Coughing can signify a number of potential problems or to simply just clear the throat. This is true of both humans and animals. However, in the animal world coughing can sometimes signify a serious problem, such as pneumonia or lung cancer.
In dogs, a cough can be the result of a number of different problems. The type of cough, wet or dry, the breed of the dog, and the circumstances surrounding the cough are all clues to the possible condition that is causing the cough.
Different Coughs and Causes
If a dog has a deep, dry, and hacking cough this is usually a sign that the dog has kennel cough. This type of a cough usually gets worse as the dog exerts itself. Usually, dogs that have been boarded in a kennel or in a place where there are many dogs are at risk of contracting kennel cough. This is a highly contagious infection that can be either viral or bacterial in nature.
Another type of a cough that may plague a dog is a sort of high-pitched gagging cough. Often this will be accompanied by constant swallowing and lip licking. This type of a cough usually indicates that the dog has a sore throat. It can also mean that the dog has tonsillitis or that there is something stuck in its throat.
If the dog has a wet cough, compared to the sound of gargling, it may be an indication that fluid or phlegm has built up in the lungs. This often occurs if the animal has pneumonia, which can be caused by a number of infections including parasites. Older dogs tend to have a higher risk of pneumonia as well as dogs that have a weakened immune system. Pneumonia can also occur if the dog inhales a foreign body or if the animal throws up and accidentally inhales the vomit.
Another type of a cough resembles the deep honk of a goose. This can often be heard in smaller dogs that pull on the leash when walking. This is a condition known as a collapsed trachea. This can become quite serious if there is a total collapse of the trachea. It is a good idea to properly train all dogs how to walk properly on the leash to prevent this condition which could be life-threatening.
A final type of a cough usually occurs when the animal is laying down and relaxed. This is most likely to occur in dogs that are prone to heart disease such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is usually an indication that the heart is failing and the condition is progressing.
What Can We Do?
Anytime a dog coughs it is an indication of a serious problem. If the coughing spells are frequent or violent the animal needs to see a veterinarian right away. Most problems that result in coughing can be treated and managed successfully if caught early enough.
Dogs that have kennel cough will be prescribed antibiotics and placed in quarantine either at the vet clinic or at home. This type of infection is serious and very contagious. The dog will also have to take it easy until the condition has cleared up which usually takes a couple of weeks. Sometimes it is necessary to crate the dog to prevent them from exerting themselves while they recuperate.
For dogs that have the high-pitched squeaky cough, you should check the throat for a foreign object. Often a dog will accidentally swallow a seed during the summer and these can stick to the back of the throat. If you don't see anything or the dog can't dislodge the foreign object you need to seek the help of your veterinarian. Foreign objects that remain in the throat can cause a serious bacterial infection which can lead to pneumonia.
Conditions such as a sore throat, tonsillitis, and pneumonia are usually treated with antibiotics which makes managing the condition easy.
A Collapse of the trachea is very common among older toy breeds that are overweight and easily excitable. This usually happens when the dog strains against his collar. Dogs with this condition will often start coughing after they eat or drink. For these dogs, it is necessary to closely watch their weight, providing moderate exercise, and using a harness instead of a collar when walking the dog. It is also wise to teach these dogs not to pull on the leash when walking. Also, avoid situations which can bring on a coughing episode.
The most serious condition which results in coughing is congestive heart failure. This occurs when there is a building up of fluid in the dog's lungs. This condition can involve either the left lung or the right. Sometimes it may involve both lungs which is the most serious. Often, dogs suffering from this condition are referred to a veterinary cardiologist. Medication can be used to relieve the cough and offer the dog a reasonable quality of life. However, if the cough is accompanied by a rapid or labored breathing, bloody discharge or collapses, the dog requires immediate medical attention.
Coughing can be an indication of many problems. Or it could just be that your dog is clearing his throat. However, if the cough persists you should seek veterinary care right away. Aside from those conditions mentioned above, other things that can cause coughing include heartworm disease, canine influenza, chronic bronchitis, as well as some types of cancer.