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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.

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Average Cost

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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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Precious

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Scottish Terrier

dog-age-icon

12 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

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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1 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

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

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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0 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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Buddy

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Pit bull mix

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2 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

Hacking

I live on an island where we only have a nonprofit shelter with few medications. My dog was staying there for 5 days and now I think he has kennel cough (hacking up white foam with dry blood). Due to the lack of equipment there I am not able to get an X-ray. I was able to start him on Doxycycline yesterday. Is there anything else I can do?

March 29, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

If Buddy has kennel cough, he may benefit from a stronger antibiotic. Clavamox is one that typically helps, in this situation. If Doxxycline is what you have, he may be okay if he is suffering from kennel cough, as they tend to clear the virus and sometimes need help keeping bacterial infections under control. i hope that he is okay!

March 29, 2018

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Buddy

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German Shepherd

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hacking Cough
Frequent
Strong Cough

It seems like Buddy is getting worse in health as each day passes. First, he had an open wound on his back near his tail. He then developed 3 more. After taking him to the vet, he was prescribed some medicine, which he finished. Almost two weeks ago, we took him again to the vet after a very large, red wound showed up on his thigh. He was given medication, which we are still on, and some cream to apply that contains a local anaesthetic. About 3 days ago, Buddy has gotten a frequent cough. It sounds like it is a hacking cough, he opens his mouth and stretches out his tongue, kind of like he's trying to clear his throat or vomit. He also somehow coughs through his nose; when he was lying down on his side, he made a strange sound and breathed very heavily in and out through his nose, while coughing. It shows up when he's lying down, walking around, usually anywhere. Should we take him to the vet? What do you think?

Feb. 18, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

With the onset of respiratory symptoms, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination since a different course of treatment may be required; if you like in the southwest, I would be concerned about Valley Fever which causes may cause respiratory symptoms and skin lesions so that is always one to look out for. But please visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 18, 2018

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Pepper

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Australian Shepherd/Black Lab

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing

My dog has developed a cough within the last few days. He was at the vet the other day due to some complications from one of his canine epileptic seizures and the vet said his lungs were totally clear and his heart was healthy. So I am wondering why he still has the occasional coughing fit. It's like he is trying to clear his throat or cough something up and I am worried he may be catching a cold due to the current weather conditions. Any advice would be helpful. He is an Australian Shepard/Black Lab mix to the best of my knowledge.

Feb. 12, 2018

Pepper's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is possible that Pepper has a little irritation in the respiratory tract which may be caused by infections, allergies, other irritants, neurological issues among other causes; it could be something as innocent as a rogue hair or may be something more serious, for now you should just keep a close eye. However, if these coughing fits continue you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 12, 2018

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Coughing Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$2,200

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