Dog Coughing

Dog Coughing

Your dog might cough whenever they feel as though they need to clear something from inside their airways, as well as if something is causing irritation or pain. The main causes of a dog's cough are:

  • A bacterial infection like kennel cough
  • Passive smoking (if you are smoking around your dog, they are breathing it in)
  • Lungworm (lives inside a dog’s lungs and heart - can be fatal but luckily is preventable by the use of regular deworming treatments)
  • Heart disease, more common in elderly dogs and breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airway lining, common in smaller dogs)
  • Tracheal collapse, which causes a collapsing windpipe (commonly affecting toy breeds)
  • Cancer, which causes lung and throat tumours
  • Injuries, including any trauma when eating or chewing. Sticks are the biggest issues for dogs, as they are often sharp and harder to cough up
  • Laryngeal paralysis, nerve damage which stops a dog from breathing properly (more common in elderly, larger dogs like Labradors)

When to Contact Your Vet

It’s best to get in touch with your vet for an emergency appointment if ever your dog looks as though they are struggling to breathe, is breathing particularly fast, has pale gums or you believe they have something stuck inside of their airways. You should contact your vet for a general checkup if ever your dog shows the following signs:

  • A president cough lasting more than a couple of days
  • A cough which keeps them awake
  • A cough which leads to collapse
  • Coughing up blood
  • Abnormal or extremely loud breathing noises

You as an owner know your dog better than anyone else, so if ever you are worried or uncomfortable over your dog’s condition then it is best to get in touch with your vet immediately.

Treating a dog cough

Your first step when treating your dog coughing involves working out the root cause. Your vet should begin your appointment by asking specific questions regarding your dog’s recent and long-term health, any past travelling, as well as the progression of your dog's symptoms. They should then complete a full physical exam - a tentative diagnosis may be possible, but it’s likely that a definitive diagnosis will take time and perhaps further tests. Tests can include:

  • Blood chemistry panel
  • Blood cell count
  • Serology, to test for certain infectious diseases
  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood sample test to detect signs of heart disease
  • Urinalysis
  • Examination of feces
  • Chest x-rays
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG)

If you feel as though your dog has recently developed a mild cough but appears fine in every other aspect of self, it’s beneficial to take a couple of days to identify if their condition will start to clear up by itself without the need for extra treatment. However, if you think that their cough is becoming particularly painful, or it does not improve over a 7-day period, you should make an appointment with your vet as soon as you can. If you find that your dog seems very tired with little energy, has any difficulty when breathing or loses their appetite, you must call your vet for an emergency appointment.

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