Coughing is our body's natural way to respond to the presence of any irritants or abnormalities existing in our airways.
On the other hand, gagging or choking is a reflex that usually happens after or before coughing.
Just like humans, our Frido coughs and gags occasionally. However, have you noticed them coughing for no reason?
Occasional coughs are not the issue. Furthermore, although this is not always the case, persistent cough, gagging, or choking can be a symptom of a more serious underlying illness or medical condition.
It can be distressing for you as an owner to witness your dog's coughing like this. However, your pet might feel bad for themselves too.
This article will guide you through several reasons why your dog is experiencing consistent coughing, gagging, or choking. We will also discuss its signs, symptoms, and treatments.
Moreover, we will also help you choose the best course of action to make your pet feel better.
Would you please read on to continue?
Why Do My Dogs Cough? Its Signs and Symptoms
Loosely speaking, the reason your dog gagging, coughing, or choking persistently is because it has a troubled and irritating sore throat.
When this happens, Frido's symptoms might include mucus production from both of your dog's nose and eyes or nothing at all. Your dog may also experience coughing frequently and occasional vomiting from time to time.
Furthermore, as the coughing continues, your dog will eventually feel pain in its throat. Consequently, they will have a reduced appetite to eat, resulting in lethargy and extreme weight loss.
On the other hand, the severity of your coughing dog can range from mild to possibly life-threatening signs of any respiratory infection.
Generally, there are four types of coughs in dogs:
- Hacking cough: This is when your canine lets out a dry hacking sound like they're getting a blockage out of their mouth or throat.
- Wet cough: This is when your dog emits noises that sound moist or filled with phlegm.
- Gagging cough: This is when your dog constantly makes gagging sounds while coughing excessively.
- Honking cough: This is when your dog lets out a sound vaguely similar to a goose honk.
Common Reasons Why My Dog is Coughing or Gagging
There are many possible reasons that we can associate with dogs who persistently cough or gag. Listed below are common reasons and their respective underlying cause of why a dog is coughing or gagging.
1. Tracheal Collapse
Tracheal Collapse, also known as tracheal chondromalacia, is a kind of respiratory distress in your dogs that causes the trachea or the windpipe of dogs to become soft and floppy.
As a result, your dog's cough will seem forced but with spasms, seemingly having a honking canine cough.
Once a dog's cough starts, it won't calm down immediately.
Overweight or obese dogs tend to have the worst case of Tracheal Collapse, especially when exposed to heat and irritants.
Dogs with this condition aren’t as active as other dogs; they have exercise intolerance and have difficulty swallowing food and water.
Treatments for a collapsed trachea include a regulated diet and weight loss plan, cough suppressants, and antibiotics. Their veterinarian might also recommend surgery.
2. Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough is a condition caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria where your dog's airways and trachea are inflamed.
This condition is common among seemingly healthy dogs adopted or bought from breeders or shelters and contagious.
If your dog acquires Kennel Cough, they might experience a hacking dry cough due to upper airway irritation. This could also, later on, lead to retching and possible vomiting.
Bear in mind that this condition is very contagious and may spread through a pack of dogs like wildfire.
Kennel cough resolves itself over time, but prescribed antibiotics and dog cough suppressants may be required to cure itself faster and prevent secondary symptoms.
One might also prevent it by acquiring its vaccination called the Bordetella vaccine.
Dog Pneumonia is a serious illness where the inflammation of your dog's lungs is caused by preexisting conditions (e.g., canine influenza virus), bacterial infection, and parasitic invasion.
Based on the dog's condition, they can either have the primary or secondary disorder.
Although Pneumonia can happen to any dog breed, older dogs are more prone to contracting the illness.
Due to complications in their respiratory tract, the symptoms of Pneumonia include difficulties in coughing, swallowing, and breathing.
And might also showcase particular metabolic disorders.
Unlike the other conditions, dogs with Pneumonia cough softly. Occasionally, they will sound like they're gasping.
Pneumonia isn't contagious, but it will rapidly become fatal if not treated or appropriately addressed.
4. Heart Disease
Dogs with chronic heart disease are more prone to coughing than other normal dogs. Their coughs are usually soft and continuous and may worsen at night or while lying down.
Depending on which type of dog's heart disease they have, they'll tend to cough due to breathing difficulties resulting from the compression of significant airways in your dog's lungs.
Chronic heart disease is common to large dogs and miniature and toy breeds alike.
5. Heartworm Disease
Dogs infected with heartworm are also predisposed to any dog coughing who can also experience hacking cough sounds, choking, or gagging. It also includes bloating and lethargy.
Mosquitos are known carriers of this parasite and are prevalent in warmer states like Texas and Florida. Although your dog's risk of attaining heartworms is low, its risks can be anywhere.
6. Canine Chronic Bronchitis
Also known as Tracheobronchitis, Canine Chronic Bronchitis is a respiratory bacterial infection wherein it inflames the linings of the airways.
Consequently, this will result in swelling and excessive mucus production, making it harder to breathe for your dog.
Tracheobronchitis is a progressive disease that will worsen over time, leading to severe breathing issues.
Aside from having trouble breathing, its symptoms include lethargy, wheeze-like cough sounds, a sore throat, and difficulty swallowing.
It generally affects any dog type of breed, but it's especially worst with miniature-sized dog breeds with shorter snouts.
7. Laryngeal dysfunction and paralysis
Also known as Vocal Cord Paralysis, Laryngeal dysfunction describes your dog's inability to speak or difficulty breathing.
Potential causes for this illness are malignant or benign tumors on the dog's throat, neck, or chest injury.
Thus, when the paralysis comes in, the larynx does not expand, hindering their ability to breathe, and gives off a honking cough.
Hence, its coughs are continuous, loud, and labor due to the dog's attempt to free its airway.
8. Lung Cancer
Lung cancer occurs among dogs who have malignant tumors growing in their lungs. Although this is quite scary for dog owners, fortunately, only 1% of the canine population is diagnosed with lung cancer.
The lifespan of dogs with lung tumors often varies if they have lymph nodes present or not.
This must be taken seriously as this is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Unless they undergo chemotherapy, dogs with lymph nodes can only last up to 3 months.
On the other hand, those without lymph nodes can survive for at least 16 months or longer with surgery.
9. Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing usually occurs in short-snouted dogs wherein they produce cough or choking sounds rapidly and noisily but in reverse.
Meaning, instead of exhaling, these sounds are inhaled; thus, the term reverses sneezing.
An underlying cause is irritants that trigger reverse sneezing that include foreign material, excitement, sudden changes in the weather and temperature, exercise, and a collar that might be too tight.
These are not considered coughs that affect dogs by themselves but spasms in the laryngeal region, throat, and soft palate.
Although it is not a severe condition, it can be problematic if it becomes chronic and prolonged.
10. Allergies and Contact with a Foreign Object
There may be instances that a dog can inhale any foreign object or substances, like spores or pollen, and gain an allergic reaction from them.
A dog's mouth might also inhale or swallow any foreign body that can dislodge their airways, causing them to cough, choke, and gag.
The veterinarian may do several physical tests to indicate what condition or severity the coughing indicates. Below is a list of the said tests:
- Blood Test
- Fecal Examination
- Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
- Echocardiography (an ultrasound of the heart)
It's also best to record a video of how they cough so that their veterinarian can take a look at it before conducting the test.
Questions may also be added, such as:
- “Has your dog felt weak or lethargic recently?”
- “Do their coughs sound wet or dry?”
- “Are there any particular signs that show up on your dog aside from their coughs?”
- “Did they interact with other dogs before showing weakness and coughing?”
- “How long have other symptoms become present?”
- “Is the dog up to date on shots and vaccines?”
- “Have there been any changes to your dog's daily routine?”
- “Have there been changes in your dog's stool? More frequent, loose, runny?”
- “Does your dog have breathing issues (rapid or labored breathing) between coughs?”
- “How is your pet's appetite?”
Before you proceed to the veterinary, note any signs and symptoms your dog shows you find odd and concerning.
Treatments for Coughs in Dogs
Fortunately, there are several dog cough treatments you can choose depending on your pup's condition.
For dogs with Kennel Cough in mild conditions, prioritizing their hydration, nutrition, and rest are necessary until they get nursed back to health.
However, if their condition seems severe, you may have to contact your local vet immediately.
Antibiotics, cough suppressants, steroids, and even sedatives are the standard prescription for any canine diagnosed with tracheal collapse and chronic bronchitis.
However, pet parents might have to monitor them closely because they can be lethargic while severity increases.
When diagnosed with heartworms, treatments vary depending on the stages of their condition is.
Dogs without symptoms may be prescribed pills to reduce and eventually kill larvae in their earliest stage.
Furthermore, heartworm treatments can be fatal and dangerous, especially if the dog didn't receive an early and proper diagnosis.
On the other hand, hospitalization is a requirement for any sick dog suffering from heart disease, laryngeal paralysis, and lung cancer.
These conditions are severe and can be fatal when mishandled or unmonitored. They may also undergo chemotherapy or surgery if recommended.
How to Prevent Coughs in Dogs?
There are no concrete treatments that suppress coughing in dogs because they can naturally cough without worry.
However, listed below are the vaccines that serve as preventive measures for the conditions listed above.
They're readily available in hospitals or veterinary clinics near you.
This vaccine is effective for dogs in preventing kennel cough and pneumonia. It's in two separate vaccine doses, spread out over two to four weeks, and a booster once or twice a year.
Getting heartworm vaccine shots is not necessarily vital and urgent, but experts recommend getting it to prevent the parasites from entering your dog's body.
It lasts for a whole year too! Ask your local veterinarian for more details.
Pneumonia and Flu Shots
These shots help in preventing flu, pneumonia, and chronic bronchitis. Your dog may only have to take pneumonia shots once every 5 to 7 years and flu shots at least annually.
If you feel like your dog has been experiencing a constant gagging cough these past few days, consult your local veterinarian immediately.
There are several conditions associated with dog coughing, and most of them are not life-threatening.
However, bear in mind that certain conditions manifest in different forms. Some of them are unique, while some are not.
Do your research. Observe your pet and take note of these observations.
Seeing our pets getting sick out of nowhere is a heart-wrenching moment for us as pet owners. However, we need to be calm and steady during those times to support and care for our four-legged friend.