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Why is My Dog Coughing? Possible Causes & How to Treat It

Why is My Dog Coughing? Possible Causes & How to Treat It

Does your dog have a reoccurring or persistent cough? If so, it could be a sign of a serious illness. Today, our Stockton vets share some of the most common causes for coughing in dogs and how they can be treated.

Coughing in Dogs

There are many reasons why a dog can cough. If your dog is healthy and just coughs once you shouldn't have any reason to be worried. Similar to humans, dogs cough to get rid of germs, dust, and other particles they breathe in. However, if your dog starts coughing continuously it could be a sign of a more serious disease, illness, or infection.

Common Causes for Coughing in Dogs

Here are some of the most common reasons why our Stockton vets see dogs for coughing:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a term for "tracheobronchitis" which is an infection and inflammation of the lower main airways and windpipe. This is a very contagious illness that is seen most often in younger dogs however, dogs of all ages can get it. The dogs that are at the highest risk are those that spend time with other dogs in a group setting such as a boarding facility, obedience training or, dog parks. Therefore, if your dog develops a dry hacking cough followed by gagging after staying in a boarding facility there is a chance they may have kennel cough.

Other symptoms of kennel cough include a lack of appetite, sneezing, a mild fever, lethargy, and a runny nose. Because this condition shares the same symptoms as other more serious illnesses your vet will diagnose this condition through a process of elimination, ruling out other conditions such as heartworm disease, asthma, collapsing trachea, and more.

Kennel cough may go away on its own with rest, however, to prevent secondary infections or if your pup has a more serious case your vet may prescribe antibiotics or a cough suppressant. Pups generally recover from kennel cough in about a week or two.

Heart Disease

This disease affects the valves of the heart and heart muscles, keeping the heart from pumping blood efficiently. Dogs that have heart disease will start coughing when the heart becomes enlarged and puts pressure on the airways, or as a result of fluid building up in the lungs. 

Some common symptoms of heart disease in dogs include a persistent cough, restlessness when sleeping, lethargy, weight loss, swelling in the abdomen, fainting, or collapse. Your vet can diagnose heart disease by performing a physical examination and additional tests which could include X-rays, ultrasounds, urine analysis, or bloodwork. 

Heart Disease can't be cured however, it could be managed to help your dog enjoy a quality life with medications, supplements, and dietary changes.

Collapsing Trachea

This is a progressive condition that makes the rings of cartilage on a dog's trachea weaken and become soft. When a dog's trachea collapses it can cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a harsh dry cough, and vomiting.

To diagnose this condition your vet will perform a physical examination which may consist of additional tests such as X-rays or a tracheoscopy/bronchoscopy. Trachea collapse can generally be treated with medications as well as weight loss, avoiding lung irritants, and preventive care.


Pneumonia in dogs is an inflammation of the lungs that could be caused for a variety of reasons including bacteria, swallowing difficulties, a preexisting condition such as distemper or canine influenza, and specific metabolic disorders.

If your pooch has pneumonia they could have a soft moist cough and symptoms such as high fever, a lack of energy, and loss of appetite. In addition to a physical exam, your veterinarian may diagnose your dog's condition with fluid analysis, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests. The treatments for pneumonia could consist of medications such as antibiotics, lots of fluids, and potentially hospitalization if your dog's case is more severe.

Other Causes of Coughing in Dogs

In addition to the conditions listed above other common causes of coughing in dogs includes:

  • Heartworms
  • Fungal Infections
  • Distemper
  • Heart Failure
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Reverse Sneeze
  • Chronic Bronchitis
  • Cancer

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet for Coughing

If any of the following applies to your dog's cough you should call your veterinarian as quickly as possible so they can diagnose the underlying cause:

  • Their cough lasts longer than a week
  • Your pup's cough becomes worse
  • They develop a fever, refuse to eat, or become fatigued
  • Your dog has a preexisting health condition
  • They start displaying other symptoms such as the ones listed above

If you are uncertain if your dog's cough warrants veterinary care it's always best to err on the side of caution and call your veterinarian. They will be able to tell you the steps you should take to help your dog or ask you to bring your pooch in for an examination.

To diagnose the cause of your dog's cough your vet will conduct a comprehensive examination of your pup, review your dog's medical history, and ask questions about their home life. Your vet may also need to conduct additional tests to determine an official diagnosis such as X-rays, bloodwork, urine analysis, EKG/ECG, ultrasounds, or another diagnostic method.

The treatments your vet provides for your dog's cough will depend on the underlying cause and its severity but could range from at-home rest and medications to hospitalization and hydration.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are worried about your dog's cough or they are coughing in addition to other symptoms contact our Stockton vets as quickly as possible to schedule an appointment for your canine companion. 

New Patients Welcome

New Patients Welcome

Bear Creek Veterinary Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are experienced in caring for Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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