Coughing in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Coughing in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Coughing in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Coughing?

A mild cough is not always cause for concern in dogs and most resolve within a few days. However, frequent ongoing coughing (or tussis) is a sign of illness. Coughing is the body’s mechanism for preventing germs, dust and other harmful substances from entering the lungs and for moving phlegm and mucous containing harmful substances out of the lungs. Cardiovascular problems and restricted airways due to inflammation or fluid buildup can cause coughing. If your pet has been coughing and cannot seem to stop, it could be indicative of infection, heart disease, a foreign object or other condition and should receive medical attention. Cough is caused by irritation of the throat, airways or the lungs. There are dozens of causes corresponding to dog cough. A thorough history, documentation of the type of cough, and physical examination help the veterinarian decide which causes of cough are most likely in your dog and helps him or her decide which diagnostic tests and therapies will be required.

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Coughing Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $300 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200

Symptoms of Coughing in Dogs

If your pet is exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms, you will want to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. Be sure to note which of the following symptoms are occurring as this information can be helpful in diagnosis:

  • Cough that is worsening
  • Cough lasting more than 5 days
  • Cough upon excitement
  • Cough after exercise
  • Cough after eating or drinking
  • Cough during rest time
  • Dry scratchy sounding cough
  • Moist productive sounding cough
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fast or laboured breathing
  • Reduced exercise tolerance
Types

Coughing can be characterized by sound and frequency.

  • Reverse sneeze – This is not a cough. It is a repeated inhalation spasm that can sound like snorting and may be confused for a cough.
  • Hacking – A short, repeating cough. Sounds like the pet is trying to clear his throat.
  • Gagging – Sounds like the pet may vomit.
  • Honking cough – Sounds like a goose honk.
  • Dry cough – Cough with no fluid involved, more in response to an irritation or constricted airway.
  • Productive cough – Moist cough that produces phlegm, mucous or foam.
  • Chronic cough – Ongoing cough throughout the day or that returns daily during the same activity (after eating, rest, sleep, exercise, excitement, or other daily events).
  • Acute cough – Small attacks of coughing due that subside after a few minutes and do not return.
  • It can be useful to video the cough to show the vet, in case your pet does not cough during their physical exam.

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Causes of Coughing in Dogs

Possible causes of coughing in dogs include:

  • Kennel Cough – This infection causes a honking dry cough, gagging and hacking. If your pet has been at the groomers, a shelter, a kennel, or dog park in the last week or two, he may have contracted kennel cough, a viral infection.
  • Larynx/esophageal disease – coughing that occurs after eating is a sign of this; older dogs tend to be affected.
  • Fungal infection – Yeast or fungi from the environment can enter the lungs and cause infection (histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, blastomycosis). The likelihood of this occurring depends on where you live.
  • Heartworms – Mosquitoes transmit infection with this parasite that is often accompanied by a chronic cough. Monthly heartworm prevention can reduce the risk of this.
  • Distemper – The distemper virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus. An effective vaccine is available to prevent infection with distemper virus.
  • Heart disease – When the heart becomes enlarged, pressure is put on the lungs causing a cough. Fluids can also build up. Medication is available to provide comfort and lessen coughing.
  • Bronchitis/pneumonia – These respiratory problems are accompanied by coughing.
  • Allergies – Pollens, smoke and other inhaled allergens can result in an immune response and coughing.
  • Foreign object – Grass seeds, dirt or food can be inhaled resulting in a chronic cough and possible airway infection.
  • Collapsed trachea– Certain breeds and overweight pets are susceptible to the trachea folding in which causes coughing. Surgical intervention is possible in severe cases.
  • Lung cancer – Lung cancer results in decreased oxygen flow from the lungs to the blood stream and is accompanied by a chronic cough.
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Diagnosis of Coughing in Dogs

History

It is important to visit the veterinarian and receive a diagnosis and proper treatment when a chronic cough is involved. The history is important for the diagnosis of the underlying cause. You will need to let your veterinarian know your pet’s recent activities, current health issues, when the coughing started, how often the coughing is occurring, when the coughing occurs (any association with exercise, sleep, rest, excitement, eating, drinking), what the cough sounds like, if the cough is dry or productive, and if your pet is currently taking any medications.

Physical Exam

The physical exam will include listening to the pet’s lungs and heart, since chronic cough is associated with either respiratory or cardiovascular issues. He may gently rub the trachea to cause the pet to cough so he can listen to the sound (an elicited cough is known as a 'positive tracheal pinch'). Coughing resulting from tracheal manipulation is likely due to respiratory problem. Heart murmurs or abnormal rhythms indicate a heart related issue.

Laboratory Diagnostics

Laboratory diagnostics can include a complete blood cell count (CBC) to detect the presence of allergies, parasites or infection. A biochemical profile can determine liver and kidney function. If the cough produces blood or if nosebleeds are involved, clotting assays can rule out any blood clotting deficiencies. A heartworm test may be ordered to determine the presence of heartworms. In more severe cases, a bronchioalveolar lavage (BAL) will be performed so a fluid sample from the lungs can be cultured to determine source of infection.

Chest radiographs are helpful in visualizing issues in the heart and lungs. An enlarged heart, the presence of tumors, pneumonia or foreign bodies all are associated with chronic cough.

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Treatment of Coughing in Dogs

Never treat a cough yourself at home with cough suppressants. Certain medications can worsen the condition and even lead to death if used inappropriately when dealing with cough.

Treatment of a cough is based on diagnosis and can range from administration of cough suppressants to providing medication for other underlying conditions or surgery. Cough usually resolves once the underlying issue is treated.

Your pet may require hospitalization in severe cases when breathing is difficult. Oxygen administration can help restore oxygen supplies and an antibiotic injection and/or intravenous fluid therapy may be needed. Steroid medications can help to treat allergic conditions.

Follow up appointments may be requested so the veterinarian can evaluate treatment efficacy.

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Worried about the cost of Coughing treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Coughing in Dogs

Follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully during aftercare. Always continue the entire course of medicine such as antibiotics, even after symptoms resolve. If the coughing continues or worsens after treatment, be sure to let your vet know.

During home care, try to keep you pet free from distraction by other pets or children. Rest and sleep are vital for a strong and quick recovery. Always keep your pet current on vaccinations and if mosquitoes are an issue in your location, continue a monthly heartworm preventative.

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Coughing Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $300 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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Coughing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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retriever spaniel mix

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Ten Years

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11 found helpful

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11 found helpful

Has Symptoms

After being groomed a week ago, our dog is hacking and coughing.

Dec. 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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11 Recommendations

Hello, this could be kennel cough from getting groomed or he could have a respiratory infection. Since I cannot listen to her it may be best to see your vet. If it is kennel cough usually these get better with time. Your vet will most likely want to take x rays of his lungs to see what is causing him to cough

Dec. 13, 2020

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Boston Terrier

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14weeks

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0 found helpful

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0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Morning Raspy Cough When Trying To Bark

As above No temp, still eating and acting normal Only had it the last 2 morning Fully up to date with vac Not yet mixed with other dogs except our fully vac 3yo staffy And seems to lessen as day gos on

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Your pup may have gotten a little irritation in its' throat, or may be fighting off kennel cough. If the problem is not improving, it would be best to have him/her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pup and see what might be causing this.

Oct. 11, 2020

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Coughing Average Cost

From 26 quotes ranging from $300 - $4,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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