ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
Pet Health Articles
By Stephanie Stephens for The Dog Daily
Your dog makes all sorts of noises, and a lot of them
probably sound like human coughs. In fact, a
flu-afflicted person is often described as having a
"barking" cough. But dogs can actually cough too, often
sounding like you do when you're congested and have
a cold, or as though they are sneezing in reverse, since
they may try to draw in a lot of air instead of forcing it
out in a loud "Ah choo!" There are many possible
causes for doggy coughing, according to Lynelle
Johnson, DVM. She is an associate professor at the
University of California at Davis, School of Veterinary
Medicine. Here is her canine coughing compendium,
which includes some of the primary causes for dog
coughs, along with associated conditions.
Kennel cough This illness often results from a combination of viral and bacterial
intruders in canine airways. If your dog has a dry, hacking cough, sometimes
accompanied by a white, foam-like saliva, it could have kennel cough. The most common
airborne bacteria linked to kennel cough tend to spread in close quarters, such as dog
kennels, boarding facilities, dog parks or other similar areas. This condition generally
lasts one to two weeks and is treated with antibiotics and other prescription
medications. Confine your dog until it's recovered to avoid infecting other animals. And if
you must go out during your dog's recovery period, try using a harness instead of a
collar and leash to discourage coughing reflexes.
Chronic bronchitis This illness is characterized by excessive mucus in the airways that
is triggered by inflammation. Smoking can cause canine bronchitis, so if you smoke,
never do so near your dog. Pollution, dust and grains in the environment can also lead
to inflammation. Ask your vet about corticosteroids to treat symptoms.
Tracheal collapse This tends to occur in miniature and toy-size dogs that have a flat
trachea, instead of a round or "C-shaped," one. "When pressure changes within the
airway during respiration, it collapses. Sometimes dogs can get infections or bronchitis
in addition to airway collapse," Dr. Johnson says. Treatment may include medication,
surgery, or a combination of both.
Heart disease Congestive heart failure can cause dogs to accumulate fluid in the lungs,
which could lead to coughing, especially at night. Heart enlargement may also cause
coughing. Dobermans, Boxers, Cocker Spaniels, and small dogs seem to be more
vulnerable to heart disease and related coughing.
Fungal infections Fungal infections can cause coughing, breathing difficulty, weight loss
and fever. Your dog may require antifungul medications for extended periods, according
to Dr. Johnson. Keep canines away from bird coops and droppings, as these can be
fungal breeding grounds.
Parasites Parasites, such as heartworm and roundworms, may also cause your dog to
cough. These may be treated with dewormers, preventative pills and topical
medications that your vet can provide.
Foreign bodies Dogs can ingest a variety of substances and objects, like sticks or
foxtails, which can lead to bouts of coughing. These plants may lodge in the gums or
rear of your dog's throat. If that happens, usually a vet's help is needed to remove
Lung cancer Coughing can be a symptom of this type of cancer, but it is rare in dogs.
Nevertheless, it is good to have your veterinarian rule it out as a possibility. Canine lung
cancer frequently will metastasize, or spread, from a tumor elsewhere in the body. If
your vet suspects that your dog may have this disease, you could be referred to an
oncologist, who can provide more specialized treatment.
Pneumonia This serious illness is marked by "soft" coughing, heavy breathing and
mucus. Pneumonia requires immediate attention, including antibiotics and fluids.
Influenza A virus causes the flu, which is a relatively new disease in dogs. It is a very
contagious respiratory infection that in its mild form includes coughing. In severe form,
signs of pneumonia are present.
Distemper Again, coughing may be a sign of this devastating, highly contagious viral
disease that is transmitted from an infected dog's respiratory secretions, urine or feces.
It is easily prevented by vaccination.
Don't rely on guesswork. If your dog's bark sounds more cough than "ruff," seek an
expert's opinion. Your vet can probably help to clear the cough so that soon both you
and your dog may breathe a sigh of relief.