A cough in a dog can be no big deal, or it can be life-threatening. Here’s what I told a reader who wanted to know if her dog needed to see the veterinarian.
Q: My dog has been coughing lately. Is this something I should worry about? Does he need to go to the vet?
A: We all need to cough sometimes, but a persistent cough in a dog is a concern. Coughs can have several causes and may call for veterinary treatment or different management.
A deep, dry, hacking cough that becomes worse after activity may suggest canine cough, also known as kennel cough. This is a highly contagious viral or bacterial infection. Tell your veterinarian if your dog has been boarded recently or was otherwise in contact with many other dogs at once.
A wet cough can suggest fluid or phlegm in the lungs. That’s usually associated with pneumonia. This is a real concern, especially if your dog is very young, very old or immunocompromised. Pneumonia can be bacterial or viral, or is sometimes caused by fungi or parasites. Dogs can also develop what’s called aspiration pneumonia if they inhale an object or throw up and accidentally suck in some of the vomit. Both canine cough and pneumonia are usually treatable with antibiotics.
Your dog may have something stuck in his throat if he’s making a high-pitched gagging cough. It may not be visible to you and may require a veterinary look-see with an endoscope to identify and remove the object.
If a deep honking sound is coming out of a small dog such as a Chihuahua, toy poodle, Maltese, Pomeranian or Yorkshire terrier, he may have what’s called collapsing trachea. This usually occurs when the dog pulls against his collar. Try walking him with a harness to ease the pressure on his throat.
Coughing can also signal congestive heart failure in breeds prone to heart disease. Get to the veterinarian right away for treatment and medication.
Read more, including how to make sure your pets are safe when traveling in the car, in this week’s Pet Connection!