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What is Coughing and Hacking?

When we humans cough, it is usually to clear our throats; however, dogs have no need to cough or hack. While some coughing is normal in dogs, especially if it can be attributed to eating or drinking too quickly, excessive coughing and hacking with no obvious reason can be a sign of a  potentially dangerous disease. Several conditions can cause your dog to cough and/or hack:

  • Kennel cough
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Canine distemper
  • Heart disease
  • Fungal infections
  • Other possible causes (allergies, internal parasites, coccidiosis, auto-immune illness)

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Why Coughing and Hacking Occurs in Dogs

Kennel Cough

If your dog has been boarded lately or somehow come in contact with a large number of dogs, and he has developed a deep, hacking cough that gets worse with exertion, then your dog may have kennel cough. Caused by the highly contagious bordetella infection, kennel cough is associated with severe coughing and inflammation. Any age or breed of dog can become sick with bordetella. 

Tracheal Collapse

Listen to the sound of your dog’s cough. If your older or overweight dog develops a cough that sounds more like a honking sound, it is possible your dog is experiencing a collapsed trachea. Other signs you may notice are gagging while eating or drinking, low tolerance for activity, and episodes of respiratory distress. In addition to elderly and overweight dogs, small breed dogs have a higher incidence of tracheal collapse. 

Canine Distemper

Dogs do not normally show signs of a common cold the way humans do; if you notice your dog exhibiting lethargy, a yellow, mucous discharge from her eyes and nose, and a dry cough, it is possible your dog is experiencing canine distemper. 

Heart Disease

Congestive heart failure is present when the heart becomes enlarged and obstructs airways, thus producing a cough and/or gagging episodes in your dog. Heartworms can also cause a dog to cough excessively. Pericardial effusion is the buildup of fluid around the heart, also causing your dog to produce a “wet” cough or a gagging sound. Be sure to notice if this cough occurs mostly at night or when your dog is lying down as this is a sign of fluid gathering around the heart. Great Danes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and all older dogs are at risk for heart disease.  

Fungal Infections

Do you happen to live on or near a farm? Do you happen to have chickens or live near chickens? Has your dog developed a “wet” cough that almost sounds like a gargling sound? Then it is highly possible your dog could have inhaled some fungal spores or animal droppings and is now coughing as a result. Dogs can also inhale fungal spores after spending time in damp areas. Fungal infections can lead to pneumonia, so if you suspect this is the problem, get your dog to the vet immediately. 

Other Causes

Always be sure that your dog has not swallowed a foreign object that might be stuck in his throat. A foreign object does not have to choke the dog, but can be a huge irritation. Allergies can make your pup as miserable as they make humans. Pollen, mold, household dust, and insect mites can have much the same effect as they have on humans. If allergies are what is plaguing your pooch, you will also notice itchiness in him. Although it is very rare, dogs can develop tuberculosis. You may notice a “wet,” productive cough accompanied by bloody phlegm. Coccidiosis is another disease that is characterized by a wet, productive cough. Because these symptoms can signal both mild and more serious diseases, it is imperative that your vet diagnose the cause of the cough. Any age or breed of dog can suffer from allergies, tuberculosis, coccidiosis, or other auto-immune illnesses.

What to do if your Dog is Coughing and Hacking

Because the disease that is causing the coughing or hacking in your dog could be serious, it is best to see a vet so that he can do a physical exam and some lab tests to confirm diagnosis. Kennel cough is generally not serious in otherwise healthy dogs; however, if your dog is very young or a toy breed, untreated kennel cough can lead to pneumonia, and should be treated by a vet. The characteristic goose honk of tracheal collapse must be professionally treated. Medication is most likely necessary, and surgery may be a possibility as well. Distemper is usually prevalent in dogs who have not been vaccinated; often distemper develops in dogs who are in the process of receiving all their shots (when immunity from the pup’s mom is decreasing, and vaccines have not provided full immunization just yet). Distemper can be fatal, especially in younger dogs. Heart disease is highly serious; however, if it is caught early, the prognosis can be positive. Any suspicion of heart disease should be treated by your vet. Fungal diseases can lead to pneumonia, so they should be diagnosed and treated by a vet, as should any persistent cough.

Prevention of Coughing and Hacking

Always keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date, as they protect against canine distemper and the bordetella virus that leads to kennel cough. Do not kennel your dog in dirty cages, old chicken coops, or near pigeons as they might inhale the bird droppings and develop a fungal infection. Maintain your dog’s chew toys; once they start to get worn, throw them out so your dog won’t accidentally swallow part of a toy.

Cost of Coughing and Hacking

Treating coughing and hacking in your dog can range from less than $100 to $2,500; kennel cough generally costs $650 to treat.

Coughing and Hacking Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Greyson
Weimaraner
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

dry hack frothing at mouth

I have a 7 year old Weim he hacks and like he's trying to get something out of his throat and goes on for several min but nothing comes out but his mouth froths a white foamy saliva but just a little but it sounds scary, I have checked his mouth and down his throat its not red and there's nothing in his throat but then he clings to me the rest of the night afterwards. He is over weight at 95 lbs but he is short for a weim his rear are higher than his front, he does eat fast so I give him a 1/3 of a cup at a time and take a min to let that go down so he doesn't puke and re-eat it, he drinks plenty of water and is exercised daily, I know its not kennel cough he has the vaccine, so i'm thinking it's something else i am not aware of, my father states it could be a hickory nut or a stick he has chewed on when running around outside.
Thanks

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Cash
rat terrier mix
2 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Hacking
Coughing

My dog has been coughing and hacking ever since we came home from visiting someone. We thought he swallowed a bone, but it’s been a week. Recently, my other dog cash started coughing the same way. Are they sick? Is it even possible for them to spread any type of coughing disease? Please help

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BLUE
Pit bull
28 Months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

hacking puking loss of appetite

my dog has been hacking
for 4 days now, he has no appetite for any dog food at all. now hes puking bile. what could be the problem? sleeps all day & all night

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Without seeing Blue, or examining him, I don't have any way to determine what might be going on with him, but if he is vomiting and not eating, and lethargic, he needs to see a veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, see what might be going on, and recommend any treatment that he may need. I hope that all goes well for him.

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Frenchy Bell
Bichon Frise + Miniature Poodle
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Hacking

My dog tends to hack a lot. Not so much coughing but it sounds like she’s trying to bring up a hair ball. I’m worried it’s her traquea but she is a generally active and happy dog. She doesn’t seem to have problems with eating (Although she isn’t religious about eating her kibble.) the only thing I notice about her is that she always burps after she eats.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Causes of coughing in dogs can include tracheal problems and irritation, heart disease, or lung disease. Since I can't see Frenchy Bell, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her, assess her respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and determine what the reason for the cough is.

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Teddy
Toy poodle x maltese
22 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Coughing, hacking but happy
Coughing and hacking but happy
Coughing and hacking but happ

Medication Used

none

My dog is 2 years in September and has always had a dry cough and hacking. When he was a pup he was due for his second puppy vaccinations and they gave him a full adult year dose which hours later I had to rush him to the after hours vet which lead them telling me he most likely won’t make it through the rest of the night as he had lost more than half his site and when I went back to the vets in the morning he was ok other than his sight.
I had recently talked to the vet about his vaccinations being due and what had happened as they didn’t remember him and they stated that they can’t guarantee it won’t happen again if he’s to have them and it had cost me $1200 which I had to loan. I also talked about how he’s had this cough and hacking for a long time and they recommend not having the vaccinations and to bring him down for a bunch of tests and x-rays which I can’t afford as I’m on a pension as I’m sick and supporting my son. If my dog is eating normal everyday and running around with my parents dog is there a big concern and what do you think I should do? Also my dog always barks from anxiety since he had that bad adult dose vaccine when he was a pup.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Vaccinating with the core vaccines is always best, however I agree with your Veterinarian that it is possible that there may be another reaction since it happened once before; if Teddy is to get his vaccines he should be kept as an inpatient at the veterinary clinic for observation and mitigating steps taken. As for the coughing and hacking, I cannot say what the specific cause is without an examination or say whether or not it is related to the vaccination incident. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Cinnamon
Chihuahua
10 Years 2 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Coughing

Medication Used

none

she coughs and hacks

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations

Coughing and hacking may be caused by a number of different causes including infections, foreign bodies, tracheal disorders, laryngeal disorders among other causes; it would be best to have Cinnamon checked over by her Veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and to direct treatment as appropriate. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

NICE

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Navy
Cane Corso
9 Months
Mild condition
-1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Coughing dry vomit
Coughing dry vomi
Coughing

I think my dog has a collapsed trachea or damage trachea, I’ve noticed a dry hacking cough for a week now , he is a puller when we go for walks.
Any suggestions

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Typically we would notice a characteristic goose honk cough in patients with tracheal collapse, without examining Navy and possibly doing an x-ray we cannot know for certain what the cause is; if he is pulling on the lead whilst walking this may result in irritation to the throat which may cause coughing, gagging and vomiting. I don’t like harnesses, but it may be useful to try to see if there is an improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bailey
Mix
4 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Hacking
Dry Cough
Coughing

Medication Used

Was on antibiotics

My puppy has had issues here and there since ive gotten her. She had a cough when she was younger but it seemed to clear up. Jist in case we got her her the shot for the puppy cold and flu. Resently, our whole house went through a weird puppy caugh and hack thing. She didn't get sick but she started showing signs about a week ago so i was given anti biodics. She seemed fine after a few hours but I gave it to her anyway. I took her off of it 3 days later as the doc said I could and now two days later she's coughing and hacking and she just drank a ton of water. Should I take her back in or just put her back on the antibiotic for the remainder of the pills?
Will it even help since theres like 2 and 1/2 days left?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3317 Recommendations
Generally if a course of antibiotics has been started, it is always good practice to finish the course unless there is evidence of an adverse reaction or switching to a more appropriate antibiotic (like after culture and sensitivity testing). The remaining course of antibiotics will not really do anything and I would recommend that you return to your Veterinarian for another examination and to get a full course of antibiotics (if required). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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