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Why is my dog coughing?

A canine cough could indicate a serious problem.
A canine cough could indicate a serious problem.
Nicole Adams (Examiner)

Most dogs cough at one time or another, but distinguishing the type of cough your dog has can be an important step in treating it. A canine cough may be nothing to worry about, but it could indicate a serious medical problem. Take your dog to the veterinarian if your dog is coughing excessively or if you are concerned.

A canine cough is characterized as either dry or productive. A cough can sound like choking – as though the dog has something stuck in his throat. Coughing in dogs may be high, deep, weak or chronic. Your dog may cough only once, sporadically, or have coughing fits, much like humans. Often, coughing indicates irritated airways.

A canine cough can be the result of respiratory infections, environmental irritants, heart failure, acid reflux, damaged or collapsed trachea and tight collars, according to WebMD. Respiratory infections include kennel cough, which is a dry, hacking cough that is contagious and is exacerbated by exercise or excitement. Pneumonia and bronchitis present with a fluid, bubbling cough and a chronic cough, respectively. Kennel cough typically resolves on its own but more serious conditions such as pneumonia and bronchitis need to be treated by a veterinarian.

Environmental irritants could also result in a canine cough. Whether your dog has allergies or just involuntarily sniffed something up his nose, a cough is a natural reaction to help rid the body of the irritant. Acid reflux occurs when the stomach contents back up into the esophagus, which can also cause coughing in dogs. This can be treated with over-the-counter acid reducers or treated naturally with apple cider vinegar. Tight collars and leash pulling may lead to coughing due to the cutting strength against the throat.

Coughing accompanies a damaged or collapsed trachea in dogs. Constant tightness around the throat, due to an embedded collar or leash pulling, could lead to a damaged trachea and chronic coughing in dogs. A collapsed trachea may be a congenital defect or from obesity, typically seen in toy dogs. Congestive heart failure creates coughing in dogs because the dog tries to get rid of the fluid in his lungs, brought on by the heart failure. Treatment for these more serious conditions requires a trip to the vet's office.

The Mar Vista Animal Medical Center warns not to confuse the canine cough with a reverse sneeze. A reverse sneeze can occur when your dog has a tickle in his throat, or post-nasal drip. The effect sounds like a cough but it is not considered a cough.

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