Why is my dog coughing & what should I do about it?
If your dog’s coughing regularly and they’ve been at it for a while, you’ll naturally want to get them back to full health as fast as possible.
Coughing can be a sign of multiple health problems, some more common and more serious than others. Let’s take a look at the common causes of coughing, and what to do if you’re concerned.
A brief summary:
- Health problems that cause coughing include: Kennel Cough, respiratory infections, heart disease, fungal infections, lungworm, heartworm and distemper
- If your dog’s cough is persistent, contact your vet
- If your dog coughs up white foam, treat this as an emergency
- Coughing up blood could be a sign of stomach trouble, or that your dog has eaten something poisonous
- Dogs may cough when they’re excited or anxious
Kennel Cough is the most likely cause of your dog’s cough. It’s usually a dry, hacking cough that sounds almost like your dog has something stuck in their throat.
Kennel Cough is highly contagious, dogs are most likely to get it when they’re around other dogs. If coughing is your dog’s only symptom - i.e. they’re in great health except for their persistent cough - then there’s a good chance they have Kennel Cough.
In most cases, Kennel Cough goes away on its own after 2-3 weeks. It’s also easy to prevent - ask your vet about the routine Kennel Cough vaccination.
Read more about Kennel Cough or contact your vet if your dog’s symptoms get worse.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from bronchitis, pneumonia and other infections of the airways - even dog flu (Canine Influenza). Further symptoms may include laboured breathing, wheezing and gagging after coughing.
Your vet will be able to diagnose and treat lung or respiratory infections easily, especially if they’re caught early on.
A prolonged cough can also be a symptom of lung cancer, although this is rare.
Our furry friends can suffer from heart disease and other heart problems, just like humans!
Thickened and weakened heart muscle can put pressure on a dog’s lungs and airways. Aside from coughing, symptoms or heart problems in dogs may include visible tiredness, shortness of breath, a change in their weight and even collapse.
Your vet will recommend a course of action, which may include medication, a change in diet and added exercise.
Caused by coming into contact with yeast and other fungi picked up in dirt, stagnant water or through the air. A fever accompanying a cough can be a sign of fungal infections in dogs, but your vet can prescribe medication to help.
Your dog may develop a fungal infection if they come into contact with yeast or other fungi while playing in dirt or stagnant water. Aside from coughing, the main symptom of fungal infections is a high fever.
Your vet will prescribe medication to treat your dog’s fungal infection.
Lungworm is a parasitic worm that can be serious, even fatal, if untreated. Dogs usually contract it after eating slugs and snails - so take care to prevent this when out walking.
The worm lives in the host’s heart and blood vessels. Further symptoms include reluctance to exercise, weight loss, bleeding and difficulty breathing.
Treatment will involve a special worming routine, prescribed by your vet. Worming your dog regularly will help to prevent lungworm.
Heartworm is not seen in the UK but can be present in imported dogs, and is very serious. Heartworms are spread by mosquitos and treated by monthly medication or an injection that lasts six months.
Symptoms of heartworm - coughing, weight loss and lethargy - are similar to lungworm, so make sure you contact your vet if you’re concerned. They’ll diagnose your dog accurately and prescribe the right treatment.
As with lungworm, you can prevent heartworm by worming your dog regularly.
Distemper is a serious and highly contagious virus that’s airborne, meaning it spreads through the air. Aside from coughing, symptoms include fever, lethargy, sickness and diarrhoea.
Like other viral infections, it’s quick and easy to vaccinate against distemper - just be sure to keep your dog up to date with their booster vaccinations.
Coughing can be a symptom of many different conditions. As an owner, the best action you can take is to keep an eye on your dog and to consult your vet if you’re concerned. They’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what's wrong, and then to advise you on the right treatment.
Coughing up white foam can be a sign of Kennel Cough, bloat or gastrointestinal distress. The latter two conditions are classed as emergencies, so if your dog is coughing up white foam, contact your vet or emergency care provider right away.
Are they vomiting instead? Use our Dog Vomit Colour Guide to check what the colour of your dog’s vomit can tell you about their health.
Is the blood a normal, fresh shade of red or a darker red? Coughing up red blood can be a symptom of trouble with the stomach lining, or a reaction to a poisonous substance.
If the blood is dark red, this means it’s been in your dog’s system for a while. Coughing up dark red blood could be a sign of a stomach ulcer.
If your dog coughs or vomits blood repeatedly, contact your vet for more help and advice.
Yes. It’s normal for some dogs to cough when they’re excited or anxious, especially small breeds. This usually occurs simply because they’re breathing harder.
Intense coughing while excited or anxious may be a sign of tracheal collapse. If the coughing is excessive, or doesn’t settle down after your dog’s excitement is over, have a chat with your vet.
Need more info?
For more help and advice on your dog’s cough, have a chat with your local vet. Use our Find a Vet page to locate your nearest My Family Vets practice.