Have you ever noticed that your furry friend, who is usually quite healthy and active, might suddenly have an irritating and persistent cough? As a pet parent, this can be worrying, and understandably so. Especially since precious fur babies can't tell us what's wrong, it can be hard to know what the cause is and how to effectively treat them.
If your dog has a cough, there are a few different steps you should take to help diagnose the underlying reason for their distress and provide effective treatment. First, it's essential to know what causes your dog's cough, whether it is a sign of a severe illness such as a heart disease or just the usual kennel cough.
Here, we will explore some of the common causes of coughing in dogs and the treatments to alleviate these dog coughs.
Common Causes of Dog Coughs
There are a variety of reasons for a dog's cough, but usually, a coughing dog will fall into one of the following categories:
- Kennel Cough
- Heart disease
- Allergies and respiratory issues
- Foreign objects or toxins in the airways
- Stress or anxiety
- Congestive heart failure
- Tracheal collapse
- Chronic bronchitis
- Sore throat
- Reverse Sneeze
1. Kennel Cough
A highly contagious respiratory disease caused by bacteria or viruses, making it common in kennels, dog parks, dog shows, and boarding facilities. Kennel cough is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, and it is usually characterized by a dry, hacking cough that is quite loud and may or may not be accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge.
Kennel cough typically gets transmitted through air droplets, direct contact like touching noses, or contaminated surfaces such as water and food bowls. Although it is usually treatable in dogs, it can be more serious in young puppies under 6 months old and dogs with weakened immune systems.
2. Heart Disease
A dog's heart can be affected by a variety of conditions, including congenital heart defects like patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) or other valve diseases. Heart murmur or arrhythmia can also cause the dog to cough, and congestive heart failure often results in coughing due to fluid accumulation in the lungs.
Heartworm Disease is an especially dangerous heart condition that is caused by a parasitic worm. Dogs can get infected through mosquito bites, and if left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the dog's heart and lungs which may result in your dog coughing.
Internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and heartworms can cause coughing in dogs. These parasites can cause irritation and inflammation of the respiratory tract. An infected dog may exhibit coughing, difficulty breathing, and decreased appetite.
Dogs can contract parasites through contact with other animals, contaminated water or food sources, and soil. In some cases, parasites can even be transmitted from the mother to her puppies before birth.
It's important to make sure your pet receives regular deworming treatments from your veterinarian in order to prevent and control any infestations of parasites.
4. Allergies & Respiratory Issues
Allergies and respiratory issues are common culprits of coughing in dogs. Allergic reactions can be caused by pollen, smoke, dust mites, molds, or other environmental allergens. These allergens can cause irritation and inflammation of the airways which can lead to a dog coughing as their way of trying to clear their throat and lungs.
A dog's lungs can also become infected with a respiratory infection, such as canine influenza or Bordetella bronchiseptica. These infections can cause a dog to cough and have difficulty breathing. If your pet shows signs of coughing, it is important to have them examined by a veterinarian immediately so they can determine the underlying cause and provide an appropriate treatment plan.
5. Foreign Objects and Toxins
Sometimes, your pet may cough due to foreign objects or toxins that have been inhaled into their lungs. This could occur if a small object like a toy or bone gets stuck in their airways, which can cause coughing as the body tries to expel it from the lungs. Your dog can also be exposed to toxic fumes, such as smoke from wildfires or cigarette smoke, which can cause irritation and inflammation in the lungs resulting in coughing.
6. Stress or Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can also be a cause of coughing in dogs. Dogs may experience stress due to changes in their environment or routine, fear of loud noises like fireworks, or being around other dogs that make them nervous. This can lead to a dry, hacking cough as their body tries to relieve the stress.
7. Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen throughout the body. This can cause fluid buildup in the lungs, leading to coughing and difficulty breathing. It's important to take your dog to the vet if you notice any signs of congestive heart failure, such as coughing, lethargy, or difficulty breathing.
8. Tracheal Collapse
Tracheal collapse is a condition where the cartilage in the trachea (windpipe) becomes weakened and can't support the airways properly. This leads to coughing fits due to irritation of the throat and difficulty breathing. It is most common in smaller breeds like Yorkies, Chihuahuas, and Pomeranians.
9. Pneumonia or Chronic Bronchitis
Canine chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition caused by inflammation of the airways that can lead to coughing fits. This condition is caused by either allergies, parasites, or irritants such as cigarette smoke. Pneumonia is a serious infection in the lungs that can also cause coughing and difficulty breathing.
10. Sore Threat
Sometimes, a sore throat can cause coughing in dogs. This occurs when an infection or irritant causes inflammation of the throat and makes it difficult for your dog to swallow their food or drink. It can be caused by an infection such as canine influenza or a foreign object getting stuck in the throat.
11. Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing is a condition where your dog takes rapid, consecutive inhalations through the nose. It can sound like your pooch is honking or gasping for air and is usually caused by irritation of the throat or sinuses.
Dog Cough Treatment Options
The treatment for a dog's cough will depend on the underlying cause. If it is a simple occasional cough, you may be able to manage it with at-home remedies such as steam inhalation, humidifiers, and avoiding allergens.
Using a humidifier
A humidifier or steam can help loosen any mucus or irritation in your dog's respiratory system. This can help to reduce coughing and make it easier for your dog to breathe.
A warm, moist towel placed over your dog's muzzle and nose can also provide some relief from your dog's cough. Similar to an air humidifier, steam inhalation helps to thin out any phlegm and mucus in your dog's lungs.
Consider giving your pooch a little bit of honey. Honey has natural properties that can soothe your dog's throat and reduce its coughing.
Veterinary Treatment Options
If your dog has experienced a cough for more than two weeks, it's essential to seek veterinary care. Your dog's vet will diagnose the underlying cause and recommend the appropriate treatment, which may include:
- Antibiotics: If your dog has contracted an infection, a course of antibiotics may be necessary to clear up its cough.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: If your pet's coughing is the result of inflammation, anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce any irritation or swelling in its airways.
- Deworming: Deworming treatment may be necessary if parasites are causing your dog's cough.
- Bronchodilator: This medication will help open up the airways and make it easier for your dog to breathe.
- Steroids: These can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the throat that may be causing your dog to cough.
- Cough suppressants: Cough suppressants can help to reduce coughing and make it easier for your dog to rest and heal.
Steps to Help Dog’s Coughing Prevention
The best way to treat any illness is through prevention. Some steps you can take to help prevent your dog's coughing include:
- Keep up with your dog's vaccinations. Vaccinations can protect your dog against severe illnesses like kennel cough, canine influenza, and Bordetella bronchisepica.
- Maintain a clean living environment. Regularly bathe your pet to help remove any irritants from its fur, and vacuum or sweep frequently to remove dust and other allergens from the home.
- Avoid smoking around your dog. Second-hand smoke can cause inflammation in your dog's lungs and lead to coughing.
- Feed your pet a nutritious diet. A balanced diet will help keep your dog's immune system strong so it can fight off any illnesses that may cause coughing.
- Visit the vet regularly. Taking your dog for regular checkups is important to identify any potential health problems early on before they become serious.
As a pet parent, it's crucial to be observant of your furry friend's behavior, especially if your dog develops a persistent cough. If you notice that your dog is coughing, try to find the underlying cause and take appropriate steps to treat and prevent it. In cases where home remedies don't work, don't hesitate to seek immediate veterinary attention. By keeping up with your dog's health and providing appropriate treatments, you can help your furry friend live a long and healthy life.