It is not uncommon to cough every now and then but if your dog appears to cough long and hard, there may be a medical or emergency issue involved. Be sure nothing is caught in the throat of your dog and get it to the vet to determine what is causing the chronic coughing.
It is not uncommon to hear your dog start coughing but if it becomes an excessive, hacking, chronic cough, it can be a problem. Common causes of a chronic cough in your dog may be due to obstruction in the windpipe, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung tumors, kennel cough and heart failure. Once you know the causes of coughing in your dog, you need to know how to help find a treatment plan.
Coughing is a common reflex that we all have, including our dogs, in order to clear anything foreign from the pharynx, larynx or trachea. With any type of obstruction, your dog cannot breathe properly. It is not uncommon for your dog to cough occasionally but if it persists for weeks, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately to get a diagnosis and definitive cause. Let your doctor know the type of cough you witness in your dog, which can help determine the root of the problem such as –
• A deep, dry hacking cough is characteristic of kennel cough, especially if it follows exercise or any type of excitement in your dog
• A moist type of cough can signify phlegm in the lungs and possible pneumonia
• A honking cough, especially in the toy breed of dog can signify a collapsed trachea
• A high gagging type cough can be characteristic of tonsillitis or other throat distress
• A strong prolonged cough, especially at night, can signify some type of heart disease such as a heart murmur
Your pet may have to go through a series of tests in order to determine the actual cause of your dog’s chronic cough so a treatment plan can be put into place. Some tests required may be to first have a thorough medical examination as your doctor documents the symptoms and types of coughing you witness. Other tests may include:
• Chests x-rays from several angles to evaluate the airways and lungs. Any fluid in or around the lungs can be identified through radiographs as well as any lung tumors or heart failure.
• Complete blood count, heartworm tests, and serum biochemistry test
• A diagnostic thoracentesis where fluid is taken from the heart cavity
• Fluoroscopy or tracheoscopy which is an image taken within the windpipe
Treatment for dogs with chronic coughs depends upon the test findings. For a dry hacking cough, try keeping your dog in the bathroom with you during a hot steamy bath or shower. Just as for humans, this can help as well as the use of a humidifier. If your dog’s cough has signs of labored breathing accompanied by discharge from the nose or eyes, it should be taken to the vet immediately to be sure it is not a case of pneumonia. Medication therapy may be necessary. It may be essential to remove irritants that can cause the chronic coughing in your dog as well; cigarette smoke, aerosol insecticides, strong cleaners, house dust and perfumes.
If the chronic cough is due to a foreign body, the veterinarian will try to get your dog to pass it one way or another. A Bronchoscopy is usually successful in locating any foreign object in the lungs or trachea and removing it. It is best to do so within a couple of weeks of the suspected obstruction.
If your dog’s chronic cough is due to a heart condition such as a heart murmur, that condition will need to be treated in order to help your dog. Your veterinarian will know best which treatment works for your dog dependent upon the test findings. Just know that minor coughing is normal but when your dog coughs consistently, don’t take the situation lightly. Find out the cause and get treatment immediately before the condition gets worse.