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Canine Coughing

Coughing in dogs can be caused by a host of possible reasons, from allergies, infections, to heart disease. This page looks at different types of dog coughing and their possible causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Puppy

Canine coughing is a symptom - it is a reflex caused by an irritation in the throat, airways, or the lungs. It is one of the body's ways to try to get rid of foreign irritants and infectious bacteria from the respiratory tract.

Since coughing is a symptom, it is not advisable to use medicine to suppress the cough without finding out and addressing the underlying cause.

There are a number of possible reasons that may cause coughing in dogs, some are more serious than others. As such, canine coughing is not something that we can ignore. If your dog suddenly starts coughing and it is not going away, take her to a vet so that the underlying cause can be identified and dealt with.

Types and Causes of Canine Coughing

Not all coughing is the same. Different types of cough often indicate different health problems. By learning about the types of cough, we may be able to better understand the possible reason that is causing the cough.

  • A Dry Hacking Cough: If you have a young puppy or if your dog has spent some time in a kennel, and if he has developed a deep, dry, hacking cough, it may indicate that your dog has kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis. Usually, the cough is made worse by exercise or excitement. Most cases of kennel cough are not serious and the dog will get over the cough in 1 to 2 weeks.

    Another possible cause of a dry, hacking cough is distemper. If your dog has a cough and a fever of 103°F to 105°F accompanied by a thick, yellow discharge from the nose and eyes, he may be showing early signs of distemper. However, most dogs are now routinely vaccinated against distemper, so this disease has become rather rare.

    Sometimes, a dry hacking cough may indicate lung tumors. When the cancer is in its advanced stage, the coughs may produce small amounts of phlegm or blood.
  • A Moist Bubbling Cough: A moist, bubbling cough indicates the accumulation of fluid (water, phlegm, blood, or pus) in the airways or lungs. Possible causes of this type of coughing in dogs include allergies, influenza, pneumonia, or lung cancer in its advanced stage. If the cough is caused by some form of allergy, identifying and removing the source of the allergen will cure the coughing. Dogs with influenza or pneumonia usually will also develop a fever.
  • A Dry to Moderately Moist Cough: Parasites such as roundworms and heartworm infestation can cause coughing in dogs.

    Roundworm larvae travel to the lungs in the bloodstream, crawl up the windpipe, and are swallowed to return to the intestine and mature into adults. As they travel up the windpipe, they cause bouts of coughing which can be dry to moderately moist.

    Heartworms also cause coughing when the immature heartworms are transferred to the dog's circulatory system by an infected mosquito. When the parasites migrate into the lungs, they can cause a dry to moderately moist cough which usually gets worse when the dog is lying down.
  • A Goose-Honk Cough: If your dog is a small breed dog and has a cough that resembles a goose honking, she may be suffering from tracheal collapse. Cough caused by tracheal collapse is often stimulated when the dog is excited, or when the trachea is lightly squeezed (e.g. when the dog is tugging on his collar). It also occurs when the dog is drinking water.
  • A Weak Gaggling Cough: A weak, high, gaggling cough followed by swallowing, licking the lips, and pawing at the mouth indicates sore throat and tonsillitis.
  • Coughing Spasms: If you have an older dog who has bouts of dry coughing spasms, especially at night or while lying on his sternum, it is likely that he has heart disease. Cough due to heart disease may be accompanied by a murmur or abnormal heart rate or rhythm.

Dog's Age and Coughing

The age of your dog can also help you diagnose his coughing.

Young dogs are more likely to have a cough caused by bacterial or viral infections, such as kennel cough. Middle aged to older dogs who are suffering from canine coughing are more likely to have treacheal collapse, heart disease or even lung cancer.

Diagnosis of Canine Coughing

Diagnosis of canine coughing may include:

  • Blood tests
  • A fecal sample may be taken to look for parasites
  • Chest x-rays or x-rays of the trachea
  • Bronchoscopy to investigate chronic coughs and coughs with mucus or blood

Other specific tests may be performed if heartworm or an infectious disease is suspected to be the cause.

Note:

If your doggie has a cough which is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, take him to the vet without delay:
    * Difficulty breathing
    * Nose or eye discharge
    * Coughing up mucus, blood or pus
    * The coughing lasts for a long time.

Treatment of Canine Coughing

As mentioned above, canine coughing is a symptom and therefore identifying and treating the underlying cause is of utmost importance.

If your dog is being treated for the underlying cause, or if your dog has a minor cough of brief duration but is otherwise healthy, some cough medications and home remedies are available to help ease the discomfort of coughing. Please visit our page on Cough Medicine for Dogs for more information.
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