Why Do Dogs Cough?

As a concerned pet parent, you are probably asking, “why do dogs cough?” It’s not easy to watch your adorable dog cough and suffer. There are a variety of reasons dogs cough and they range from mild to severe. 

The good news is it’s normal for dogs to cough sometimes because it’s a part of everyday life. Dogs use their nose to sniff about 4 to 6 in one second so you can imagine there might be some coughing going on if they inhale particles. 

When a dog sniffs around their environment to explore their surroundings they naturally inhale and slurp dust particles and bacteria from food bowls, toys, furniture, floors, fabrics, and more. 

Coughing is expected when you think of the daily life of a dog. However, there are times when coughing is a sign of a serious health issue that needs to be taken care of immediately. Usually, a veterinarian needs to be involved if a dog’s cough is serious. 

The following information will give you insight into the different types of coughs and what you can do to help your dog.

Why Do Dogs Cough

Types of Dog Coughs

  • Kennel cough – This cough is very common and often originates from being around other dogs at a shelter, obedience class, or dog park. It’s a highly contagious cough that is usually resolved on its own within about one week. You must visit the veterinarian if you suspect your dog has a Kennel cough. Sometimes a prescription of antibiotics is needed. 
  • Distemper – Your dog can catch this virus simply by breathing infected air. This usually happens when your dog is around another dog that has Distemper. Coughing is a symptom of distemper and should be taken seriously. There is a vaccine available to prevent Distemper. You need to consult with a veterinarian for further assistance regarding this virus. Lab chewing sock
  • Fungal Infections – Coughing is a symptom of fungal infections that are picked up through the air and dirt. It’s important to consult with a veterinarian so they can conduct an exam and determine treatment. 
  • Heartworms – Pesky mosquitos are known for spreading heartworms to dogs. Coughing is a sign your dog might have heartworms. This serious health issue needs to be treated by a professional immediately. Medication and injections are a popular choices to prevent your dog from getting heartworms. 
  • Heart Disease – A dog can develop heart disease at any time during their life. This disease causes valves to leak causing the heart muscle to thicken and weaken. Coughing is a sign of heart disease because it puts pressure on the airways and lungs. Veterinarians often prescribe medication, a special diet, and exercise to relieve the symptoms. 
  • Lung Problems – Pneumonia and bronchitis can be caused by your dog inhaling food, grass seeds, and dirt into their airways and causing an infection. Sometimes the issue can be as serious as lung cancer.
  • Congestive Heart Failure – Coughing is a major symptom of Congestive heart failure because the lungs fill up with fluid which causes coughing. 

When to Be Worried About Your Dog’s Cough

As a concerned pet parent who has a dog that coughs, you need to look out for the following symptoms and contact a veterinarian immediately. 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • The cough lasts more than a week
  • The cough becomes progressively worse
  • Your dog has underlying health problems

Once you get to the veterinarian you need to be prepared to answer the following questions to help determine the cause. 

  • Does your dog have difficulty breathing? 
  • What time of the day or night does your dog cough? 
  • What animal does the cough sound like? (Example: duck, seal, or goose) 
  • Does the cough sound moist or dry? 
  • Does your dog seem like they will vomit from coughing so hard? 
  • Has your dog been around other dogs in a park, shelter, or kennel? 
  • Are there changes to the daily routine? 
  • Is your dog current with their vaccination and heartworm prevention treatment? 
  • Is your dog currently taking any medication? 
  • Does your dog suffer from allergies

How to Prevent Your Dog from Coughing

Remove the Trigger from the Environment

Dogs that cough on occasion due to their surroundings most likely don’t have a serious health issue. Chances are your dog is just reacting to dust or particles in the air. Sometimes coughing can be caused by inhaling a strong-smelling substance such as food or a scented candle. The best way to stop your dog from coughing is to remove the trigger from their environment if possible. 

Visit the Veterinarian

Dogs that have a chronic cough need to be examined by a veterinarian. The exam will determine if there’s a health issue such as Heartworms, Heart Disease, or Distemper causing the cough. The veterinarian will provide a treatment plan to help lessen or stop the coughing. 

Skip the Dog Park

It’s fun for dogs to socialize and play with other dogs at the dog park but it also means they are being exposed to germs, bacteria, and viruses. walking dog in woodsIf the dog park you visit doesn’t have vaccine guidelines, you need to skip going to the dog park until you find a mandatory vaccine dog park. This will help lower the exposure and risk of your dog developing illnesses that cause your pet to cough.

Hire a Dog Sitter

Do you usually leave your dog at a kennel when you travel out of town? If so, you are exposing your dog to a multitude of other dogs that could carry viruses such as Kennel cough. You can protect your dog by allowing them to remain home and be cared for by a dog sitter. 

Stay Up-To-Date with Heartworm Medication and Vaccinations

Protect your dog from getting heartworms by being consistent with heartworm treatment. Most treatment involves medication or an injection that lasts up to about 6 months. Other vaccinations for distemper and other viruses are recommended. Speak to the veterinarian to determine the right vaccinations for your dog.

Bottom Line

The specific reason your dog is coughing can be linked to any of the causes mentioned earlier. It’s best to take a moment and write down the answers to the questions located above to help pinpoint the possible cause. 

Do your best to pinpoint when the coughing started, how many times a day your dog coughs, and what triggers can be causing the coughing. Also, consider allergies as the culprit that is making your dog cough. 

For example, if your dog loves to play outdoors and sneezes often, it’s a possibility the coughing is due to allergies. Pollen is the main allergen in the air that causes allergies in dogs and humans alike. 

Did you know pollen also lands on surfaces such as the grass, sidewalks, driveways, cars, and more? This means your dog could be stepping on the pollen and tracking it through the house including the furniture and their bedding. Speak with a veterinarian about your dog’s allergies to help limit the coughing. 

When your beloved pup is coughing it’s best to stay calm and assess the situation. Your goal is to comfort your dog while they are coughing, remove any triggers that could be causing the cough and contact a veterinarian for assistance. Visit the DogStruggles homepage for more expert advice & information. 

Razvan is a dog trainer and veterinary technician with over 10 years of experience working with dog daycares, animal shelters, vet clinics and private dog training. Razvan is one of the lead publishers on Dog Struggles covering the latest product reviews and dog health advice.

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