Why is Your Dog Coughing? What to do When Your Dog Has a Cough

dog coughing in port townsend, WA
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Why is Your Dog Coughing? What to do When Your Dog Has a Cough

When dogs start coughing it gets the attention of their pet parents and it is understandably very worrisome when a dog’s coughing is persistent. Thankfully, coughing is not always a sign that a dog has a serious illness or medical condition.

There are a variety of reasons why dogs cough. Most of the time dogs will cough simply because their throat is irritated. Occasionally, coughing could be a sign that a dog is sick or is suffering from an injury or medical condition.

We’ll be exploring 7 reasons why dogs cough below, how to tell if a dog’s cough is serious, and when you should take them to the vet to get examined.

7 Reasons Why Dogs Cough

There are several main reasons why dogs cough, here are the seven main causes of coughing in dogs:

1. Your Dog is Experiencing Throat Irritation

Oftentimes dogs will just cough because something is tickling or hurting their throat. They could have possibly inhaled a bit of water, or maybe some smoke or a scent is bothering them. This is most likely the cause of the occasional cough from a dog, and it is nothing for dog owners to worry about most of the time.

2. Your Dog Has Allergies

Allergies are a very common condition in dogs, and allergies can cause them to cough when they are exposed to airborne allergens. Some examples of common airborne allergens include things like pollen, dust, and smoke.

Dogs suffering from allergies may also sneeze, have a runny nose, be itchy, and have watery eyes. Though this isn’t necessarily a life threatening condition for dogs, getting your dog treatment for their allergies by a vet is beneficial.

3. Your Dog Has an Upper Respiratory Infection

If a dog’s coughing is persistent, then there is also a chance that they have an upper respiratory infection. Kennel Cough and Canine Influenza are the most common diseases that cause coughing in dogs. Luckily, most dogs recover from these illnesses pretty easily.

It is important to mention that a persistent cough can also be a symptom of the serious illness Distemper. Since most dogs are fully vaccinated and protected against distemper, this life-threatening disease is luckily on the rarer side. Still, this could be a concern for young puppies that are not old enough to be fully vaccinated yet.

dog coughing in port townsend, WA

4. Your Dog Has Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is an injury that involves the trachea being partially or fully crushed. This is most common in small breed dogs and dogs that are overweight, especially if they frequently pull on their collars. The cough produced by dogs with tracheal collapse is often described as a honking cough, similar to the sound that a goose makes. Be sure to see a vet as soon as possible if you believe this may be the cause of your dog’s coughing.

5. Your Dog Has a Condition Affecting Their Lungs

Conditions in the lungs can also cause coughing in dogs. Of these conditions, chronic bronchitis is the most common in dogs. Chronic bronchitis occurs when the tissue around the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed on a regular basis. This causes irritation and coughing, and it may also make breathing difficult for the dog.

Some other conditions affecting the lungs can cause coughing as well, but they are fairly rare. One of these conditions is a lungworm infection. Lungworms are similar to the more well known heartworm, but they infect the lungs instead. This is a very rare parasitic infection in dogs. Lung cancer can also cause coughing, but it is also far less common than the other causes of coughing mentioned here.

6. Your Dog Has a Condition Affecting Their Heart

Some conditions affecting the heart can cause coughing in dogs as well. This is because some heart conditions lead to a build-up of fluid around a dog’s lungs. Mainly heart disease and heartworm infections are the main concerns when it comes to this. Taking your pet to the vet to have their heart checked is a good idea if you notice coughing more frequently.

7. Your Dog Swallowed Something They Shouldn’t Have

Of course, coughing could also be a sign that your dog swallowed something they shouldn’t have. When something is stuck in a dog’s throat, they will likely cough in an attempt to get it out. Your dog may also retch and breathe strangely. Foreign bodies like this are considered a medical emergency, and your dog should be taken to the vet or emergency vet right away if they have something stuck in their throat.

How do You Know if Your Dog’s Cough is Serious?

For the most part, a slight cough in dogs is no big deal, and it usually doesn’t require veterinary treatment. However, there are definitely some cases where a cough could be a sign of medical issues in dogs. Here are some signs that a dog’s cough is serious.

  • Your dog’s cough is persistent
  • Your dog’s coughing is getting worse
  • Your dog is having difficulty breathing (emergency)
  • Your dog is showing other signs of an illness or medical condition (May be urgent or an emergency depending on the seriousness of the condition.)
  • Your dog is showing signs of pain (urgent)
  • Your dog is coughing up blood (emergency)
  • Your dog’s cough sounds strange
  • Your dog is coughing in their sleep (a sign of a heart problem, urgent)

When to See an Emergency Vet

So, you have determined that your dog’s cough is serious, but is it serious enough to rush them to the emergency vet? Here are situations where coughing in dogs requires emergency veterinary care.

  • Your dog is struggling to breathe
  • Your dog’s mucus membranes are turning blue or pale
  • Your dog is showing signs of tracheal collapse
  • Your dog has something stuck in their throat or airway
  • Your dog is coughing up blood or blood-tinged liquid
  • Your dog is showing signs of heart failure
  • You believe that your dog may have a distemper infection
  • Your dog is showing signs of significant pain

These are not the only instances where a dog’s cough is serious. However, you can most likely just take your dog to your regular vet for treatment if none of the above applies to your situation. Treatment is still important and heavily recommended, but it is unlikely that your dog’s life is in immediate danger if they are not exhibiting any of the above.

If your dog is coughing near the Port Townsend, Washington region, Pet Townsend Veterinary Clinic is here for you. Our expert veterinarians are here to diagnose and treat whatever may be causing your dog’s cough. Give us a call today at (360) 379-1133, or Request an Appointment Online.

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