Coughing is rather common in dogs and can be caused by numerous possible reasons, some of which can be serious. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are therefore essential. This page looks at some possible causes of dog coughing; things to look for in a coughing dog; and some natural remedies that are effective in soothing a cough.
Similar to sneezing, dog coughing is a way for the body to get rid of foreign particles and infectious bacteria from the respiratory tract. Sometimes mucus may be produced to bind the foreign particles and prevent them from moving deeper into the lungs, resulting in a "moist cough".
There are a number of possible reasons that may cause coughing in dogs, some are more serious than others.
With that in mind, dog coughing should not be taken lightly - if your dog is coughing, especially if the cough is severe and chronic, be sure to take her to a vet for a thorough check-up.
Here is a list of some possible causes of coughing in dogs:
If your dog has deep, dry, hacking coughs, but is otherwise fine, she may have contracted kennel cough or acute tracheobronchitis. Most cases of kennel cough are not serious and the dog will get over the cough in 1 to 2 weeks. Visit our page on Treating Kennel Cough for more information.
Dogs with inhalant allergies sometimes may have a "moist cough". This is a way for the body to get rid of the allergen (e.g. pollen, cigarette smoke, etc.) that may have entered the respiratory tract. The coughing may subside once the dog is removed from the source of the allergen.
Another common cause of coughing in dogs is internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and heartworms. Larvae of intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms can trigger coughing (called a verminous cough) when they migrate up the intestine into the respiratory tract.
Heartworms also cause coughing when the immature heartworms are transferred to the dog's circulatory system by an infected mosquito. The parasites migrate into the lungs, causing the dog to cough (a dry to moderately moist cough) which usually gets worse when the dog is lying down. Heartworm infection is potentially life-threatening so prevention is essential if your dog lives in an area where mosquitoes are plentiful.
Dogs suffering from heart disease, such as congestive heart failure , can develop coughing as well. The coughing is caused by the enlarged heart, which compresses the airway, resulting in dry, unproductive coughing bouts, especially at night or while lying on the sternum.
Dogs that are overweight, old, or have suffered neck injuries, as well as toy breeds of dogs (e.g. chihuahua, pomeranian) are prone to tracheal collapse. This condition is basically a narrowing of the windpipe due to the weakening of the cartilage, which forms and supports the trachea. The collapse causes inflammation of the membranes, which are lining the trachea. This results in a dry, hacking cough.
Besides the cough, dogs suffering from tracheal collapse show symptoms like harsh breathing and gagging. The cough is worsened by exercise, heat, excitement, and humidity. Obese dogs are particularly vulnerable to this condition.
Treatment consists of managing the cough and using supplements to strengthen cartilage. In particular, use a supplement with glucosamine to help keep the lining of the airway in a healthy, moist state. To protect your dog's throat and keep pressure off the airway, use a harness instead of a collar.
In serious cases, surgery may be needed.
Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with "pushed-in" faces such as pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, etc.) that snore often suffer from a condition called "elongated soft palate". It means that the soft palate at the back of the throat is too long and it protrudes into the airway, causing not only respiratory problems but sometimes coughing as well. This condition is treated using medications and sometimes surgery.
Sometimes, coughing in dogs may mean something more serious. For example, it is common for dogs with lung tumors to have dry, hacking coughs. When the cancer is in its advanced stage, the coughs may produce small amounts of phlegm or blood. Primary lung tumors are rare; most cases of lung tumors are a result of metastasis (the spreading of cancerous cells from other parts of the body). Visit our page on Lung Cancer in Dogs for more information.
The first sign of dog distemper is a dry hacking cough, accompanied by a fever of 103° to 105°. A thick, yellow discharge from the nose and eyes is also common. However, if your dog is routinely innoculated against distemper, then there is little chance for him to get infected. For more information on this disease, visit our page on Puppy Distemper.
Dogs infected with canine influenza will show signs of upper respiratory problems such as coughing and sneezing. Dog flu can also cause a dog to have a fever, sometimes as high as 106°F. Currently there are no vaccines against dog flu. Visit our page on Dog Flu for more information on this disease.
Pneumonia also causes coughing in dogs, amongst other symptoms. The cough is usually a moist, bubbling one, which indicates fluid or phlegm in the lungs. Pneumonia can be a result of an infection, or secondary to other conditions. Visit our page on Canine Pneumonia for more information on this disease.
If your dog is coughing, try to observe her carefully and note down answers to the following:
You should also try to determine the patterns and circumstances of the coughing bouts (to help your vet make an accurate diagnosis). For example,
* air pollution;
* change in temperature - going out into the cold air, or entering a warm room;
* change in humidity?
Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice the following:
If your dog has a chronic cough and, in particular, if there are other accompanying symptoms that cause you to suspect that the cough is caused by some deeper underlying condition, take the dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis. As mentioned above, since chronic cough may be caused by serious health conditions that can be life-threatening, dog coughing should not be taken lightly.
Herbs can be used to effectively soothe and manage coughing in dogs. Some useful herbs include:
Dogs that have weak immune systems are more likely to get infectious respiratory problems (such as kennel cough). Herbs such as echinacea, astragalus, and Oregon grape can be used to strengthen the dog's immune system.
This natural herbal formula contains herbs such as coltsfoot, mullein, licorice root, and more, and is extremely effective in treating dogs with cough and respiratory problems.
You can also use essential oils to soothe and calm your dog. Essential oils of lavender, eucalyptus, and niaouli are antibacterial and antiviral. Chamomile essential oil has a calming effect. Use them in a vaporizer or diffuser to help your dog relax and breathe easier. (Interested in using essential oils with your dog? Here is a useful eBook for you!)
Massage also helps control breathing problems and coughing in dogs. Use a sweeping, stroking pattern in a downward direction, start under the throat over the windpipe, and over the chest area between the front legs. Then massage between the shoulder blades along the back in a back and forth motion. Massaging these areas can very often lessen the frequency or severity of the cough.
Finally, natural supplements that are beneficial to the lungs can be used to manage coughing in dogs. In particular: