In terms of human illnesses, the common cough is one that we have more or less learnt to live with, and many of us will develop a cough over the winter or at odd occasions over the course of our lives, which will usually go away on its own or with an over-the-counter cough medicine. In terms of veterinary conditions and illnesses in the general scheme of things, coughing in dogs is also often relatively minor, and a cough on its own is not necessarily the symptom of a more serious illness or underlying health condition. That being said, just as a cough in humans may be symptomatic of a more serious or additional underlying condition, so can coughing in dogs indicate that something is amiss or that requires further investigation.
Does your dog have a cough? Do you know how to differentiate between a simple cough that will run its course naturally, and something that may require veterinary treatment? Read on to find out ten potential reasons for coughing in dogs, plus what to do about them.
If your dog simply has a case of the sniffles or has a light seasonal cough for a few days, this is generally not cause for concern. Monitor your dog carefully for any additional symptoms, difficulty breathing, or worsening of the condition, and take your dog along to the vet if a cough persists for more than five days without improvement.
Kennel cough is more serious than a simple seasonal cough, and is also highly contagious between dogs. It is often prolific in areas where dogs are kept in close quarters, such as in boarding kennels and pet shelters. Kennel cough sounds much more raspy and severe than a normal cough, and may be painful for your dog. I can also lead to additional further complications; fortunately, kennel cough can be vaccinated against. More information on kennel cough and how to handle it can be found in this article.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can be passed on through bodily secretions. Fortunately, like kennel cough, this condition is vaccinated against as standard within the UK, so ensure that your dog has received their immunisations, and that their booster shots are kept up to date.
If your dog inhales a foreign body or ingests something that goes down the wrong way, this can cause a partial obstruction of the airways or even enter the lungs. This can lead to a persistent or ongoing cough that develops acutely (suddenly) as your dog’s cough reflex attempts to expel the object. If you suspect that your dog has something lodged in their throat or lungs, be it a small toy, a food particle or even a seed or piece of grass, take them along to the vet for examination and removal.
Parasites such as lungworm, heartworm and roundworm can all cause your dog to cough. If your dog has not been wormed regularly, or if you notice worms in their stools or vomit, your dog will likely need an intensive anti-worming treatment to clear out a high parasite count. Be on the alert for a productive cough, coughing that leads to vomiting, or the visual sighting of worms.
Canine influenza is the dog variety of flu, which left untreated, can lead to a lower respiratory tract infection and pneumonia. If your dog’s cough is accompanied with other flu-like symptoms and general lethargy and unhappiness, take your dog along to the vet immediately.
An excess of mucous in the airways leads to bronchitis in dogs; in people, bronchitis is often associated with smoking, and don’t forget that if you smoke around your dog, their lungs will be affected in the same way! Chronic bronchitis in dogs usually presents as a productive cough that is often painful. Again, take your dog to the vet if you suspect they may have contracted bronchitis; and don’t smoke around your pets!
Heart disease and congestive heart failure are understandably serious and worrying conditions for the dog owner, which can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, particularly when your dog is lying down. This leads to coughing to clear the build up of fluid. If your dog has a persistent unexplained cough that may appear worse at night, it would be wise to have them checked out by your vet in order to identify or rule out anything more serious.
While coughing is one of the obvious symptoms of lung cancer in dogs, thankfully this serious and invasive condition is relatively rare in our canine companions. Even so, if your dog has a persistent and unexplained cough, it is important that your vet investigates this to rule out the presence of lung cancer or any other potentially serious underlying condition.
Fungal infections in dogs are relatively uncommon, but may nevertheless be acquired from a variety of sources such as stagnant water, ponds, and bird droppings. Weight loss, fever and difficulty breathing often go hand in hand with coughing caused by fungal infections, all of which can be potentially serious. Take your dog along to the vet for diagnosis and anti-fungal medication if you have any concerns.
As well as the various conditions described here, there are many other potential reasons for why your dog might develop a cough. If you are in any doubt at all, you should get your dog checked out by your vet as soon as possible. If your dog is having any difficulty breathing or has a sudden onset of wheezing or noisy breathing, this should be considered as an emergency, and you should call your vet right away. Dogs can potentially suffer from a wide range of conditions of which coughing is a symptom, including conditions such as asthma, and with all of them, early diagnosis and treatment are vital to successful treatment and management of the condition.