Dog Coughing: What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

For most pet owners, there are times of uncertainty when it comes to their dog’s health. For example, when people find themselves coughing, it’s usually indicative of a few different conditions – we may be fighting or cold or merely clearing our throats. In some instances, it may signify something more serious, such as a bronchial infection or even lung disease.

Similarly, in the case of our four-legged friends, a cough in your dog may indicate a variety of different health issues. In this article, we’ll explore the various types of coughs to be aware of and what they sound like in order to provide proper care to your pooch.


Types of Canine Coughs: Recognizing The Signs & Causes

When you notice your dog is coughing, it’s important to pay attention to the signs, symptoms and even sounds he’s making. There are many factors that can be taken into account – such as his overall health, environmental circumstances, and even breed – when determining the cause of his cough. Below, we’ve identified a few of the primary types of canine cough symptoms and why your dog is suffering:

Kennel Cough: Recognized by its hacking, dry sound and deep tone, kennel cough (also known as canine cough) usually gets worse the longer your pup’s been struggling with the illness. This infection is highly contagious and is either bacterial or viral in origin. If your hound has recently been boarded in a kennel, been in contact with a large number of dogs at the park, at the groomer’s, in obedience class, or in similar social circumstances, he may have been exposed to the infection.

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Coughing Due to Allergies: Similar to human allergies, our four-legged friends are also susceptible to hay fever and seasonal, environmental, and even food allergies. If you believe your dog is displaying signs of allergies (such as watery eyes, coughing, sneezing and itching) it’s important to have your vet diagnose him to rule out any and all potential causes of irritation, particularly food-related triggers.

Gagging Cough: In the case where you notice your dog’s cough sounds like he is gagging or high-pitched, accompanied by repeated swallowing motions and lip-licking, he may have a sore throat. Your vet will be able to determine if he’s merely suffering from a sore throat or has tonsillitis; he may also have something lodged in his throat. Therefore, the causes for a gagging cough in dogs can vary.

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Wet Cough: if your dog’s cough sounds wet, gargling or phlegm-ridden, it may indicate a build-up of mucus in the lungs. Typically a sign of pneumonia, this illness is caused by either bacteria, a virus, a fungal infection, or parasites. Dogs who are highest risk include senior dogs, puppies or those with a weak or compromised immune system. It should be noted that your furry friend can also develop pneumonia if he accidentally inhales a foreign object.

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Coughing in Toy Breeds: In the instance of strange sounds coming from your toy breed, it may be indicative of a condition known as collapsing trachea. Marked by a deep-sounding cough that resembles a goose honking, it usually occurs when your pooch is pulling too hard against his collar.

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Breed-Specific Coughing & Heart Disease: Certain breeds are more prone to heart disease, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If you notice your dog is coughing mainly at night or when lying down, it often is a sign that the condition is worsening.

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Treating Your Dog’s Cough: What to Expect

Being diligent as a pet owner includes recognizing the different signs and symptoms outlined above, and the next step would be to bring your dog to a trusted veterinarian for a complete physical. In most cases, each of these types of coughs and the conditions they’re indicative of can be treated if caught early on, particularly if your dog is coughing violently or persistently and is displaying other signs of fatigue or distress.

Once your vet has determined the cause of illness, he will treat him accordingly. For dogs suffering from kennel cough, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed and your pooch should be isolated from other dogs so he doesn’t spread this contagious infection. You can help ease his discomfort by doing the same things that help people when they’re congested, such as bringing him in the bathroom during a hot shower so he can inhale the steam; you may also wish to run a humidifier to increase the moisture in your home’s atmosphere.

If you think your dog may have accidentally swallowed or inhaled something, such as a grass seed, acorn, or other foreign object, it’s important to act quickly. If your dog plays outside, especially in the park or in wooded or grassy areas, keep a vigilant eye on him to avoid such instances whenever possible. If he doesn’t immediately cough up what seems to be something stuck in his throat, it’s important to bring him to a vet immediately to avoid choking or asphyxiation, but also to ensure whatever is lodged in his throat doesn’t lead to a bacterial infection or worse, a case of pneumonia. Your vet will be able to determine the cause and remove the foreign body if that is the case.

For dogs who are diagnosed with a sore throat, pneumonia, or tonsillitis, your vet will usually treat your pup with antibiotics to clear up his symptoms. Unlike humans, though, your pooch won’t require a tonsillectomy if he happens to have tonsillitis. If you believe your dog is an allergy sufferer, your vet may prescribe medication or a specially-formulated diet or supplements to ensure his health.

Although not quite as serious as some of the other cough-related ailments on our list, tracheal collapse is still something you should watch for in aging toy breed dogs. Most frequently seen in older dogs, this condition is the result of aggressive behavior on your pooch’s behalf, and is typically due to being both overweight and very excitable.

For example, if your toy happens to see another (usually larger) dog, he may strain and pull on his leash, and put undue pressure on his throat. Besides watching his weight and training him not to pull on the leash, you may also want to avoid confrontational activities that may set him off. Providing him with moderate exercise, considering dietary supplements to support his health, and feeding him specially-formulated dog food to regulate his weight can also be very helpful in protecting your dog against this condition.

Because coughing is one of the signs associated with congestive heart failure, it’s critical to take your dog to the vet if you suspect his health is in danger, particularly if his breed is prone to heart disease or his cough is accompanied by labored or rapid breathing/panting, bloody discharge, or he collapses. In instances where your dog’s condition is severe, your ve