Coughing in dogs is common. Coughing is the body’s defense mechanism against irritation or foreign bodies. There are often harmless causes behind it, but the cough can also be a symptom of a serious illness. Here you can find out what causes dog cough and what you can do about it.
The dog coughs: what are the causes?
Dogs can have coughs too – and the causes can be very different. The cough itself is not a disease, but a symptom of a disease or a defense mechanism of the body. The vet distinguishes between unproductive, i.e. dry cough without sputum and productive cough with wet sputum. The latter can manifest itself in the dog coughing and choking. Both types of cough can be acute or chronic.
These are the most common causes of coughing in dogs:
- Swallowed foreign bodies in the upper respiratory tract such as stick and bone splinters, blades of grass, awns (possibly also inhaled food particles in the case of gulping dogs)
- Heart disease and associated fluid retention in the lungs
- Parasites such as lungworms and heartworms
- Infectious diseases, especially kennel cough and distemper, but also bronchitis or pneumonia
- Allergies and allergic asthma
- Swallowing disorders (dysphagia)
- Tumors in the airways (especially if the dog has been coughing for months: possible narrowing of the airways)
- Tracheal collapse (the collapse of the windpipe; seen especially in small breeds like the Chihuahua)
Dog has a cough – what to do?
An occasional cough is not uncommon and can have harmless causes. If your dog is coughing for several days or if there is blood in the sputum, you should consult a veterinarian. The same applies if other symptoms such as fever, reduced appetite, or reluctance to move occur.
The Kennel Cough Complex: Prevention is better than cure
One of the most common causes of dog cough is the so-called kennel cough complex. The name is a bit misleading, not only animals in kennels are affected, but generally fur noses who live with several conspecifics or have a lot of contact with other dogs, for example at the dog training ground. Kennel cough is caused by various viruses and bacteria – such as canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV), canine herpesvirus (CHV), canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2), and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica – which are transmitted from dog to dog by droplet infection. It is noticeable that the dogs start coughing even with slight pressure on the trachea, for example through the collar. Dogs suffering from bacterial kennel cough have other symptoms such as a wet cough, rattling breath noises, sneezing, and fever. The dog coughs at night and hardly gets any rest.
If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, you should take it to the veterinarian, who can make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate medication for the animal. If your fur nose has kennel cough, you should not allow dog encounters for two weeks so as not to infect other animals.
There is a vaccination against kennel cough that does not prevent the disease one hundred percent, but at least ensures a much milder course in the event of an infection. It can be useful in multi-dog households, if the dog has to go to an animal boarding house or if you take it to the dog park a lot.
Other prophylactic measures against a cough in dogs
Dog coughs often have harmless causes, such as room air that is too dry. Dogs that gulp down their food and inhale food particles can use a special food bowl to help them eat more slowly: a so-called anti-gulp bowl. If your dog often hangs on the leash because of excitement, we recommend using a harness instead of a collar, as this does not put pressure on the trachea.
Make sure you get enough exercise in the fresh air during the cold season to strengthen the immune system. Dry your dog’s fur after the walk and prevent it from eating snow.
Dog has a cough – care
As with humans, it is true for dogs that the body needs time to heal itself. You can make recovery easier for your dog by:
- create good room air – around 60 percent is considered optimal,
- plan only short walks,
- lets the dog get enough sleep and
- make sure you drink enough fluids.