Have you observed your dog coughing? Is your dog coughing something serious? We pet parents don’t often observe dogs coughing; after all, we don’t associate dogs with having a common cold or other respiratory issues that we attribute to humans. However, even a healthy dog coughs from time to time, and often, a mild cough is simply a means of removing dust and other environmental irritants from the nose and throat. At the same time, there are situations when the presence of a cough in a dog is a serious issue.
Think about how dogs observe the world around them. They sniff and often taste things basically to “see” what an object is all about. So, it is absolutely normal for a dog to have an occasional cough.
However, when you notice your dog coughing more often or regularly, the cause of the cough could be something more than simple allergic reactions. In some cases, you will want to take Fido in for a vet check so that the cough can be properly treated.
Causes Of Cough In Dogs
1. Kennel Cough
Dogs that have been in shelters or those who have been boarded are often at risk for this issue. Kennel cough is described as “a deep, honking canine cough.” The dog will often display a hacking cough followed by what appears to be gagging.
We mentioned dogs that have been boarded or came from a shelter harboring this illness. That’s because kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease, and many dogs who come down with kennel cough have been around several dogs, such as one would in a boarding facility. However, kennel cough can be passed from just one dog to yours, so consider if your dog has been to a dog park, an obedience class, or even to the groomer—is the cough possibly the result of kennel cough?
For kennel cough treatment, usually, a trip to the vet for antibiotics or cough suppressants is in order. As long as your dog is eating and drinking normally, that’s a good sign that the illness is going to get resolved without any lasting effects on your dog’s health.
2. Yeast Infections
Let’s face it—our dogs are nosy! They sniff and smell most anything with which they come into contact. Occasionally, dogs will inhale yeast spores that can turn into a fungal infection in the lungs. Again, these infections are typically treated with prescription medications from the vet’s office.
Heartworms can become deadly to your precious pup. Unfortunately, coughing is often a sign that the heartworm infestation is growing more serious. Heartworm infestations can be treated, but treatment for dogs is the equivalent of chemotherapy for humans. There are loads of side effects that are ridding the dog of the issue, but Fido will not feel well during the process.
The best way to deal with heartworms is to have your pet on preventative medicine so that Fido will not have to undergo the difficult treatment for this illness. These preventative medications can be administered every six months while some preventatives are available for once-a-year dosage.
Don’t take a heartworm diagnosis as a death sentence for Fido. It is so easy to prevent, however, that we’d like to encourage using preventative measures if possible.
Distemper in dogs can cause them to exhibit a cough. Distemper is typically prevented by puppy vaccinations; however, a rescue or shelter dog may not have had these preventative measures. Distemper can be serious; you should bring Fido to the vet if you believe he may be suffering from distemper.
5. Heart Disease
The presence of heart disease in your dog can cause her to exhibit a cough. The seriousness of heart disease can be something as simple as leaky valves (similar to a heart murmur) or it can be more serious heart health issues. This should be determined by your vet and treated with medication. It is also possible to have Fido on a heart-healthy diet and exercise to help with some heart ailments.
6. Congestive heart failure
Congestive heart failure will cause an older dog to cough and gag. For a time, your dog will appear otherwise healthy—playing and eating as normal. However, if congestive heart failure is not caught early on for proper treatment, the cough will worsen, and fluid build-up in the lungs can be highly serious. If you notice your old dog coughing and gagging for more than a week, seek the advice of your veterinarian.
7. Respiratory Illness Involving the Lungs
Dogs can develop pneumonia as well as bronchitis; each of these respiratory illnesses can cause your dog to exhibit a cough. Sometimes these illnesses are the result of a dog inhaling dirt, dog food, or even grass seeds! Fido’s curious nature makes him prone to developing some respiratory illnesses; when dirt or debris enters the lungs, a nasty infection can ensue. Again, this is something that should be diagnosed and treated with your vet’s assistance.
8. Trachea collapse
There are certain dog breeds that are prone to experiencing the collapse of the trachea . When this happens, not only will a cough likely develop, but your dog may also have trouble breathing as well as exhibit vomiting. Trachea collapse occurs when the rings of cartilage in the windpipe become weak and the trachea collapses. Coughing is often one of the first signs of tracheal collapse. Typically, this health issue is more prevalent in smaller dogs, such as the Chihuahua, the Yorkshire Terrier, and Pomeranians.
What are signs that I need to get Fido to the vet?
The first rule of thumb is keeping track of the cough and determining if your dog’s cough lasts more than one week. However, if the cough has been present for a couple of days and suddenly gets worse, do not wait the full seven days! Get Fido to the vet immediately.
Check for some other symptoms in your dog’s health. Does Fido have a fever? Have you noticed that your dog is becoming lethargic or that he seems more tired than normal? Is Fido still eating and drinking? If you notice that your dog has a cough and is accompanied by a lack of appetite, lethargy, a reluctance to do things she normally loves or vomiting, it is a good idea to get your dog to the vet immediately.
Finally, dog owners must make sure to get a coughing dog to the vet if he already has other health problems.
It doesn’t appear that I can use home remedies to cure my dog’s cough. Are there any natural treatments for cough in dogs?
Of all the ailments described previously that carry cough as a symptom, only kennel cough should be treated at home. If your dog develops a cough that lasts for more than a week or worsens, it is best to see the vet so you can rule out any more serious respiratory illnesses or heart disease that could cause a dog to exhibit a cough.
We’d also like to mention that kennel cough CAN worsen to the point that it causes pneumonia, which should be treated with antibiotics under a vet’s care.
However, if your dog is beginning to cough and it is possible she has been around other dogs recently, you can use raw honey to help treat the cough. Give your dog a half tablespoon of raw honey (you may use a whole tablespoon if the dog is larger) mixed with warm water in Fido’s dog bowl. You can give your dog this homeopathic treatment up to three times daily for a week.
Humidifiers are also a great way to treat kennel cough. Simply place the humidifier near your dog’s sleep area. The extra moisture in the air will help Fido to breathe better.
You can also pull Fido into the bathroom while you take a shower and allow the steam to help him breathe a little easier.
Finally, just as you would with any cold, make sure rest and hydration are a priority for Fido.
What about using essential oils to help my dog’s cough?
To be honest, you’ll likely find some websites that promote using essential oils to help treat your dog’s cough. While many essential oils are safe for use in your home (safe for dogs and humans alike), it is important to remember that some essential oils are harmful to dogs.
Eucalyptus oils as well as peppermint oils are safe for your dog if you place a drop or two of oil in a diffuser. However, err on the side of caution; your dog’s nose is very sensitive, even if he’s experiencing a cough. So, never run the diffuser for hours at a time, and only run it once or twice per day.
There ARE homeopathic decongestants available online; however, these are not always vet approved. In fact, it is probably safer to allow the vet to diagnose any cough in your dog while you administer honey water and steam at home to help ease kennel cough.
Remember, time is of the essence with some respiratory illnesses. If you use some natural remedies and notice that your dog is still exhibiting a strong cough—or if the cough worsens both in intensity and occurrence—then it is a good idea to see the vet for treatment. Cough in a dog is not always kennel cough, and pet parents must also remember that kennel cough itself can worsen to the point of causing pneumonia, which can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
Can I Give My Dog Broth to Help with Cough?
Yes! You can give Fido some soup broth (chicken broth is particularly good) to help soothe his throat from cough.
Some coughs can be treated from home, but, if the cough is accompanied by other symptoms, it pays to see your vet sooner rather than later.
1. What natural remedy can I give my dog for coughing?
You can add honey to warm water and place it in Fido’s bowl up to three times a day. You can also give him broth. Some pet parents will use humidifiers; however, pet parents should be hesitant about essential oils in diffusers. Some essential oils will cause your dog to become more ill, or they are toxic to dogs.
2. What cough medicine can I give my dog?
It is typically NOT a good idea to give your dog human cough medicine. Some human cough medicines contain ingredients that are very harmful to dogs. One of these is the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen. Always seek a vet’s advice before giving a dog any cough medicine.
3. Can I give my dog Benadryl for cough?
Benadryl CAN be given to your dog, but you should seek the advice of your vet before administering this medication to your dog. It is considered a safe human medication for dogs, but your vet can give insight into the amount to give your dog.
4. Why is my dog coughing like something is stuck in his throat?
Your dog could be developing kennel cough, or cough like this could be a sign of heart disease, including congestive heart failure. There are many reasons your dog could be coughing from an allergic reaction to something more serious.