of the questions your veterinarian will ask you:
long has he been coughing?
How old is your pet?
Is the cough harsh and dry or is it moist and productive?
Does your pet cough most when it is up and active or when it is
Is your pet listless or more depressed than usual?
Is it having trouble breathing or breathing rapidly?
Does the problem occur this season every year?
Does your pet sneeze too and have a runny nose?
Has the pet been boarded or groomed recently?
Are there any other changes you have noticed in your pet?
Some causes of coughing:
High, dry coughs are typical of kennel cough or acute tracheobronchitis.
A dog with kennel cough seems to feel fine but has frequent bouts
of hacking cough. Cases usually heal in about two weeks. Treatment
includes isolation to avoid infection of other family or kennel
dogs, monitoring of temperature, rest, and if the coughing is severe,
use of a children’s over-the-counter cough syrup. A humidifier can
help the dog breathe easier and thus reduce coughing and further
cough in puppies and toy breeds can be more serious because the
throat irritation can be accompanied by thick secretions that can
vaccine protects dogs from several strains of kennel cough. The
intranasal version of the vaccine is more effective than the inoculation.
Any dog that is constantly exposed to other dogs away from home
should be protected against kennel cough.
Infectious tonsillitis is passed from pet to pet through close contact,
coughing and sneezing and through contaminated food, water bowls
and other objects. It is most common in toy breeds of dogs and puppies.
The two tonsils normally lie in deep crypts or crevices at the far
back of the mouth. With certain infections such as kennel cough,
the tonsils enlarge, partially obstructing the pet’s throat. Usually
both tonsils are affected. When enlarged tonsils become inflamed
and ulcerated the pet will spend hours trying to cough them up.
This is a retching, violent cough that usually ends in a gag producing
foam. These pets will sometimes paw at their mouths. Vets will treat
this with a two-week course of antibiotics such as trimethoprim/sulfa.
If the tonsillitis returns frequently, then it’s generally recommended
to remove the tonsils.
Tooth and Mouth Infections:
Small breeds of dogs, especially Toy poodles, Yorkshire terriers,
Maltese and Pomeranians are very subject to periodontal disease,
loose infected teeth and oral inflammation. This is partly due to
their genetics but also due to feeding them soft table foods. These
oral infections sometimes inflame the rear of the throat causing
coughing. Often the problem is magnified by a flabby, narrow trachea
or windpipe as well as tonsillitis due to the mouth infection. Many
times the infection has migrated to the valves of the heart (mitral
valve) damaging that organ as well. These pets need to have all
diseased teeth removed. This is not major surgery in these pets
because the teeth are already loose, lifeless and no longer used
in eating. Many teeth may have already fallen out on their own.
Subsequent to dental surgery, dog are put two weeks of antibiotics.
Toy breeds of dogs are very prone to a genetic abnormality called
tracheal collapse. The trachea is made up of cartilaginous rings
in the shape of a C that are fibrous and soft on their innermost
side. In collapsing trachea the inner soft portion of the windpipe
is sucked into the airway during inspiration, partially occluding
it. With time, the membranes lining the trachea become inflamed
causing a chronic dry, hacking cough.
condition is easily diagnosed by massaging the trachea near the
dog’s chest for a minute or two. Dogs with this problem go into
a coughing spell as soon as you finish the massage. When the problem
flares up, dogs are given a cough suppressant and an anti-inflammatory
drug such as prednisone until the problem resolves. Air humidifiers
are also helpful. These dog do well wearing a harness rather than
collars and limited exercise until the cough is better. Various
surgical techniques are used to attempt to cure this condition.
They meet with mixed success.
Migrating Hook and Roundworm Larva:
Canine hookworms and roundworms can also cause a cough, which is
called a verminous cough. This problem is primarily a concern in
young dogs, and puppies. When a dog accidentally eats a hookworm
or roundworm larva or egg, the larva burrows through pet’s stomach
or intestine into the blood stream. When it reaches the lungs it
is coughed up, re-swallowed and then matures in the pet’s intestine.
If the pet becomes infested with large numbers of larva due to an
unsanitary environment the owners will notice the cough.
verminous coughs is a mater of sanitation. Dog feces need to be
collected and disposed of properly.
Hookworm larva thrives in damp shaded soil. One of the best ways
to prevent this problem is to keep all your pets on a monthly heartworm
medication, which contains pyrantel pamoate.
Allergies and Irritants:
Some dogs, like people, experience throat and nasal irritation due
to chemicals in perfumes, cigarette smoke, new bedding, carpeting,
etc. Dust mite allergy is said to occasionally cause coughing, however
these cases are fairly uncommon. Coughing can be a multifaceted
problem and it is quite likely that allergies and irritants can
make a cough worse.
Heartworms are transmitted to dogs and cats by mosquitoes. The disease
is common in dogs. Mosquitoes that bite an infected dog, ingests
microscopic heartworm larva or microfilaria. When they next bite
a dog these larva migrate through the new host’s body and lodge
in the upper right side of the heart. Depending on the number of
heartworms present and the length of time they are there, the heart
is slowly damaged and enlarges.
The presence of heartworms also causes inflammatory changes in the
lungs. In dogs, these changes, along with pressure from the enlarged
heart on the windpipe cause a dry to moderately moist cough. By
the time a cough is present the disease is quite advanced and some
of the changes to the heart and lungs are irreversible.
Dogs with heartworm coughs are noticeably ill. They are thin and
their hair coat is dry and musty. They have a worn-out look about
them and are often prematurely grey around their muzzle and toes.
They are usually pot bellied due to an enlarged liver and excess
fluid in their abdomens and are positive on a heartworm antigen
Their cough is worse when the dog is lies down. The pet’s history
includes the fact that they are not receiving heartworm preventative.
assessing the degree of damage to the body, dogs are put on Immiticide,
an arsenic-containing medication that kills the adult parasites.
If the dog’s liver, heart and kidneys are strong enough to withstand
the side effects of this powerful medication, then they can have
the standard two injections at twenty-four hour intervals. If the
disease has caused marked damage to the liver and heart the vet
will try to stabilize and improve the pet’s health before the injections.
If that cannot be done, then the vet can give a single injection
and then place the dog on monthly heartworm preventative or just
place them on the monthly preventative. Recent studies have shown
that dogs placed on monthly Ivermectin are free of adult heartworms
within a year. Coughs can take up to six months to resolve.
Congestive Heart Disease
Coughing is one of the most consistent signs of heart disease. The
most common form of heart disease in dogs begins with damage to
the mitral valve on the left side of the heart. When the vet will
listen to the heart with his stethoscope, he can detect abnormal
sounds on the left upper quadrant of the heart – the area where
this valve is located. X-rays of the pet’s heart show a typical
globular, enlarged heart shape with elevation of the trachea.
Pressure on the trachea and fluid in the lungs are the primary causes
of the cough. The pets’ gums are often bluish (cyanotic) and slow
to return to normal color when the vet’s fingers blanch them. The
livers of these pets are enlarged with pooled blood and they may
have fluid in their abdomens. Mitral valve insufficiency is the
most common heart disease in older dogs. It affects over one-third
of the dogs that are older than ten.
in this disease placing the pet on the diuretic Furosemide eliminates
the cough and improves the function of a weakened heart. These dogs
do well when placed on a sodium-restricted diet. As the disease
progresses, the pet will need other medications. One of the most
effective medications is the ACE inhibitor, Enalapril Maleate.
Cardiomyopathy is a form of heart disease that affects larger breeds
of dogs. Doberman Pinchers and Boxers have a high incidence of this
condition. Most recently, Taurine deficiencies due to feeding lamb
and rice diets have been shown to cause the disease in dogs. It
is very rare in dogs that weigh less than 28 pounds.
onset of this disease is very rapid. Pets begin to cough and show
general weakness and exercise intolerance all within a matter of
weeks. Their heart rate is very fast and weak, and can be very irregular.
The usual lack of heart murmurs distinguishes this condition from
congestive heart failure. X-rays of these animals chest show a huge
heart – often with an enlarged left upper chamber (atrium) and the
lungs often filled with fluid.
condition is treated similar to congestive heart failure. Unfortunately,
dogs with Dilated Cardiomyopathy do not live long.
Tumors in the Lungs:
Hacking coughs in old dogs are also common when tumors of the lungs
are present. These are always sad cases to deal with. When lung
tumors are advance, pets may cough up blood as well as phlegm. Primary
lung tumors are exceedingly rare dogs. They are generally secondary
tumors that have moved to the lungs from another location. Sometimes,
if the disease is advanced, abnormal lung sounds or silent areas
X-rays of these animals’ lungs often show a shower of small tumors
throughout the lung fields. The most common tumor type is adenocarcinomas.
Sometimes the dog’s vet will refer these pets on to a veterinary
oncologist, but there is really no effective chemotherapy for dog
with lung tumors. Veterinarians will try to make their remaining
life as pleasant as possible with cough suppressants, steroids and
bronchodilators such as theophylline.
This is a relatively rare condition in which the structures of the
throat (larynx) become paralyzed allowing food and water to enter
the lungs causing pneumonia. Large breeds of dogs (particularly
Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters and Springer Spaniels) are affected.
These dogs loose the ability to bark. They have reduced exercise
tolerance and occasional fainting spells. They produce a roaring
sound when they inhale.
cases can be managed with corticosteroids and cough suppressants
such as Butorphanol or Codeine. The dogs need to be kept cool in
the summer. Severe cases require surgery to widen the pet’s airway.
Canine distemper is a contagious, incurable, often fatal, multisystemic
viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and
central nervous systems. Distemper is caused by the canine distemper
virus (CDV). Canine distemper occurs worldwide, and once was the
leading cause of death in unvaccinated puppies. Widespread vaccination
programs have dramatically reduced its incidence.
The first sign of distemper is eye discharge that may appear watery
to pus-like. Subsequently, dogs develop fever, nasal discharge,
coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. In
later stages, the virus may attack the nervous system, bringing
about seizures, twitching, or partial or complete paralysis. Occasionally,
the virus may cause footpads to harden. Distemper is often fatal.
Even if a dog does not die from the disease, canine distemper virus
can cause irreparable damage to a dog’s nervous system. Distemper
is so serious and the signs so varied that any sick dog should be
taken to a veterinarian for an examination and diagnosis
diagnose canine distemper on the basis of clinical appearance and
specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected
dogs. Treatment consists primarily of efforts to prevent secondary
infections; control vomiting, diarrhea, or neurological symptoms;
and combat dehydration through administration of fluids. Ill dogs
should be kept warm, receive good nursing care, and be separated
from other dogs. Distemper is preventable by vaccination.
The chief signs of lungworm infections in dogs are coughing and
a rise in the number of white blood cells called eosinophiles. Adults
of these parasites live in nodules in the windpipe where they pass
living larva, which are coughed up. Some are spit out and others
reswallowed and pass out in the stool. Pups become infected by eating
the saliva or feces of an infected dog. These worms are treated
with fenbendazole (Panacur) at 25mg/pound body weight daily for
7-14 days. Most are also given prednisolone to decrease inflammation
Reverse Sneeze-or-Cough (Paroxysmal Respiration):
Reverse sneezing is a forceful bizarre noise that sounds like the
honking noise a goose makes. The dog makes a lot of noise and his
sneeze sounds a little like a cough and a sneeze. Reverse sneeze
syndrome is characterized by a series of rapid, loud, forced inhalations
through the nostrils, lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes.
Attacks occur on a sporadic, unpredictable basis. Dogs usually have
the head extended forward and stand still during the episode with
elbows turned out and sometimes with the back arched.
dogs appear completely normal before and after the attack. There
is no loss of consciousness or collapse, though some times the appearance
of the dog and the noise is upsetting to owners. You might think
he has something caught in his nose. Many dogs have these attacks
throughout their lives.
sneeze is associated with noisy inspiratory and expiratory events
without the big expiratory burst. Some dogs with nasopharyngeal
disease may cough, sneeze and reverse-sneeze, as well as gag or
retch, making it challenging for the veterinarian to figure out
exactly what the problem is. The exact cause of reverse sneezing
is unknown, but it may be associated with sinusitis, incomplete
closure of naso-pharynx, and other upper respiratory disorders.
Whatever, the cause, the condition is usually not serious.
is not necessary when episodes occur infrequently or on a random
basis. To help your dog you may wish to try any of the following
ideas: holding off both nostrils so the dog takes a breath through
the mouth, blowing in the nose, or massaging the throat.
All of these techniques are designed to stimulate a swallow reflex,
which will help to stop the episode.
should notify the doctor if the severity or frequency of the attack
changes, a nasal discharge or cough develops, or the general health
of your pet changes.
Although uncommon, tuberculosis does affect dogs and can cause upper
respiratory symptoms. The cough associated with this bacterial infection
is moist and productive; dogs may hack up bloody sputum, and suffer
from labored breathing. Diagnosis is by x-ray of the lungs. Dogs
and humans can infect each other with tuberculosis.
Dogs with flat faces that snore often have elongated soft pallets
in the rear of their mouths, and this can cause coughing. Pekingese,
Pugs, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, Shiz Tzu’s fall into this category.
When flare-ups occur, vets will put these dogs on a short course
of corticosteroid and antibiotic treatment. Occasionally the problem
is so severe that the pet does not get enough air. When this is
the case, the vet will surgically remove a portion of the soft palate,
being very cautious when performing this surgery, because if too
much tissue is removed coughing will become worse and the pet may
inspire food and water into its lungs.
causes of cough are many and varied, but most can be traced to some
stimulation or irritation of sensory nerves in the throat, windpipe
or smaller airways. The character of the cough may help to localize
the problem to a specific area of the respiratory tree or cardiovascular
system and to suggest its potential severity. The duration of the
cough is an important part of the history, as well as vaccination
and heartworm status, travel or boarding history, pre-existing health
problems, concurrent medications, and any prior history of cough.
are triggered by irritants in the air passages and can be characterized
as dry and hacking; moist and bubbly; gagging; wheezy; harsh; or
weak. It can be frequent, chronic, or intermittent, and is often
self-perpetuating as it dries the throat and leads to further irritation.
cough for a variety of reasons, some of which can be serious in
themselves and others that are signs of an underlying problem. Some
common causes of coughing and gagging include foreign objects in
the airway, bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, heart disease, laryngeal
paralysis, fungal infections, reflux esophagitis (similar to heartburn
in people), food allergies, parasites, tumors, and other diseases.
Environmental factors such as exposure to cigarette smoke, new perfumes,
or new bedding or carpeting can also aggravate coughing. There could
be some abnormality of the trachea, or possibly heart problems.
dogs will cough and gag whenever they drink water but never do it
any other time. When dogs drink they actually throw the water toward
the back of the throat with a neat trick of the tongue. If the dog
drinks fast some water contacts the sensitive tissues within the
larynx which triggers a cough response. If your dog can run, play,
pant and breathe without a chronic cough and only does it when drinking,
then it’s nothing serious and you can ignore it.
mild episodes, massaging your dog’s throat may help lessen the symptoms.
may not sound like a serious problem, but sometimes it is a sign
of a significant disease. Since there are so many possible causes
of coughing in a canine, it’s important for you to be patient as
your veterinarian tries to get to the bottom of it all. Many of
the diseases associated with various types of coughing can be managed
if they’re caught early on.