Coughing is a protective reflex which serves to clear the airways of built up mucus or harmful material within the respiratory tract. There are many different causes of coughing, some more serious than others but a trip to the vet and a thorough history can allow us to narrow down the list and determine whether further tests are warranted.
Common conditions causing coughing in dogs.
- Kennel cough
This is an infectious disease which causes a hacking cough (often sounds like gagging) and the dogs will often cough up white foam. They will usually be otherwise bright and happy but the cough may worsen with exercise or when pulling on the lead. We offer yearly vaccinations against this disease, which although not fully protective (similarly to the human flu shot) it does reduce the chances that such an infection will be serious.
- Foreign body
in the trachea (windpipe) or oesophagus.
This can include grass seeds or bone fragments. Here at Vet HQ we have an endoscope (camera) which can allow us to look inside the trachea for any foreign material.
- Dental disease
and secondary upper respiratory tract infections.
Another good reason to get your dog’s teeth regularly checked and cleaned! The high levels of bacteria found in plaque and tartar on the teeth can predispose dogs to a greater risk of throat infections. Vet HQ offer 6 monthly scale and polish under an anaesthetic for a reduced cost to keep oral hygiene at its best.
Often secondary to environmental allergens including dust, smoke, room deodorizers.
Infection of the lungs. This can be secondary to foreign material (such as grass seeds), vomiting (where some of the vomitus is breathed into the lungs) or infections (such as kennel cough). This can be a serious condition and requires further diagnostics including chest x-rays to assess the lungs and rapid treatment with an appropriate antibiotic.
- Lung tumours
Usually seen in older dogs. This can be diagnosed with a chest x-ray.
- Heart disease
Heart disease can affect any age and any breed. Symptoms can include coughing (especially whilst lying down), not exercising as much as usual, sudden collapse/fainting, panting at rest or increased respiratory rate (faster than 30 breaths a minute when sleeping). A chest x-ray will allow us to check the heart size and look for fluid build-up within the lungs. Further tests include an ultrasound of the heart to measure chamber size.
When should you be concerned
A thorough history and physical examination is recommended for any cough to determine the underlying cause. An urgent consult should be made if your dog is having the following symptoms:
- Sudden collapse.
- Struggling to breathe (neck is often extended forward and elbows may be pushed outwards).
- Breathing with abdominal effort (with each breath the abdomen is moving in and out).
- Pale gums
- Unable/unwilling to lie down/rest.
- Lethargy (not interacting as normal) and inappetance.
We will then be able to determine whether any further tests need to be done and what treatment will be able to help.
Please follow the link to see a video on Peanut who presented with aspiration pneumonia. We are really glad he is doing so well and if your pet is coughing like this we recommend a check up ASAP.