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What is Coughing?

A cough now and then is normal in dogs. 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, 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.

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
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.

  • 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. Normal in dogs.

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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.

  • Larynx/esophageal disease

    – coughing that occurs after eating is a sign of this.

  • Fungal infection

    – Yeast or fungi from the environment can enter the lungs and cause infection (histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, blastomycosis).

  • Heartworms

    – Mosquitoes transmit infection with this parasite that is often accompanied by a chronic cough. Monthly heartworm treatment can prevent this problem.

  • Distemper

    – The distemper virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus. A 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. 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 chronic cough is involved. The history is important to 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 (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. 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 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 suppressant. 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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Recovery of Coughing in Dogs

Follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully during aftercare. Always continue the entire course of 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 to 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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Benelli

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Labrador Retriever

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3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Dry Cough

Hey My Dog 3 year old lab and I went out duck hunting in MN on Saturday, and We noticed that she seemed more tired than normal on Sunday and had a cough Sunday night. She still has the cough. it occurs at all times of the day but its random. It can occur in the middle of night or after exercising. Its a dry, gagging cough. Any suggestions as to what it could be? My wife was thinking Kennel cough but she hasn't been around any other dogs. She was to vet on Sept. 10 for a check up. And was out bird hunting on Sept. 12. That was the last time she was around other dogs.

Sept. 25, 2018

Benelli's Owner

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Mr Charlie Angel Bear

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Maltese

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing Hacking Black Poop

My lil Mr Charlie Angel Bear has had an on and off cough for a cpl months and I have noticed when he is resting I can hear him what sounds like breathing but almost like a soft whimper breathing then as of last night he started coughing hacking real bad couldn’t bark at t.v without coughing real bad and then he spit up clear bile once and had black poop and slept under our bed all night and he always always sleeps on the bed btween our feet our in the middle of us stretched out on his back like a human and last night he wouldn’t even come out from under bed all night long until just now when Dad went downstairs. What could be the cause. Of this and what do I do?

Aug. 21, 2018

Mr Charlie Angel Bear's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Small dogs are commonly affected by tracheal problems, and dogs can develop other problems with their heart and lungs as they get older. The best thing to do would be to have an examination with a veterinarian for him, as they can assess his heart and lungs and see what might be going on with him and any treatment that he might need.

Aug. 21, 2018

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pickles

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miniature doxie

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Coughing

my miniature doxie has had her cough for almost 2 months.. shes been treated 4 times for kennel cough.. i have done everything including calling a friend from collage thats a vet.. shes had a xray of her throat, nothing is collapsed just a bit inflamed.. 4 shots of different things.. tons of pills .. ive even started giving her robitussin, so far her cough is suppressed, but comes back a little when its time for the next dose.. she is on her singlr dose of enrofloxacin .. if this last pill doesnt help, what can i do next??

June 7, 2018

pickles' Owner


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3320 Recommendations

The main problem is that we don’t know what the underlying cause of the cough is; there are many reasons for a dog to cough, many of which would have been ruled out by your Veterinarian by either diagnostics (x-ray) or treatment (with different antibiotics). I’m not sure what else to recommend at this point, the cough may be induced due to an allergy or other external factor (chemicals etc…) however further diagnostics will be needed to determine a specific cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 8, 2018

I have a rat terrier mix she is about 12. We have been to countless appointments and vets trying to figure out why she has this cough.Vets are just retesting at this point. Trixies cough doesnt seem to cause any distress no specific time or activity/nonactivity just is. Our other dogs are fine.. Any auggweations

Sept. 8, 2018

Shane G.

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Precious

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Scottish Terrier

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Hacking

My dog started having a hacking cough a little over 2 weeks ago. I took her to the vet immediately. They did a complete physical on her including a CBC and chemical blood test, and saw no signs of an issue. He also did a liver X-ray and ultrasound, and found bladder stones so she was put on a special diet for that. However, he didn’t seem too concerned about the cough and sent us on our way. It’s gotten worse since then. Now she sounds as if she has to throw up, but nothing comes out. She still eats normally, drinks fine, barks, no blood, etc. she still attempts to be active, but the cough is preventing that. I called the vet the other day and unfortunately he’s on vacation this week, but he recommended Benedryl and Pepcid. We’ve been giving her the Benedryl but not the Pepcid. There isn’t a huge improvement. However, when she sleeps her breathing is fine and she sleeps through the night. I’m obviously going to go back to the vet as soon as he gets back, but I just wanted to know if you had any idea what this could be in the mean time. Thanks.

May 25, 2018

Precious' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Since Precious has otherwise gotten a clean bill of health, she may be developing a cough due to allergies, or aging. As dogs age, their lungs become less elastic, and are more prone to chronic problems. I'm assuming when your veterinarian did her testing, that they did chest x-rays as well - if not, that would be a good idea. I hope that all goes well for her.

May 25, 2018

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Moose

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Black Poop
Gasping
Hacking,

My dog is suffering from the same thing. First vet did blood tests x-rays and 3 different exams. there was some dark spots clouds and somebexcess air in his tubes. They even did a valley fever test. Everything came back normal. His feces wasn’t tested. The DR. Said his cell count looked normal as well as his organs looked normal he did sa my there was someb increase enzyme production but wasn alarming. I spent 1500 on tests and medications. Then we tried a new vet. Exact same texts and no answers. He also is exhibiting an increase in flagellents and now his cough has gotten worse and he becomes bloated we switched his food and nothing. He has been on apiquil, prednisone and like 4 different types of antibiotics. The prednisone doesnt seem to help that much anymore. I actually saw him eat fecies and his are black. I’ve also noticed my other dog is starting to show the same symptoms as far as the cough goes. They are both happy wanting to play at times but the he has a hard time breathing and starts hacking two different Drs, an emergency clinic, and almost 3k later I have no answers. Now he’s bloated and you can hear everything inside him moving. Gas is constantn. Saliva is being produced more than normal he smacks his mouth. A lot and when he eats everything worsens. I don’t have anymore money but I can let this continue to hurt him if my other dog. We have tried several different things. Next to an indoscopy what other treatment options do i have?

May 11, 2018

Moose's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing more details, I'm afraid that I cannot shed much light on what might be going on with your dogs. It might help to let your veterinarian know that your other dog is being affected, as that may change the things that they are thinking of in terms of possible causes. Different diseases affect both dogs vs. one dog. I hope that they are both okay.

May 11, 2018

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Junior

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Coughing Vomiting

My 10.5-year-old boxer started coughing one day and then coughing accompanied by vomiting. He was vomiting 8-10 times per day. I went to the vet and was given two different antibiotics, a cough pill, a vomit pill, a vomiting shot and some canned food. Fast forward two weeks and he just started coughing again. Saturday morning was the last dose of his last antibiotic. He vomited brown liquid Saturday night and vomited his dinner last night. He seems only to cough when laying down or sleeping. I am thinking about calling the veterinarian before it gets worse. It almost sounds like he is choking on something. Can you give suggestions for a plan of care or direction of where I should look? That last visit cost me $250 and I cannot say I want to keep shelling out money with no answers. I love him, but he is a 10.5 year old boxer. He is fine overall, still runs around the yard, seems happy and is still a cuddle bear. Would x-rays reveal the cause? Ultrasound? I know antibiotics have some antianflamitory effects on the body, maybe I need to suggest predizone? Any suggests are welcomed.

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Jackie

dog-breed-icon

Jack Russell Terrier cross Corgi

dog-age-icon

16 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging

Our JRT Jackie is an amazing member of our family, we took over looking after her when my elderly Father of 90 moved to a two bed disabled bungalow, Jackie was 14 when she came to live with us and has surpassed all expectations, she is 16 now and bounces backwards in the hall when it's time for walkies, we take her out three times a day for 20 minutes so she eats well and lives a happy spoilt life apart from the gagging after meals and some times after her personal grooming, after listening to all dog owners we are at a loss

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Bowser

dog-breed-icon

American Bull Staffy

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cough, Vomiting Mucous

We just adopted a 6yo male bully from the shelter. He wasn't eating, coughing up mucous/bile with a history of chronic ear infections. I started giving him rice with plain Greek yogurt and pumpkin, slowly adding kibble. After 2 days he started eating enough to stop supplementing the kibble. I switched to a homemade raw diet 40% protein, 50% meat, 10% carbohydrates, no grains. I'm using chicken legs in chunks at the moment, so he doesn't try to eat one whole. Cough is only present when he gets too excited. He enjoys long walks, eats well, though I noticed he was constipated this morning (small, hard poo). He was apparently in a scuffle with another dog recently, as his muzzle, neck and legs are covered in bite wounds, and his eyes were red. I see no signs of air pockets in his neck and his wounds had all scabbed over by the time we rescued him, with no signs of infection. He was seen by the shelter vet, but nothing remarkable in his tests. He's up to date on shots and was at the shelter for less than a few hours total.

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Spanky

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Coughing up clear liquid and foam after barking or getting excited.Vet had her on Prednisone and antibiotic. Stopped Prednisone last week and has been taking antibiotic for almost 1 month. Vet thinks it's a lung tumor. Radiologist thinks it's pneumonia. Bloodwork indicated elevated white count but the vet still doesn't think it's pneumonia as blood work didn't indicate that. She goes back next week for additional xrays and blood work. Please advise.

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Piper

dog-breed-icon

Astralian Shepherd

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Dry Cough, Hacking, Goose Honking

My dog has been having coughing fits for a week now. I took her to the vet 5 days ago and she has been on an antibiotic and prednisone since then but it is not improving. The vet said she did not have a fever and he could not hear a heart murmur so he thought it was an infection. He said if it didn't get better in a couple days I should bring her back but I cant afford another vet bill.

Coughing Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$2,200