Home Remedies for Dog Coughing

If your dog has a mild or occasional cough, you may be able to provide natural remedies to help soothe their throat and alleviate the cough. Here are some home remedies you can try:

  • Honey: Honey is often used as a natural cough suppressant for humans and can also help dogs. Mix one spoonful of honey into your dog's food or water, or let them lick it off a spoon.
  • Steam: Steam can help alleviate coughs in dogs. Bring your dog into the bathroom while the shower is running, or use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Herbal teas: Herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and echinacea can help reduce inflammation and soothe an irritated throat. Add a small amount to your dog's food or water.
  • Canned pumpkin: Canned pumpkin is high in fiber and can help regulate digestion, which can contribute to coughing in dogs. Give your dog a small amount of canned pumpkin with their food.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C can help boost your dog's immune system and reduce inflammation. Talk to your vet about adding a vitamin C supplement to your dog's diet.

It's important to note that while home remedies may help alleviate mild coughing, they should not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary care if your dog's cough is severe or persistent.

dog couging at the vet

When to See a Vet for Dog Coughing

If your dog is coughing persistently, it's important to know when to seek professional help from a veterinarian. Here are some signs that indicate it's time to schedule an appointment:

  • If your dog is coughing for more than three days
  • If your dog's coughing is severe or getting worse
  • If your dog is coughing up blood
  • If your dog also has a fever, loss of appetite, or lethargy
  • If your dog has any pre-existing health conditions or is on medication

Remember, coughing can be a symptom of various underlying health issues, some of which can be serious. Seeking professional help early can help ensure timely and effective treatment.

Veterinary Diagnoses and Treatment

When dealing with chronic coughing in dogs, it's essential to seek professional help from a veterinarian. Diagnosing the underlying cause can involve several tests, including blood work, X-rays, and ultrasounds. In some cases, a bronchoscopy or a CT scan may be necessary to get a closer look at the respiratory system.

The treatment for your dog's persistent cough will vary depending on the diagnosis. Antibiotics may be prescribed for respiratory infections, or antihistamines and steroids for allergies. Heart conditions may require medications that help manage symptoms and improve heart function. In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

It's important to follow your veterinarian's treatment plan diligently and attend all scheduled follow-up appointments. In some cases, ongoing monitoring and management of the condition may be necessary to ensure your dog's health and well-being.

Conclusion

Having a coughing dog can be concerning, but with the right knowledge and guidance, you can help your furry friend feel better. By understanding the possible causes of chronic coughing in dogs, such as kennel cough, respiratory infections, allergies, heart issues, and tracheal collapse, you can work with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Remember, there are also natural home remedies you can try to help manage your dog's cough, such as humidifying the air, giving honey or coconut oil, or providing cough suppressants like slippery elm.

It's crucial to know when to seek professional help from your vet. If your dog has been coughing for an extended period, has difficulty breathing, or if the cough is accompanied by other symptoms, it's time to get your dog checked up.

A veterinarian's diagnosis is essential in accurately determining the cause of your dog's cough and providing effective treatment. By understanding the underlying cause of your dog's cough and working with your veterinarian, you can help your furry friend live a happy and healthy life.

FAQ:

Q: Why does my dog keep coughing?

A: There can be several reasons why your dog is experiencing constant coughing. It could be due to respiratory infections, allergies, heart conditions, tracheal collapse, or other factors. Identifying the underlying cause is essential for finding the appropriate solution.

Q: What are the common signs of coughing in dogs?

A: Common signs of coughing in dogs include a persistent dry or wet cough, gagging, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and lethargy. It's important to pay attention to these signs and consult with a veterinarian if your dog's coughing persists.

Q: What are the most common causes of coughing in dogs?

A: The most common causes of coughing in dogs include respiratory infections, allergies, heart-related issues, and tracheal collapse. Each of these causes requires specific management strategies and treatment options.

Q: What is kennel cough, and how is it treated?

A: Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can cause persistent coughing in dogs. It is typically treated with medication, rest, and supportive care. Vaccination can also help prevent kennel cough.

Q: Can allergies or respiratory infections cause dogs to cough?

A: Yes, allergies and respiratory infections are common causes of coughing in dogs. Allergies can be triggered by environmental factors or certain foods, while respiratory infections can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Treatment options vary depending on the specific cause.

Q: How are heart-related issues related to coughing in dogs?

A: Heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, can lead to persistent coughing in dogs. This is often due to fluid buildup in the lungs. Treatment involves managing the underlying heart condition and addressing the symptoms of coughing.

Q: What is tracheal collapse, and how is it treated?

A: Tracheal collapse is a condition that affects certain dog breeds, causing the trachea to become weak and narrow. This can result in chronic coughing. Treatment options include medication, lifestyle changes, and in severe cases, surgery.

Q: Are there any other potential causes of dog coughing?

A: In addition to the common causes mentioned, there are other factors that can contribute to a dog's coughing. These may include foreign objects lodged in the airways, lung tumors, or certain medications. A veterinarian can help determine the exact cause.

Q: Are there any home remedies for dog coughing?

A: If your dog's coughing is not severe, there are some home remedies you can try. These include humidifying the environment, providing steam therapy, and using natural soothing remedies like honey or herbal teas. However, it's important to consult with a veterinarian before trying any home remedies.

Q: When should I see a vet for my dog's coughing?

A: You should consult with a veterinarian if your dog's coughing persists for more than a few days, is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, or if you notice any changes in their behavior or appetite. A professional evaluation is crucial to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Q: How are dog coughing issues diagnosed and treated by veterinarians?

A: Veterinary diagnosis involves a thorough physical examination, potentially followed by diagnostic tests such as X-rays, blood work, or respiratory sampling. Treatment options depend on the specific underlying cause and may include medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery.

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