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What is Coughing?

A cough can be described as a powerful and unexpected burst of air from the airway and lungs. Your dog will have their mouth open either part of the way or fully, may cough up foam or bile, and the head will usually be down. Coughing may be a normal way of clearing the throat, a habit, or it could be a sign of a serious illness. The best way to figure it out is to watch for other signs of illness such as fever, loss of appetite, and general tiredness. But, what is a cough? A cough is a normal response to a number of different things such as foreign objects, infections, parasites, or even a tumor. Some of the reasons your dog may be coughing include:

  • Allergies
  • Foreign object in throat
  • Infection
  • Bronchitis (acute or chronic)
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Tumors
  • Cardiac (heart) problems
  • Tracheobronchitis (kennel cough)

Why Coughing Occurs in Dogs

There are many possible reasons for your dog’s cough, ranging from mild to very serious. Other signs will accompany the cough if the condition is serious. Some of these conditions include:

Allergies

Your dog may be allergic to food, insect bites, shampoo, and more but it is usually not an emergency unless there is facial swelling or breathing difficulty.

Foreign Object in Throat

This can be serious if your dog is not able to clear the object from the airway. If your dog is suddenly gagging and hacking with a high pitched cough, there may be something stuck in the throat or airway that needs to be removed.

Infection

There are several infections that can cause a canine cough, mostly caused by viruses and bacteria. Some of these infections include upper respiratory infection (URI), lower respiratory infection (LRI), canine influenza, bronchitis, and fungal infections such as aspergillosis and blastomycosis.

  • Upper respiratory infection (URI) affects the throat, nose, and eyes and usually includes a fever, cough, discharge from the eyes, and a runny nose
  • Lower respiratory infection (LRI) affects the lower airway and lungs and includes a fever, deep cough, labored breathing, and weakness
  • Canine Influenza is a virus that causes a cough with phlegm, fever, malaise, and sleepiness
  • Bronchitis (acute or chronic) causes severe coughing and gagging, sometimes coughing up phlegm
  • Aspergillosis is a fungus that floats in the air and causes coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and nosebleeds
  • Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that also includes fever, appetite and weight loss, eye inflammation and discharge, and skin lesions

Parasites

There are certain parasites that cause a cough in your dog which include heartworm disease, roundworms, hookworms, and lungworms. The symptoms of these all include coughing, with or without phlegm.

Tracheal Collapse

A tracheal collapse is similar to a foreign body cough, with a loud and hacking cough.

Tumor

A tumor, cancerous or benign, can also cause coughing and may also include weight loss and weakness.

Cardiac (Heart) Problem

The cough of a cardiac problem such as congestive heart failure is usually mild and most often worse at night. The cough will get worse without treatment and include other symptoms such as fatigue, edema, and slow or irregular heart rate.

Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough)

Kennel cough is a loud dry cough that will spread to other dogs in the household readily. It usually only lasts a few weeks and normally does not include other symptoms.

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What to do if your Dog is Coughing

If your dog’s cough is accompanied by increased body temperature, you should definitely seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible. While this is not a medical emergency that warrants a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital, a fever almost always means your dog has an infection and needs treatment by a veterinary professional. If the veterinarian finds an infection, antibiotics and fluids will be given.

However, if your dog is coughing and cannot breathe, this is an emergency situation and you need to get to a veterinary professional immediately.

In cases of allergies, you should call your veterinarian and get advice on what to do. You may need to bring your dog for a visit, or the veterinarian may suggest an allergy medication such as Benadryl.

A tumor is a serious illness that needs treatment by a veterinary professional. The veterinarian will likely do a biopsy to check and see if the tumor is benign or cancerous and treatment depends on the outcome of the test.

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Prevention of Coughing

Helping your dog avoid a cough includes preventive vaccinations, regular veterinary check-ups, keeping your dog away from sick animals, and being careful that your pet is not eating anything that may pose a choking hazard.

It is best to avoid:

  • Kennels (they may be safe, but only use those with excellent recommendations)
  • Dog parks with sick animals
  • Small items your dog could choke on

You can help by:

  • Staying up to date on vaccinations
  • Use a veterinary approved dog kennel if necessary, although it is better to have a dog sitter come to your home
  • Bringing your dog to see the veterinarian regularly
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Cost of Coughing

The cost of treatment depends on the cause of the coughing. It can range from a few dollars for allergy medication to treat an allergy to up to $10,000 to treat lung cancer. Some others include up to $1,200 for pneumonia, $2,500 for congestive heart failure, and about $650 for kennel cough.

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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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Beagle

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Uncontrollable Hiccups And Licking. Dry Coughing Followed By A White Foam Vomit.

I have come home and did my nightly routine as I was doing so my dog was playing. When I was done i notice that he started to have uncontrollable hiccups didn't pay too much attention until he started to uncontrollably lick everything. I let it play out then he started to cough then vomit a white foam. I gave him water and a bit of moist treats. He stops but continues. What should i do?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is continuing to have this problem, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as he may be nauseous. I hope that he is doing well!

Oct. 7, 2020

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Beagle

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Uncontrollable Hiccups And Licking. Dry Coughing Followed By A White Foam Vomit.

I noticed he started having symptoms at night and im not sure if he has been doing this all day.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. He may be nauseous, or he may have eaten something that tasted bad. If he is still having this problem, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for him!

Oct. 7, 2020

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Siberian Husky

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Coughing Vomiting

About 4 days ago our dog Dani woke me up with a weird cough and white foamy vomit early in the morning (about 4) She coughed about 5 times So I called the e vet and they said to keep an eye on her. The next day she coughed once or twice and again vomited foam once. This has been going on until today. A cough here and there and some foamy puke. Other that this she is 100% normal playing, eating, drinking, all fine.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dani may have kennel cough, or bronchitis, or a heart or lung condition. If the coughing is getting progressively better and less frequent, you should be fine to continue to keep an eye on her. If the cough is getting more frequent or more severe, then it would be best to have your veterinarian examine her to see what might be going on. I hope that all goes well for her!

July 24, 2020

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Kash

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Terrier mix

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Cough, Shallow Breathing,

My 12 year old dog has been having a an intermittent cough for some time now, perhaps about 6 weeks. Her breathing was shallow but normal activity and appetite. She has been to the vet twice now. At the first visit, they did some tests and said that the lungs are congested and that it may be heart failure. She was put on antibiotics for a week. Other than the coughing, her activity and appetite were normal. The cough reduced after the antibiotics and we went in a second time for a echo cardiogram which turned out to be normal. The other tests also showed that her lungs have improved. she was put on antibiotics for another week. In between the visits and afterwards, her appetite increased and she has put on some weight. The cough had greatly reduced. She finished her meds last week. But today, she was coughing again. The meds that she was put on was doxycycline and dexamethasone. What could it be? what else can I do cure her coughing?

Aug. 23, 2018

Kash's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Kash may have other conditions that were helped by the medications, and may need to be on medication longer term. It would be best to contact your veterinarian, let them know how she is responding to the medication, and talk about what she may need long term.

Aug. 23, 2018

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Kash

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Terrier mix

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12 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, Shallow Breathing,

My 12 year old dog has been having a an intermittent cough for some time now, perhaps about 6 weeks. Her breathing was shallow but normal activity and appetite. She has been to the vet twice now. At the first visit, they did some tests and said that the lungs are congested and that it may be heart failure. She was put on antibiotics for a week. Other than the coughing, her activity and appetite were normal. The cough reduced after the antibiotics and we went in a second time for a echo cardiogram which turned out to be normal. The other tests also showed that her lungs have improved. she was put on antibiotics for another week. In between the visits and afterwards, her appetite increased and she has put on some weight. The cough had greatly reduced. She finished her meds last week. But today, she was coughing again. The meds that she was put on was doxycycline and dexamethasone. What could it be? what else can I do cure her coughing?

Aug. 23, 2018

Kash's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Dexamethasone is a fairly potent steroid, and that may have been helping if she had any type of bronchitis or asthma. Since I can't see her, it would be a good idea to talk to your veterinarian, let them know that her coughing has returned once off the medications, and see if there are any long term medications that she may need.

Aug. 23, 2018

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Harry

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Chihuahua

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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Coughing Hacking Sleepy Low Energy

My Chihuahua has a bad dry cough and acts like he's going to hack something up Everytime but doesn't it's been going on for atleast a month and a half he sleeps alot and doesn't have much energy it gets worse at night and when I take him in walks what should I do?

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Lucy

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beagle/pointer mix

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Hacking

My dog has been coughing the past couple of days. It is a dry cough, and sometimes sounds like she is trying to hack something up. No other noticeable symptoms. She is a one year old beagle/pointer mix. She does chew a lot. I am wondering if one of her dog chews is irritating her throat?

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