Dogs can develop a cough for a variety of reasons, as disconcerting as it can be for the owner to hear. Keep in mind that a cough often sounds worse than it is, and usually resolves itself without medical intervention. However, sometimes dog coughing can be a symptom of a more serious health condition that will require veterinary attention.
Table of Contents
As an owner, you know your dog best. When you feel as though it’s necessary or if your dog is showing additional symptoms as well as a cough, it’s best to go for a visit to the vet asap.
If there are no other problems and your dog is his happy, bubbly self, you can give it a week or so. However, if it persists for more than a week, it’s better to head to the vet to see if something more serious is afoot.
To make it easier to determine the underlying cause of dog coughing, we’re going to run through some common diagnoses and their symptoms, treatments and prognoses. When it comes to dog coughing, it can be tough to tell each diagnosis apart, unless you're a trained professional. If you're worried about your pet or you think the coughing is getting worse, seeking professional help is the best thing to do.
ALSO READ: Top 5 Best Dog Cough Relief Aids
7 reasons why your dog is coughing
1 Kennel Cough
This is a pretty constant cough. It will likely sound like your dog is choking, as it is sharp and quick. This type of dog coughing is highly contagious.
Named due to the ease of contracting when left at a boarding kennel facility, your dog can contract kennel cough from being in proximity to other dogs suffering from the condition. Exposure can come from the dog park, a rescue kennel or at doggy daycare.
Having said that, most canine establishments have stringent guidelines that don’t allow sick dogs on the premises. If your dog has kennel cough, it will typically run its course in three-weeks for healthy adult dogs, in seniors or puppies, this can be closer to six weeks.
Older dogs, those with autoimmune conditions and those recovering from another ailment will be the most likely to develop kennel cough. Vaccines do exist for kennel cough and are highly effective at defending against this type of dog coughing.
If you’re planning on taking your pet to a kennel, dog shows or doggy daycare, it’s important to know that most of these will require proof of an up to date vaccination before admittance.
Kennel Cough will often fix itself. Therefore, the best thing that you can do for your dog is to make him as comfortable as possible.
A few options to do this include:
- a teaspoon of honey mixed in with food or fed directly
- feeding wet food
- adding broth to dry food
Just remember that senior pets, puppies and dogs with a weaker immune system may need the help of antibiotics to kick this ailment. If you are worried about your pet or the condition seems to be getting worse, seek out veterinary treatment immediately.
2 Sore Throat
This is a raspy, long wheezing type of cough. It is not contagious. Your dog can develop a sore throat from having something scratch his throat or from barking excessively. This condition varies on a case by case basis, but it shouldn't last for more than a week. Dogs that bark non-stop when left alone or that play too rough with their toys are the most likely to contract this condition.
Only allowing your dog to have access to safe toys and removing sticks that he could find in the yard is a must to prevent this type of dog coughing. This is especially important if your dog has hurt his throat in the past.
For a barker, patient and consistent training can stop almost any dog from barking when left alone. Often the underlying cause of excessive barking is nerves, so overcoming this would be your cure to doggy sore throats.
Vitamins can help boost the immune system and speed up the healing process of this type of dog coughing. A Vitamin C supplement can be especially beneficial. Switching to a wet food if your dog is ordinarily fed dry food can also alleviate some discomfort, but be wary of switching to a new food quickly.
Some veterinarians and pet stores will stock pet cough syrup. Most of these will require a prescription, but you can also find many recipes to make your own at home.
If you hear dog coughing which may be associated with heartworm, you'll notice a soft, persistent cough and the inability for your pooch to catch breath afterward. Don't worry too much, because it's not contagious. Heartworm isn’t spread through contact with an infected animal, but from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Without treatment, heartworm will gradually worsen and ultimately can be deadly.
All unvaccinated dogs are unfortunately at risk of this condition. Vaccination is advised for all dogs, and not just in the geographical areas where mosquitoes run rampant; this is a common misconception, and many dog owners feel as though their dogs will be safe as they live in the city, or have indoor dogs – unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Heartworm is an equal opportunity medical concern, and even the healthiest indoor dogs can contract it. There are certain holistic treatments available on the market, but as this is such a serious condition, veterinary treatment is advised.
One area that you can assist in the recovery of this type of dog coughing is to restrict exercise. Speak with your veterinarian about how much exercise is allowed, as this depends on the progression of the condition.
Curing a dog of heartworm disease is a lengthy process, with treatment being three shots, each thirty-days apart. Followed by a second test a further three months later to confirm whether the treatment was successful. So, all in all the process takes six-months
4 Tracheal Collapse
Imagine something between a duck quacking and a cat hissing, and you'll be able to tell what this type of dog coughing sounds like. The cough is caused by your dog's trachea collapsing, so it's not contagious.
It is caused by long-term respiratory illness or a genetic predisposition. It is most commonly seen in small breeds. Specific breeds seem to be more prone to developing this condition. There is not yet enough research to say categorically what specifically causes tracheal collapse, according to veterinarians.
The breeds at most risk are:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Toy Poodles
Essentially a doggy version of asthma, this condition can be managed with medication. There is no cure for tracheal collapse. However, with correct treatment, a dog suffering from this condition won’t suffer from a diminished quality of life.
In the majority of cases, tracheal collapse is due to a genetic abnormality. Other than doing your research, and trying to buy or adopt a dog with a full medical history of its immediate family, little can be done. If your dog has just started suffering from respiratory illness, with proactive treatment and management you are likely to be able to stop this before it happens
Medical intervention is a must for this condition, but there are some positive changes that you can make to drastically improve your dog’s condition. They include:
Weight Loss – If your dog is holding onto a bit of extra padding, losing this will make breathing easier.
Collar Free – The dog collar is an excellent way to keep your dog secure, but if you have a dog that likes to pull, this puts even greater pressure on the Trachea and should be switched out for a harness immediately.
Calcium – As the tracheal collapse can occur due to the weakening of the cartilage, a calcium supplement may be recommended by your veterinarian.
Medical care has been proven to work in 70% of cases, with the remaining 30% either not responding to treatment or requiring surgical intervention. Veterinarians note how surgery to repair a collapsed trachea in dogs has come along drastically in recent years with advancements in the materials used to replace damaged rings of the trachea.
5 Canine Distemper
A cough associated with canine distemper will sound like a persistent wheezing, with rattling in the lungs. Other symptoms can include fever, nasal discharge, weeping eyes and an abnormal shaking of the jaw.
Canine distemper is highly contagious through airborne particles, and can be passed on through all body secretions of infected animals. Even when a dog has come through the other side and is no longer showing symptoms, it’s important to quarantine him away from other dogs for at least two weeks as he is still contagious during this period.
Not all dogs become severely ill when they contract canine distemper. Their body can fight off the condition within one week. Other dogs can take up to six weeks to fight their way through. And, in the worst cases where neurological signs begin to appear, it can be deadly.
Any canine that has not been vaccinated is at risk to contract this disease. Vaccination is the only way to protect against this deadly disease. Even if your dog never socialized with others, it’s vital to vaccinate them.
Raccoons, skunks and foxes are just a few of the wild animals that can contract and spread the canine distemper virus illness among dogs.
If your dog is suffering from this condition, you need to take it very seriously and do everything you can to help him fight off the infection. You can do this by ensuring that he drinks plenty of water, giving him Vitamin C supplements, and placing him on a fast during the fever stage of the disease.
A fever is incredibly dangerous, especially for canines, and he needs all of his body’s energy to overcome this. So, it's important to monitor your pet's temperature and seek veterinary care when necessary.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and fast solution to this ailment. Supportive care is the only option available to you, with IV fluids, and antibiotics the most commonly used.
RELATED VIDEO GUIDE: How To Take A Dog's Temperature With A Thermometer
6 Lung Problems
This kind of dog cough can cause your dog’s abdomen to show visible signs of strain from the depth that his cough comes from. You may also hear that your dog is only able to take shallow breaths.
As this is a generalized term, lung p
roblems will depend on the specific diagnosis that your dog receives. But to give you somewhat of an idea, here are a few lung conditions, and whether or not they can be passed on:
- Pneumonia – Not contagious – but the underlying condition which caused it might be
- Asthma – Not contagious
- Bronchitis – Contagious
- Lung Cancer – Not contagious
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – Not contagious
Most conditions will either be hereditary, caused by a weakened immune system or as the result of an infection. The majority of lung conditions will be lifelong problems, but luckily most can be managed with success through the use of medications and exercise.
Dogs with weakened immune systems, for example, those already suffering from medical conditions, or those with autoimmune conditions. Certain conditions (such as COPD) can be more likely to occur in certain breeds, such as the West Highland White and Cocker Spaniel.
Keeping your home clean, dust free, and using only pet-friendly cleaning problems can be a great start. Most other factors are unfortunately outside of our control.
Easing your dog’s discomfort can be achieved in a multitude of ways, from mixing lemon and honey into your dog’s water supply, to adding coconut oil to his food. The actual treatment will depend on the specific diagnosis, but will often be treated with cough suppressants, antibiotics, and on some occasions metered dose inhalers.
An allergy cough can sound something like a goose honking, interspersed with gagging. Allergies are luckily not contagious, but allergens can be picked up and brought into the home, which may result in an allergic reaction.
Most likely your dog was born with allergies. In some cases, they can be developed from overexposure to an allergen. The body seeing a particular foreign body as a threat then results in the histamine response to defend the body, one of these defenses – is a cough.
This is something that will last a lifetime but can be managed once you determine which allergen is causing the issue. Certain breeds are known to be more likely to suffer from allergies. They include flat faced breeds (such as the Pug and French Bulldog), as well as some Setters, Retrievers and Terriers.
It can be difficult to prevent allergies other than by avoiding the allergen that your dog reacts to. The most common allergens include:
Your dog may also benefit from allergy injections, which can help him build up a resistance to an allergen. Once you know what’s affecting your dog and causing him to cough, it’s easy to remove or decrease his exposure to those allergens.
MORE DETAILS: Allergy Meds for Dogs – When Does Your Dog Need Them?
If you’re struggling to discover what causes his reaction, you can try an exclusion period, where you remove certain products, foods, and environmental factors. Remove each for at least one month before re-introducing it. If your dog’s allergies get better during the month, and then worsen upon reintroduction, you have found an allergy!
Allergy jabs are available from your veterinarian to try and boost your dog’s ability to withstand certain allergens. You will have to discuss this with your vet to see whether this is an option in your dog’s unique case. Alternatively, symptoms can be managed by using an antihistamine spray, or tablet.
There are so many reasons for dog coughing and why your pet might have developed a cough in the first place, from the mildest cold to life-threatening disease.
Every responsible dog owner should, of course, educate themselves on different medical ailments that your dog can suffer from – this allows you to spot, and quickly make a decision as to whether the veterinarian needs to get involved.
Having said that, it’s also important to not self-diagnose, as not only could you scare yourself by assuming that your dog is seriously ill when he isn’t, but on the flipside – you could shrug off a cough as something minor when, in fact – it needs urgent treatment.