Cough in dogs: Causes and Treatment

Cough in dogs

Absolutely! Here’s a breakdown of dog coughs, their causes, and treatment options, along with key points for owners:

Understanding Dog Coughs: A Sign Something’s Not Right

Coughing in dogs is a natural reflex, often just helping them clear their throat. However, persistent or unusual coughs signal an underlying issue. Here’s what you need to know:

Types of Coughs

  • Respiratory Cough: Indicates problems in the upper (trachea, larynx) or lower (lungs) respiratory tract. Conditions like infections, bronchitis, or lung disease can be the culprit.
  • Cardiac Cough: Linked to heart problems, particularly heartworm disease. It’s a serious condition transmitted by mosquitoes.

Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs

  • Bacterial Infections: Can lead to tracheitis, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
  • Viral Infections: Kennel cough, influenza, and others can cause respiratory issues.
  • Helminth Infestation: Parasitic worms can migrate through the lungs, causing coughing.
  • Kennel Cough: Highly contagious, marked by a dry, honking cough.
  • Sore Throat: Irritation, infection, or stuck foreign bodies can cause coughing.
  • Lung Problems: Conditions like pneumonia or fluid build-up cause wet, phlegmy coughs.
  • Heart Disease: Cardiac coughs typically worsen after rest, and advanced cases come with breathing difficulties.
  • Allergic Reaction: Triggers inflammation and coughing fits.
  • Fungal Infections: Rare, but can cause coughs in dogs.
  • Tumors: Lung tumors can irritate the respiratory system, leading to a dry cough.
  • Ageing: Older dogs are prone to coughing due to lung or heart problems.
  • Irritants: Aerosols, pollen, and smoke can trigger coughing.

Diagnosing Your Dog’s Cough: It’s Not Just Guesswork

  • Veterinary Visit: Your vet will take a detailed history, examine your dog, and may recommend:
    • Blood Tests: Assess inflammation, allergies, and organ function.
    • Imaging (X-ray, CT scan): Visualize the lungs and heart.
    • Bronchoscopy: May be used for sampling and viewing the airways.

Treating Your Dog’s Cough

  • Addressing the Cause: Treatment depends on the diagnosis and might include:
    • Antibiotics (for bacterial infections)
    • Antifungals (for fungal infections)
    • Anti-parasitics (for worms)
    • Allergy Management
    • Medications for heart disease
    • Surgery (in rare cases like tumors)
  • Supportive Care: Your vet may also prescribe cough suppressants, expectorants, or bronchodilators for temporary relief.

Home Remedies: Use with Caution

  • Honey: A small amount can soothe a sore throat (consult your vet for dosage).
  • Humidifier: May help with dry, irritated airways.
  • Caution: Don’t self-medicate with human cough medicines. Always seek veterinary guidance.

Prevention Is Key

  • Balanced Diet & Exercise: Keep your dog healthy and strong.
  • Harness over Collar: Reduces strain on the trachea.
  • Vaccinations: Protect against preventable illnesses like kennel cough.
  • Regular Deworming: Prevents parasitic issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Pay Attention to Coughs: Persistent or unusual coughs warrant veterinary attention.
  • A Cough is a Symptom: It’s crucial to address the underlying cause.
  • Don’t Delay Diagnosis: Early treatment often leads to better outcomes.
  • Prevention Matters: Good care and preventative measures minimize the risk of many cough-causing conditions.

Remember, a coughing dog is trying to tell you something. By understanding the possible causes, seeking appropriate veterinary care, and prioritizing prevention, you’ll help your furry friend breathe easier and live a healthier life!

Types Of Cough In Dogs:

Coughing in dogs is normal when it is temporary and aims to evacuate a foreign body. However, when the dog coughs due to a health problem, we can distinguish two types of cough: respiratory cough and cardiac cough.

Respiratory Cough:

Respiratory cough is, as its name suggests, a cough due to a respiratory tract condition. It can be a condition of the upper respiratory tract, for example, the trachea or larynx, as well as a condition of the deep respiratory tract, that is to say, the lungs.

When it comes to an upper respiratory tract condition, the dog can suffer from pharyngitis, laryngitis, or tracheitis, just like us humans. In general, these cases are mild but require treatment as quickly as possible to avoid any complications.

In the case of deep respiratory tract disease, the cause will be pathogenic. It could then be bronchitis, bronchopneumonia, fibrosis, or pulmonary emphysema. In this case, it is imperative to consult a veterinarian.

Cardiac Cough:

Cardiac cough in dogs can also be caused by heartworm disease, the scientific name of which is heartworm disease.

This disease is caused by female mosquitoes which inoculate worms that settle in the heart and pulmonary arteries.

Although not contagious, it is a very serious illness that sometimes takes months or even years to appear.

The dog is down, has a chronic dry cough, and appears out of breath. If you suspect dirofilariasis or heartworm disease, it is essential to take your dog to the veterinarian who can carry out a thorough examination and prescribe appropriate treatment.

What Are The Causes of Dog Cough?

Dogs explore the world with their noses and sometimes their mouths. This is how your dog comes into contact with all kinds of things, including dust, germs, and pollen. This is why all of these things can cause a cough.

This makes it difficult to determine if the dog’s cough is serious or just clearing its throat! Occasional coughing can be normal dog behavior and is not a cause for concern.

On the other hand, repetitive coughing could be a sign of a more serious problem, especially if there are changes in your dog’s breathing. See below for common causes of coughing dogs.

Bacterial Infections:

Bacteria, just like in humans, can cause tracheitis, inflammation of the trachea, bronchitis, inflammation of the bronchi, and bronchopneumonia, inflammation of the lungs in dogs. The main symptom of these diseases is cough. The most common pathogens are bacteria – staphylococci and streptococci.

A dog with a bacterial infection often coughs, sometimes even to the point of gag reflex. The gag reflex occurs with a strong cough when the whole body shakes and the vomiting receptors are irritated.

With bronchopneumonia, the pet coughs until hoarse, and the body temperature rises. The disease is accompanied by lethargy, apathy, heavy breathing, and sputum production.

Tracheal Collapse:

Tracheal collapse is the collapse of the cartilage rings of the trachea. It occurs when a dog tends to pull too much on its leash or in cases of obesity.

Small dogs are more affected than large dogs. In case of tracheal collapse, a rather pronounced dry cough is noted.

It is highly recommended to go to the veterinarian to relieve the dog and find suitable solutions. It should be noted that it is possible to reduce the risk of tracheal collapse. To do this, harnesses should be preferred over collars.

Viral Infections:

Many viral infections can also affect the respiratory system and cause coughing. The most common infections are caused by: canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine influenza virus, canine herpesvirus, canine pneumovirus, and canine parainfluenza virus. An animal can be protected from some infections by comprehensive vaccination against viral infections.

The cough begins acutely, with or without sneezing, and is also accompanied by mucous discharge from the nasal cavity.

The cough is usually strong and paroxysmal. The dog cannot clear its throat. During severe attacks, the pet coughs as if it is choking.

A cough with a gag reflex may also appear. The animal’s condition is accompanied by lethargy, apathy, and often an increase in body temperature.

Helminth Infestation:

Some helminth infestations, a parasitic disease caused by parasitic worms, may also be accompanied by a cough. This is due to the fact that when helminth eggs enter the intestines, the development of the larval stages passes through the respiratory system, and then goes back into the digestive tract.

The pet seems to be regurgitating something and the larva is re-swallowed into the stomach and intestines with saliva.

Most often, these are the causative agents of hookworm infection. Helminthiasis, caused by parasitic hookworm worms, toxocariasis. Helminth infestation is caused by helminths from the group of nematodes.

In the southern regions of Russia, the disease dirofilariasis is very common. A parasitic disease caused by Dirofilaria immitis.

Recently, cases of infection have begun to be recorded in the central regions of Russia. This is a helminth infestation that is transmitted by mosquito bites. One infected mosquito is enough to infect an animal.

The localization of helminths is the pulmonary artery, which extends from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs. Sometimes helminths can be seen during cardiac echocardiography and ultrasound of the heart. Considering that parasites live in the vessels of the lungs, their vital activity causes serious harm to the bronchi and lungs.

A dog with heartworm disease constantly coughs, its breathing becomes heavy, and the animal refuses to exercise. This disease is not transmitted to people.

Kennel Cough:

A dog’s deep, dry, honking cough may indicate tracheobronchitis or kennel cough. Kennel cough is a very contagious illness that can be brought on by several viruses or bacteria.

As a result, it may enter the lungs and result in life-threatening conditions including chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.

Anywhere dogs gather, including daycare centers and kennels, is a potential source of canine kennel cough. It will be recommended that you isolate your dog from other dogs until the contagious phase passes.

Sore Throat:

A sharp, nauseous cough may suggest upper airway irritation, infection, or even partial blockage. Either your dog has a sore throat, which could be secondary to tonsillitis (fairly rare in dogs), secondary to mouth or sinus infections, or perhaps a foreign body stuck in his throat causing discomfort and irritation.

Indeed, foreign bodies lodged in the throat are dangerous and prevent good ventilation and swallowing. So, a foreign object that enters your dog’s esophagus can be potentially fatal and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Lung Problems:

A phlegmatic, wet cough may indicate a lung or lower respiratory issue. It is true that your dog’s lungs might contain fluid as evidenced by these moist and gargling sounds.

It will be tough for the dog to breathe even when they are not coughing, unlike other coughs. Furthermore, pneumonia typically affects dogs including young puppies and elderly dogs whose immune systems are underdeveloped or compromised. Dog pneumonia can be caused by a wide range of pathogens, including parasites, bacteria, viruses, and even fungi.

Heart Disease:

It is associated with heart failure. But you need to understand that a cough appears only when the chambers of the heart are greatly enlarged and compress the bronchi that are located above. In the initial stages of heart failure, there is no cough.

Typically, pets with heart disease cough after sleep. But with the development of cardiogenic pulmonary edema, the release of the liquid part of the blood into the alveoli of the lungs, and the filling of the lungs with fluid, the picture looks different – the dog breathes heavily and coughs. In this case, the pet should be immediately shown to a doctor.

Allergic Reaction:

An allergic reaction can also be the cause of a cough. Allergies can be the flowering of trees and plants in season, household chemicals, and perfumes.

Foreign agents (pollen, particles of household chemicals) entering the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract cause an inflammatory reaction. Due to the development of the inflammatory reaction, the mechanism of cough and bronchospasm is triggered.

Fungal Infections:

In rare cases, fungal infections can cause coughing. It can all start with an infection of the upper respiratory tract, and end with damage to the bronchi and lungs with weak immunity or if the infection starts.

Here it is necessary to choose the right therapy and choose an antibiotic active against fungi.


The tumor, and more particularly the lung tumor, can result in a dry cough. This is caused by irritation of the tissues present in the respiratory system. The dog coughs in irregular fits. The tumor can be identified by a veterinarian using an ultrasound. The only treatment is surgery.


It’s a fact older dogs cough more. This observation is explained by the appearance of pulmonary problems or heart problems. In this case, the cough is weak, almost dull. It should be a warning because it is often accompanied by respiratory failure.

The Presence of An Irritant:

A coughing dog may be reacting to an irritant. This can take the form of an aerosol, pollen, or even cigarette smoke. Once the irritant agent has been identified, all contact must simply be avoided.


In older animals, the cause of coughing may be an oncological process. Formation of malignant or benign tumors in the lungs.

The lungs can be affected by both an independent tumor and a metastatic process. Secondary tumors, the growth of which begins from the cells of the primary tumor, if the lesion is in another organ.

Often, the oncological process in the lungs is accompanied by the release and accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity – hydrothorax.

Such patients breathe heavily and cough with wheezing. Unfortunately, when a tumor affects the respiratory system, the prognosis is extremely unfavorable. Only symptomatic therapy aimed at facilitating the patient’s breathing can be used.

How To Diagnose a Dog’s Cough?

Diagnosis begins with an appointment with a veterinarian. He examines the pet, checks the tracheal reflex, and slight compression of the trachea, conducts auscultation of the chest, and listens to the chest using a phonendoscope, palpation, and thermometry. With the help of auscultation, you can identify the part of the respiratory system to understand the cause of the disease.

A clinical blood test can show signs of inflammation, anemia, helminthic and allergic reactions. A biochemical blood test is needed to assess the condition of the liver and kidneys for prescribing antibiotics.

Specific tests make it possible to make an accurate diagnosis for viral and bacterial infections. They identify the pathogen by specific protein components of the blood.

When coughing, it is worth taking a chest x-ray in two projections: straight and lateral.

This will determine the extent of damage to the respiratory system and make a diagnosis. Sometimes more complex additional diagnostics are required: CT examination, computed tomography, and bronchoscopy with taking bronchoalveolar lavage.

A CT scan is considered more informative than an x-ray since it allows a more detailed assessment of the nature and extent of damage to the pathological process.

When Should You Consult with The Veterinarian?

Your dog has now been coughing for a few days and you have made an appointment with the veterinarian.

Please note that after asking you the questions cited above, the professional will carry out a thorough clinical examination to determine the origin of the dog’s cough.

He will look for the presence of cervical lymph nodes, redness, or inflammation. He will also take your dog’s temperature. If necessary, additional examinations will be carried out such as a blood test, an endoscopy, an x-ray of the lungs, or an ultrasound of the heart and trachea.

How To Treat Dog Cough?

To treat the cough and soothe the dog, the veterinarian will offer treatment. This depends on the origin of the cough. Rest is necessary, it allows the dog to recover and strengthen its immune system. Treatment may include:

  • Expectorants,
  • Anti-inflammatories,
  • Antibiotics,
  • Cough suppressants,
  • Bronchodilators.

With the veterinarian’s approval, it is also possible to relieve a dog’s cough using natural remedies. Among them, there is honey which, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, effectively relieves the dog.

If you have a small dog, give him half a teaspoon. If you have a large dog (over 20 kg), you can give a teaspoon of honey.

Prevention Of Coughs in Dogs:

Coughing in dogs can sometimes be avoided. For optimal prevention, it is recommended to keep your dog in good shape through a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

For walks, choose a harness over a collar. This will reduce the risk of tracheal collapse. A vaccination against kennel cough is recommended if your dog will be in contact with other canines. Finally, remember to deworm all your pets regularly to prevent the appearance of parasites.


Coughing is sometimes a veterinary emergency. Although we sometimes feel helpless in the face of the suffering of our four-legged companions, we must not give in to panic.

Forget anti-cough treatments for humans and do not administer medication to your dog without seeing a veterinarian. The best thing is to consult a veterinarian directly who will be able to make a diagnosis and direct you towards the appropriate treatment.

Aapt Dubey
Aapt Dubey

Aapt Dubey, a devoted canine enthusiast and experienced dog Owner, brings boundless passion to our team. With a heart full of love for our four-legged friends, Aapt is dedicated to sharing insights on dog care, behavior, and training to make every pup's life happier and healthier at

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