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Coughing in Dogs

Healthy dogs occasionally cough due to transient irritation from environmental contaminants such as dust or fumes.  However, persistent coughing at a higher than normal frequency has many potential causes.

Common Causes

More common causes are listed first.  Less common causes are listed later.

  • Infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as kennel cough, is an extremely common cause of coughing, especially in young dogs.
  • Bronchitis, a bacterial infection of the airways in the lungs, leads to persistent coughing.
  • Collapsing trachea is a syndrome that is common in middle-aged and older small dogs. It leads to coughing that is chronic and may be progressive.
  • Heart disease, especially in older small-breed dogs such as poodles, leads to persistent coughing.
  • Foreign objects such as grass or foxtails lodged behind the tonsils may trigger coughing. I nflammation of the tonsils or other structures in the back of the oral cavity may cause coughing.
  • Dogs with pneumonia, a bacterial infection of the lungs, will cough.
  • In older dogs, lung cancer may cause coughing.
  • Heartworm disease may cause coughing.
  • Canine influenza is a cause of coughing.
  • In dogs who have not been vaccinated, canine distemper virus may lead to coughing.
  • Rare causes of coughing include lungworms, poisoning with rat or mouse bait, fungal infections of the lungs, certain viral respiratory infections, and foreign objects lodged in the lungs or windpipe.

Recommended Course of Action

In young, healthy dogs with no other symptoms, mild coughing may spontaneously resolve without treatment.  However, because coughing may be caused by potentially serious or contagious syndromes, the safest course of action is to seek veterinary attention for any dog with a persistent cough.

Any coughing dog who is weak, lethargic, has decreased appetite, or shows other symptoms should receive veterinary attention as soon as possible.  Any dog who is having trouble breathing or suffering respiratory distress should receive immediate veterinary care on an emergency basis.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.