Coughs, colds and the sniffles are all minor ills that we all tend to get from time to time, which almost always go away on their own in short order without causing any major problems. Whilst a cough can be irritating or even painful in some cases if it is dry and acute, coughs in general aren’t usually something we think of as being an indicator of a serious health issue.
Dogs also develop the odd cough from time to time, much as they may pick up a case of the sniffles in the winter – although when it comes to dogs and coughs, it is wise to be a little more watchful of how things progress, due to the potential risk of kennel cough, a highly contagious and potentially dangerous canine health condition.
However, a cough doesn’t always indicate a contagious condition or that your dog has picked up a bug, and there are actually quite a number of canine health conditions that can cause a cough as a side effect, some of which are by no means evident to us as dog owners!
Whilst for the vast majority of cases of coughs in dogs, the problem is a simple, transient infection or irritation, some dog coughs can indicate a different type of problem – and these are what we will be looking at within this article.
Read on to find out about five unexpected health conditions that could be behind your dog’s cough.
Tracheal collapse is a condition that can develop due to conformation defects that are often more common in small and toy dog breeds like the pug, particularly those that are carrying too much excess weight.
This condition develops when the rings of cartilage that support the trachea or windpipe and keep it open to allow airflow become weaker and collapse inwards, causing problems for the dog when it comes to breathing normally, particularly when exercising hard or panting.
Tracheal collapse tends to develop most commonly in older dogs, but can occur at any age, so talk to your vet if you have any concerns.
Heart problems might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about your dog having a cough, but congestive heart failure can result in your dog having a persistent soft cough for no apparent reason, and which doesn’t go away on its own.
Congestive heart failure can cause fluid to accumulate in your dog’s lungs, which results in the chronic cough you will witness as your dog struggles to clear this excess fluid.
Not many dog owners realise that a cough can be a symptom of congestive heart failure, but pay attention to it if you can’t assign your dog’s cough to another root cause, as the earlier your vet investigates and begins treatment, the better your dog’s quality of life will be, and the longer they are apt to live.
We mainly think of worms in dogs as being intestinal, like tapeworms, but there are also a number of other parasitic worms that can infest dogs that affect other areas of the body too – like heartworm and lungworm. Neither heartworm nor lungworm are hugely common within dogs in the UK, but as their names suggest, they affect the heart and lungs respectively, as well as potentially other areas of the body – and either type of infestation can result in coughing.
Again, talk to your vet to find out what is going on and begin treatment before serious damage is caused.
Gastric reflux is a chronic condition that can affect both dogs and people, and it results in acid from the stomach flowing upwards to the oesophagus, where it causes a burning sensation or the feeling or something unwieldy being lodged in the throat.
This often results in coughing in an attempt to dislodge what feels like an obstruction and to relieve the discomfort that comes with it, and may be worse at times when your dog is hungry, or if you feed them with long intervals between meals.
Ask your vet to check your dog out and to suggest approaches to prevent the issue or neutralise the acid.
Finally, foreign bodies of all varieties from small things like grass seeds to larger things like pieces of chewed-up toys can potentially lodge in your dog’s throat and cause a constant irritation, which will result in them coughing and showing other signs of distress as they attempt to clear the blockage.
If your dog’s cough comes on very suddenly and particularly if they show other signs of distress like pawing at their mouth and throat, a blockage or foreign body may be the cause, so contact your vet right away to get it sorted out.