Maria had always been attentive to her playful Pug, Biscuit, who brought joy to her life with his adorable antics. Recently, however, she noticed that Biscuit had developed a persistent cough that left him struggling for breath. Alarmed by this sudden change in her beloved pet’s health, Maria knew it was time to consult her trusted veterinarian.
Coughing in dogs is a natural reflex designed to clear the dog’s airway of irritants, mucus, or foreign objects. It is often the most common symptom of temporary or minor issues, such as dust inhalation or a mild respiratory infection. However, persistent coughing in dogs, particularly one sounding like a goose, could indicate a more severe health problem like heart disease, lung disease, tracheal collapse, kennel cough, or airway inflammation.
Coughing in dogs can be categorized based on various aspects, including the duration of the cough, the distinct sound, and the underlying cause. Dog owners must recognize these patterns as they could signify an irritation leading to a chronic cough, which is common, especially in older dogs.
Common Types of Coughing in Dogs
An acute cough in dogs is a sudden onset of coughing symptoms. Unlike chronic coughs that persist over a long period, acute coughs develop quickly. They are typically a response to a sudden irritation or infection in the dog’s respiratory tract. They may be dry or productive (with phlegm or mucus) depending on the underlying cause.
You should seek veterinary care immediately if your dog develops an acute cough. This is because an acute cough could indicate a severe condition that requires immediate treatment.
A chronic cough in dogs is a persistent cough that lasts for an extended period, typically more than a few weeks. Chronic coughing is often a symptom of an underlying condition that affects the respiratory system or the heart. Unlike acute coughing, which arises suddenly often due to a transient irritant or infection, chronic coughing is ongoing and may wax and wane in severity over time.
If your dog has a chronic cough, seeking veterinary care is crucial. Chronic coughing can be a symptom of many severe conditions and should not be ignored.
Dry or Non-Productive Cough
A dry or non-productive cough in dogs is characterized by a hacking or harsh cough that does not produce mucus or phlegm. This type of cough can indicate various health issues, ranging from mild to severe. It is often caused by irritation or inflammation in the dog’s respiratory tract, possibly due to infections, allergies, or foreign bodies.
Since a dry cough can be uncomfortable for the dog and may interfere with their daily activities, it is essential to consult a veterinarian to identify the underlying cause. The vet will perform a thorough examination and may recommend diagnostic tests to determine the root of the problem. Treatment options depend on the cause and may include medications, supportive care, or lifestyle adjustments to ensure your dog’s comfort and well-being.
Wet or Productive Cough
A wet or productive cough in dogs is characterized by mucus or phlegm when the dog coughs. This cough typically indicates some congestion or fluid buildup within the respiratory system.
A soft cough in dogs is a type of cough that is usually quieter and more gentle than a loud, harsh cough. Soft coughs can also occur in dogs with upper respiratory issues, such as mild tracheal irritation or laryngeal disorders.
When dogs exhibit a soft cough, monitoring their overall health and behavior is essential to determine if veterinary attention is needed. The veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination and may recommend further diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause.
Gagging or Retching
Gagging or retching in dogs refers to making choking or vomiting-like motions without expelling anything from the stomach. Instead, the dog’s throat movements characterize it and sound similar to coughing or attempting to bring up something from the throat or stomach. Gagging or retching can be distressing for dogs and may indicate discomfort or irritation in the throat or gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it is essential to monitor the dog’s behavior and seek veterinary attention if the gagging or retching persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms.
Understanding the type of cough your dog is experiencing can help your veterinarian identify the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment. If your dog is coughing persistently or experiencing difficulty breathing, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian promptly.
Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs
Kennel Cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory ailment frequently contracted in areas with large dog populations, like boarding kennels and dog parks. It’s a common infectious cause of coughing among dogs.
- Canine Influenza, or dog flu, caused by specific strains of the influenza virus, can lead to coughing, similar to human flu.
- Heartworm Disease is a potentially lethal disease caused by heartworms that inhabit the heart and pulmonary arteries, often resulting in a persistent cough. Heartworm disease is one of the types of heart disease that dogs can get.
- Chronic bronchitis, causing a dry, harsh cough, is typically due to inflammation in the bronchi.
- Tracheal Collapse, a prevalent cause of coughing, especially in small dog breeds, occurs when the trachea, or windpipe, collapses. It leads to coughing, particularly during periods of exercise or excitement.
Less Common Causes of Coughing
- Pneumonia, be it bacterial pneumonia or resulting from viral or fungal infections, is not as expected. However, it can lead to a wet cough and other symptoms like fever and lethargy in dogs.
- Both benign and malignant Lung Tumors can incite coughing, although this is a less frequent cause.
- Aspiration Pneumonia happens when a dog inhales foreign material, leading to inflammation and subsequent bacterial infection in the lungs, often causing the dog to cough.
- Lungworm is a parasitic infection caused by specific worms affecting the lungs, leading to coughing and other respiratory symptoms.
- Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease where lung tissues become scarred and stiff, could make breathing harder for a dog, potentially leading to coughing. However, it’s less common and typically observed in certain breeds like the West Highland White Terrier.
- Vomiting or issues related to what the dog is eating can also lead to coughing. A cough can be a symptom of many causes and underlying conditions. For this reason, a veterinarian must diagnose why a dog is coughing due to the many causes of coughing to ensure the disease in dogs is accurately treated.
Symptoms of Dog Cough
Typical symptoms accompanying a dog’s cough can incorporate:
- Persistent Coughing: A continual, repeated, or sporadic cough is the primary symptom of a dog’s cough. This could be a dry hacking cough or productive coughs that generate phlegm or mucus.
- Distinctive Sound: The coughing could be accompanied by a unique hacking or honking sound, resembling a goose’s honk, particularly in ailments like kennel cough, contingent on the underlying cause.
- Gagging or Retching: Dogs suffering from coughs might display gagging or retching motions as they attempt to clear their throat or airways, which could indicate a sore throat.
- Breathing Difficulty: In severe instances or when respiratory distress accompanies the cough, the dog might experience difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or shallow breaths.
- Lethargy: Dogs with an enduring cough might exhibit lethargy, diminished activity levels, or an unwillingness to exercise.
- Decreased Appetite: Some dogs might lose their appetite or display reduced interest in food due to the discomfort associated with coughing.
- Nasal Discharge: Depending on the underlying cause, dogs with a cough might have a runny nose or nasal discharge.
- Fever: In some instances, a fever might accompany a cough, mainly if an infection is the cause.
Please note that these symptoms can vary depending on the cough’s cause, and additional signs might be present, contingent on the specific condition. Hence, if your dog can’t stop coughing or is demonstrating concerning symptoms, it’s recommended to take it to the vet for a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment. For instance, a veterinarian should immediately address any symptom related to the heart muscle.
Diagnosis of Cough in Dogs
When a dog exhibiting a persistent cough is brought to the veterinary clinic, the vet starts the process with a comprehensive understanding of the dog’s health history, recent activities, and any probable contact with infectious agents. They also seek details about the cough’s inception, duration, traits, and related symptoms.
Subsequently, the veterinarian performs a physical examination, which involves listening to your dog’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope, checking for anomalies in the dog’s throat or mouth, and feeling the trachea and lymph nodes. This examination assists the vet in evaluating the dog’s overall health and pinpointing any indications of infection, inflammation, or other problems contributing to the cough.
Dependent on the findings from the medical history and physical examination, the vet may recommend additional diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause of the cough. These tests might include the following:
- Chest X-rays: These are employed to inspect the lungs, heart, and surrounding structures for abnormalities such as pneumonia, heart enlargement, or tumors.
- Blood tests: These are utilized to screen for signs of infection, inflammation, or other systemic issues triggering the cough.
- Tracheal wash or bronchoalveolar lavage: This procedure is used to gather samples of respiratory secretions for further examination, such as identifying bacteria, fungi, or parasites that may be causing an infection.
- Heartworm test: This is executed to rule out heartworm disease as a potential cause of the cough.
- Laryngoscopy or bronchoscopy: These procedures visualize the airways and identify structural abnormalities or foreign bodies.
Once the veterinarian has compiled all the necessary information, they will establish a diagnosis and propose an appropriate treatment regimen. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the cough and may involve medications, lifestyle changes, or more invasive interventions, such as surgery, in some cases. This is particularly relevant for obese dogs more susceptible to cough-related ailments.
While a cough is the most common symptom that leads to a vet visit, as the American Kennel Club notes, it’s important to remember that some dogs can’t stop coughing even if they are not seriously infected. Again, this underscores the importance of timely medical intervention.
Treatment for Coughing in Dogs
The approach to managing a dog’s cough hinges on the root cause, the seriousness of the condition, and the dog’s overall health status. The plethora of causes and treatment options include:
Antibiotics are utilized to manage bacterial infections that could trigger or exacerbate coughing in dogs. However, it’s critical to realize that antibiotics only target bacterial infections and won’t relieve coughs instigated by viruses, allergies, or other non-bacterial factors. Below are some frequently employed antibiotics:
- Doxycycline: This broad-spectrum antibiotic is frequently used to manage respiratory infections in dogs, including those leading to coughing. It effectively counters numerous bacteria and can also treat other conditions, such as diseases borne by ticks.
- Amoxicillin/Clavulanic Acid (Clavamox): This combination is another broad-spectrum antibiotic that can manage various bacterial infections, including those in the respiratory system. Adding clavulanic acid helps prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to amoxicillin.
- Enrofloxacin (Baytril): This fluoroquinolone antibiotic is usually employed to handle severe bacterial infections, including those affecting the respiratory system. It should be cautiously administered in growing dogs as it can influence cartilage growth.
- Azithromycin: This antibiotic is often employed in managing chronic respiratory infections, including those brought about by Mycoplasma, a type of bacteria that can be challenging to eliminate.
It’s essential to remember that adhering to the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed by your vet is vital, even if your dog shows improvement before the medication is finished. Non-adherence can lead to antibiotic resistance, complicating the treatment of future infections. Therefore, always consult your veterinarian for the best course of action if your dog is coughing. This holds especially true if multiple dogs are affected, as certain diseases in dogs can quickly spread in a multi-pet household. Remember, sometimes dogs need more than just home care; a proper veterinary treatment can be the difference between a quick recovery and prolonged illness.
Cough suppressants, or antitussives, can help control or alleviate coughing in dogs. These medications work by suppressing the cough reflex, thereby providing relief, particularly in cases where the cough is non-productive and causes discomfort.
- Butorphanol: This is a powerful opiate cough suppressant used in veterinary medicine. It’s often used for severe, chronic coughs, such as those associated with lung cancer or tracheal collapse.
- Hydrocodone: This is another opiate medication that can effectively suppress coughing in dogs. It is commonly used in chronic conditions, such as bronchitis, and is usually well-tolerated.
- Dextromethorphan: This over-the-counter medication can help control non-productive coughing. It’s less powerful than opiates but can still provide relief in many cases. However, a safe formulation for dogs is essential, as some human cough medicines contain toxic ingredients, like xylitol and certain decongestants.
- Codeine: Codeine is sometimes used as a cough suppressant in dogs. However, it’s not used as frequently as other medications due to potential side effects.
It’s crucial to remember that cough suppressants should be used under the guidance of a veterinarian. They are often used as part of a broader treatment plan, and it’s essential to identify and address the underlying cause of the cough rather than just suppressing it. Also, suppressants should not be used in cases where a productive cough is helping to clear the airways of mucus or other material. Always consult with your vet before administering any new medication to your dog.
Anti-inflammatory medications can be instrumental in treating coughing in dogs, mainly when the coughing is due to inflammation in the airways. These drugs reduce inflammation, alleviating the irritation that triggers the cough. Here are some commonly used anti-inflammatory medications:
- Steroids: Prednisone or dexamethasone are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs often used in veterinary medicine. They can effectively reduce inflammation within the airways, helping alleviate coughing. However, long-term use can lead to side effects, so they are typically used for short-term relief or chronic conditions under careful veterinary supervision.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, like carprofen or meloxicam, can also help reduce inflammation. These drugs are usually used for general pain relief but can also help in cases of respiratory inflammation. However, they should be used cautiously, particularly in dogs with kidney or liver issues.
- Inhaled Corticosteroids: Inhaled corticosteroids, such as fluticasone, are a localized steroid treatment that can reduce inflammation directly within the airways. This method of administration often results in fewer systemic side effects than oral steroids.
- Antihistamines: If an allergic reaction causes coughing, antihistamines can reduce the inflammatory response. Drugs like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help to alleviate coughing due to allergies.
As always, any medication should only be given under the guidance of a veterinarian. It’s essential to identify the cause of the cough to ensure the correct treatment is provided. Additionally, all these medications can have side effects, and the dog should be monitored closely while on any new medication.
Bronchodilators are a medication used to manage coughing in dogs, especially when the cough results from a condition that causes narrowing or constriction of the airways, such as bronchitis or tracheal collapse. These medications work by relaxing and widening the air passages in the lungs, making breathing easier for the dog and reducing the coughing reflex.
There are a few different types of bronchodilators:
- Beta-2 Agonists: Drugs like terbutaline and albuterol are beta-2 agonists. They work by stimulating receptors in the smooth muscle of the airways, causing them to relax and open up.
- Methylxanthines: These include drugs like theophylline and aminophylline. They work by relaxing the muscles around the airways in the lungs, allowing them to remain open.
- Anticholinergics: Drugs like ipratropium bromide work by blocking certain nerve impulses, leading to relaxation and widening of the airways.
It’s essential to note that these medications should only be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian, as they can have side effects and may not be suitable for all dogs. Furthermore, while bronchodilators can help manage coughing, they do not treat the underlying cause, so it’s crucial to work with your vet to determine and address the root cause of the coughing.
Antiviral medications can effectively treat coughing in dogs when the cause is a viral infection, such as canine influenza or canine distemper. These medications work by inhibiting the virus’s ability to replicate, which can reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.
The most commonly used antiviral drugs in dogs are:
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu): This medication is primarily used to treat influenza viruses in humans, but it has been used off-label in dogs to treat canine influenza. It works by inhibiting the enzyme viruses use to spread from infected to healthy cells.
- Acyclovir: Typically used to treat herpesvirus infections in humans, acyclovir has been used in dogs to treat canine herpesvirus, though its efficacy is not well-established.
- Ribavirin: This is an antiviral drug used to treat various viral infections. However, it should be used cautiously in dogs due to potential side effects.
It’s important to note that antiviral medications do not cure the infection; they merely help manage the symptoms. Furthermore, they should only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian, as improper use can lead to resistance. In addition, these medications can have side effects, so it’s crucial for dogs receiving these treatments to be closely monitored. Lastly, antiviral medications are most effective when started early in the illness.
Fluid Therapy and Oxygen Supplementation
- Fluid Therapy: Dehydration can exacerbate coughing in dogs, particularly if the cough is associated with a fever or other symptoms that might cause fluid loss. Fluid therapy involves the administration of fluids, either orally or intravenously, to keep the dog hydrated and support overall health. Intravenous (IV) fluid therapy is usually administered in a veterinary hospital and can deliver medications and electrolytes.
- Oxygen Supplementation: Oxygen supplementation can be a critical part of treatment for dogs coughing due to a respiratory condition such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, or heart disease. If a dog’s oxygen levels are low, supplemental oxygen can help ensure the body’s tissues receive enough oxygen. This treatment usually requires hospitalization, and oxygen may be delivered through a mask, a nasal cannula, or an oxygen cage. Oxygen therapy can ease breathing, reduce coughing, and improve the dog’s comfort and condition.
Surgery for treating coughing in dogs is usually reserved for cases where a physical obstruction or anomaly is causing the cough. This could include foreign bodies lodged in the throat or airway, tumors, or structural abnormalities like a collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis. In some cases, surgical intervention might be needed to address the underlying cardiac issue if the cough is a symptom of a severe heart condition. The type and complexity of the surgery will depend on the specific cause and location of the problem. It’s important to discuss all options, risks, and benefits with your veterinarian or a veterinary surgeon to make the best decision for your dog’s health and quality of life.
Prevention for Dry Cough in Dogs
The cornerstone of deterring dry cough in dogs involves maintaining robust health and minimizing contact with potential irritants and infection carriers. Here are some strategies to avert dry cough in your pet:
- Routine veterinary examinations: Organize consistent vet check-ups for your dog to promptly identify and tackle potential health problems, including those that may result in coughing.
- Avoid sick dogs: Keep your dog away from other dogs showing signs of respiratory illness, as they can rapidly spread infections that induce coughing.
- Maintain hygiene: Clean your dog’s living area, such as their bedding, toys, and food/water dishes, to minimize contact with irritants and harmful microorganisms.
- Use of humidifiers: Dry indoor atmosphere can intensify a dry cough. A humidifier can aid in maintaining ideal humidity levels and prevent irritation and chronic cough in your dog.
- Steer clear of irritants: Shield your dog from cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, and other airborne irritants that could incite coughing.
- Manage allergies: If your dog suffers from allergies, coordinate with your vet to design an appropriate management plan, including medications, dietary modifications, and environmental alterations.
- Maintain a balanced weight: Obesity can exert pressure on your dog’s respiratory system, making them more prone to coughing. Ensure your dog maintains a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Parasite prevention: Administer consistent heartworm preventative medication to guard your dog against heartworm disease, a potential cause of coughing.
- Mitigate stress: Stressful circumstances can debilitate your dog’s immune system, making them more vulnerable to sickness. Lessen stress by ensuring a comfortable, safe environment and a steady routine.
- Vaccinations: Your dog’s vaccination protocol will rely on their lifestyle, health condition, and the local prevalence of diseases. Always collaborate with your vet to get the optimal vaccination schedule for your pet.
In places where dogs congregate, like dog parks or kennels, ensure that your pet is adequately vaccinated to prevent the case of kennel cough. Remember, prevention always trumps treatment for keeping your dog from getting sick. However, if your dog starts coughing despite your preventive efforts, promptly take your dog to the vet for further evaluation and an appropriate course of treatment. It’s vital to heed these steps to keep your dog healthy and diminish the probability of a dry cough developing.
Vaccination for Coughing in Dogs
Vaccination is critical in preventing certain types of infectious coughs in dogs, particularly those caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), canine parainfluenza virus, and canine influenza.
- Bordetella Vaccination: Bordetella bronchiseptica is a common cause of respiratory disease (kennel cough) in dogs, which is highly contagious and causes a harsh, dry cough. The Bordetella vaccine helps to prevent this condition. This vaccine comes in two forms: an injectable form and a nasal spray form. Typically, vets recommend this vaccine for dogs that frequently visit boarding facilities, dog parks, grooming salons, or any place exposed to many other dogs.
- Canine Parainfluenza Vaccination: Canine parainfluenza virus is another common cause of kennel cough. This virus is included in the DA2PP (distemper) vaccine, considered a core vaccine that all dogs should receive. It’s typically given in a series to puppies and then to adult dogs every 1-3 years.
- Canine Influenza Vaccination: Canine influenza (dog flu) can cause coughing in dogs, along with other respiratory symptoms. There are two strains of dog flu (H3N8 and H3N2), and vaccines are available for both. These vaccines are generally given to dogs at high risk of exposure to the virus, such as those that are boarded, attend daycare, or are shown in dog shows.
Frequently Asked Questions
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