Dog coughing is typically nothing to worry about when it happens sporadically. But if your dog’s cough is persistent, or it sounds strange – listen up. It may be a sign of a mild to severe underlying health condition.
Types of Coughing in Dogs
When your dog is coughing, pay close attention to what the cough sounds like. If you can identify specific environmental triggers, make a note of that too. Your vet will use this information, along with factors like your dog’s health, breed, age, and typical activity level, to help treat your dog’s condition.
1. Kennel Cough
Kennel cough in dogs (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection. With kennel cough, the trachea airway and bronchial tubes are typically infected.1 It’s similar to the common cold in humans. Unlike the common cold, though, kennel cough is rarely spread to humans.2
Several viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough in dogs, often at the same time. These include:
- Bordetella bacterium
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Adenovirus type-2
- Canine coronavirus
- Canine parainfluenza virus3
Dogs with this condition typically have bursts of a harsh, dry hacking cough, which may be followed by retching or gagging.4 Kennel cough symptoms are usually accompanied by other cold-like symptoms.
Other Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Dogs
- A strong, “honking” cough – the most obvious symptom
- Watery nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- A low fever5
If your dog was recently in daycare, a dog park, or a training class, they may have contracted bacteria or viruses that cause kennel cough there.
The infection spreads fast, but it’s also highly treatable. Be sure to call your vet right away. Other conditions, like canine distemper, can have similar symptoms. You’ll want to know for sure what you’re dealing with.6
2. Coughing From Allergies
Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to seasonal, environmental, and food allergies. They can also have respiratory allergies or asthma. If your dog is reacting to allergens, you may notice a wheezing, sneezing type of cough. It likely won’t be the only symptom.7
Other Symptoms of Dog Allergies To Watch Out For
- Red, inflamed, itchy skin – the most common symptom
- Itchy, runny eyes
- Licking or nibbling at the skin
- Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps8
If you think your dog has allergies, call your vet. They can determine what allergens your dog is reacting to so you can help your dog avoid them.
3. Gagging Cough
If you notice that your dog has a high-pitched, gagging cough, they may have a sore throat or tonsillitis (which is fairly uncommon). A sore throat cough is usually accompanied by repeated swallowing and lip-licking.
There’s also a chance that your pet swallowed something that is stuck in their throat and blocking the airway. If you think this could be the case, call your vet immediately. Foreign bodies in your dog’s throat can make breathing difficult.9
4. Wet Cough
If your dog’s cough sounds wet and phlegmy, it may be a sign of mucus in the lungs. If your dog has a wet cough, breathing will be difficult, even when they aren’t coughing. This is typically a sign of pneumonia. Call your vet right away.
Other Symptoms of Pneumonia
- A high fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Lethargy, lack of endurance during exercise
- Nasal discharge
- Weight loss
Pneumonia can be caused by a bacteria, virus, parasites, fungi, or inhalation of a foreign material. Older dogs, puppies, and dogs with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk.11
5. Chronic Coughing
If your dog seems to be coughing non-stop, they may be suffering from chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis occurs when the tubes that move air from the trachea to the lungs become inflamed. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic.12
Other Symptoms of Bronchitis
- Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
- Gagging or retching
Coughing in Small Breed Dogs
If your toy breed is coughing and it sounds weirdly like a goose honk, they may have a collapsed trachea. This happens when the cartilage around the trachea weakens, the trachea collapses on itself, and the large airways become blocked. Small breed dogs are more likely to experience this than large breeds.13
Other Severe Symptoms of Collapsed Trachea & Airway Collapse
- Blue-tinged gums
- Shortness of breath
- Exercise intolerance
Easing Your Dog’s Cough
The occasional cough is no cause for alarm. But if your dog has a persistent, hacking cough with additional symptoms, you’ll want to call your vet. Before your veterinarian examines your dog’s body, they might ask you questions, like:
- What does the cough sound like?
- How long has it been going on?
- Are they experiencing any other symptoms?
- Is your dog allergic to anything?
- Is your dog up to date on the bordetella vaccine? Heartworm medication?
If the cough is severe, your vet might recommend cough suppressants. If your dog has kennel cough, a sore throat, tonsillitis, or pneumonia, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics. For a viral infection, like chronic bronchitis or canine influenza, your vet might advise you to make your dog comfortable and wait it out.
How To Support Your Dog’s Recovery
While your dog recovers, feel free to baby them! Create a healing environment at home to give your pet the best possible chance for improvement.
- Provide excellent nutrition from high quality, all-natural dog food.
- Provide a clean, warm, sanitary environment free of irritants, like cigarette smoke.
- Make sure your dog has a quiet place to rest.
- Avoid all known allergens in the environment and food.
- Help your dog lose weight if they are obese.
- A natural daily supplement may help boost their immune system.
- Natural remedies, like manuka honey and coconut oil, may help ease symptoms.
Making Sure The Cough Stays Away
Once your pet has recovered, the best thing you can do for your furry friend is to help them get strong so they’re less likely to get sick again.
Your vet may offer an intranasal vaccine to prevent future cases of kennel cough. For your part, you’ll want to keep them healthy with all natural, balanced diet. Including a natural supplement may help boost their immune system, making it less likely they’ll catch a cold or the flu virus in the future.
And all that babying you did to help them recover? Well, no one says you have to stop doing that now that their cough is gone. It just may become your new routine.
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