Why Is My Dog Coughing and What Should I Do About It?

You might have found yourself wondering, Why is my dog coughing all of a sudden? We aren’t really used to hearing our furry friends cough(also with cat coughing), so when we do, we’re immediately alarmed. However, not all types of dog coughs have to leave us scrambling for our vet’s phone number. Sometimes, our dog’s throat is simply irritated, and the dog is trying to clear it.

But, some coughs are a definite sign of trouble. That’s especially true when we know that coughing can be one of the early symptoms of severe lung and heart diseases.

Therefore, to assure that we are not making a fuss over nothing (or, alternatively, not reacting appropriately when there actually is a cause for concern), here’s everything you need to know about why your dog is coughing and when you should take immediate action.

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Different Types of Dog Cough

Before you ask yourself, Why is my dog coughing? you might want to consider how they are coughing. Correctly recognizing the type of cough is essential because it can help you determine if the cough is a cause for alarm or not. What’s more, you must be able to describe the cough in detail, should you end up in doggy emergency care.

Typically, there are four different types of cough:

  1. Deep cough that sounds like hacking — If your dog is making hacking sounds and their cough is dry and deep, then the dog might have kennel cough. This is a definite reason for concern.
  2. Honking cough that’s deep and strange — if your dog’s cough is so deep and honk-like that you’re wondering if a goose might have wandered into your home, then your dog might have a respiratory infection, kennel cough, or tracheal collapse.
  3. Gagging cough — A high-pitched gagging sound might be a sign of laryngeal paralysis. However, it can also mean that your dog has something stuck in their throat.
  4. Wet cough — Phlegm production is almost always a sure sign of an infection. So, if your dog’s cough is productive, haul your furry friend’s cute behind into the car and take them to the vet.

Of course, it’s not just the type of cough that you should take note of. You should also pay close attention to consistency and frequency. One coughing fit doesn’t mean your dog is severely ill. But, if your dog has been coughing in a specific way for a few days, then there’s definitely room for you to be worried.

So, pay close attention to both the type and the characteristics of the cough.


Does the cough last throughout the entire day, or is it more frequent at certain times? Some dogs will cough more frequently when they are outside due to specific irritants, which may cause allergies that cause a persistent cough. What’s more, dogs can also cough due to strenuous physical activity or because of a change in temperature.

Frequency is important because some illnesses present themselves in a series of rapid-fire cough attacks that last a few minutes while others are more persistent and last the entire day.


If you’re wondering, Why is my dog coughing only at night? then you might have a different problem on your hands. If the cough is more persistent during the night, then your furry friend might have a severe illness such as lung edema, heart failure, or even a collapsing trachea. Because they change position when sleeping, dogs with these conditions cough more at night (especially if they sleep on their side).

That is vital information not only because it might help you determine the cause of the cough but also because it will be immensely helpful to your vet once you take the dog for a checkup. The more information the vet has, the more likely they’ll be able to properly diagnose your dog and pinpoint the exact issue.

Other Symptoms To Pay Attention To

Aside from the type, consistency, and frequency of the cough, pay close attention to accompanying symptoms as well. For example, any discharge is a sign of trouble, so make sure to mention it to your vet. The best thing you can do is monitor your dog’s cough and make a checklist where you’ll note the following:

  • Is there any difficulty breathing (before or after a coughing fit)? No matter when it presents itself, difficulty in breathing is always concerning. What’s more, you should also note any changes in the dog’s breathing pattern, such as wheezing or snorting.
  • Is the cough productive or not, and are there any other types of discharge (nasal or ocular discharge, or vomiting)?
  • Are there any particular stimuli that cause the cough?Did you change the dog’s routine at all in the previous few weeks? Sometimes a new walking route, a different food brand, or even a new friend that you introduced to your dog can cause issues.

Why Is My Dog Coughing — Most Common Causes

Unfortunately, there are many possible answers to the question, Why is my dog coughing? Some of the causes, like those related to infections or lung and heart disease, are quite common, while others, like laryngeal paralysis, are rare. Still, these problems can all trouble any dog (and yours is no exception). So take a few minutes to educate yourself about their symptoms and possible treatment.

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Foreign Objects

If you’re wondering, “Why is my dog coughing?” and running to the vet, the first thing they’ll do is check the throat for obstructions.

If your dog starts coughing suddenly and without any other symptoms, check if they have a foreign object stuck in their throat. This is the one cause of persistent coughing in dogs that you can solve quite quickly.

However, just because it’s easy to solve, doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Foreign objects that get lodged in the throat can lead to severe issues and even choke the dog.


A doggy that has something in their throat will cough, retch, and even gag in an effort to get the foreign object out. They’ll also drool excessively, and paw at their faces. Some dogs will even drag their faces on the ground.

Treatment and Prevention

If you notice these symptoms, you must react quickly. Perform the Heimlich maneuver on your dog in order to dislodge the object. But, if you see that it isn’t working after half a minute or more, take your dog to a professional. The vet will be able to do more than you can.

It’s quite challenging to prevent this particular issue from happening. After all, we can’t keep our dogs under a watchful eye 24/7. What’s more, they are prone to sniffing and licking (and, of course, eating) everything they find. So, try to pay as much attention as you can. Also, train your dog not to react to, eat, and swallow stuff that you didn’t give them yourself.

Kennel Cough

A common respiratory infection in dogs, kennel cough can be caused by two things. The first one is the canine influenza virus. That’s dog flu, for those not in-the-know. The second one is a pathogen Bordetella Bronchiseptica.

This is a highly contagious and thus widespread dog illness. We notice it more often in the summertime in our dogs, but don’t let that fool you. It can actually strike at any time.

The pathogen affects the inner lining of the respiratory system in dogs. Because of that, the poor doggy’s respiratory system is irritated, which leads to a dry, persistent cough.

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Aside from the unproductive cough, kennel cough doesn’t have many symptoms. Therefore, you won’t be able to pinpoint the problem by looking at other issues. But, luckily, the kennel cough is quite distinctive. The dog will have a honking, dry, and piercing cough. They might even be gagging. So, you’ll have no trouble recognizing the cough and describing it to the vet.

To hear exactly what kennel cough sounds like, check out this video:

Treatment and Prevention

To prevent kennel cough, vaccinate your dog. If you have a puppy, pay close attention to the dogs you let near your pup, as you have to be sure they have been vaccinated as well. If your puppy gets close to an infected dog and the dog coughs on them, the chances of getting kennel cough are very high.

Kennel cough is challenging to diagnose because it’s essentially a type of flu. There’s no test that the vet can give to your dog. Therefore, they have to exclude everything else, especially if the symptoms are mild or not distinctive enough for a firm diagnosis.

Treatment of kennel cough varies. If the doggy have a mild form of the disease, then your vet will recommend rest and fluids instead of medication. Sometimes it’s best to let the illness run its course. But if the dog has a severe presentation of kennel cough, then the vet will prescribe antibiotics and cough suppressants.

If you think your dog has kennel cough, don’t let it play with other dogs, especially puppies that aren’t old enough to get the vaccine. Furthermore, pay close attention to your dog when they are sick. Kennel cough can sometimes progress into full-blown pneumonia. So, if you notice any changes in the breathing pattern or if your dog is refusing to eat, having trouble sleeping, or develops a productive cough, take them back to the vet for another round of Why is my dog coughing?

Respiratory Infections

There are various infections (that aren’t kennel cough) that can cause cough in dogs. They all affect the respiratory system in different ways. Infections caused by:

  • Viruses
  • Fungi
  • Bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Toxin ingestion

can stir up quite a ruckus in dogs. Coughing is most commonly a result of bronchitis, pneumonia, or a combination of the two (bronchopneumonia). All three diseases are most often a result of:

  • Herpes
  • Streptococcus zooepidemicus
  • Lung parasites
  • Adenovirus
  • Distemper
  • Influenza
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Airborne allergens or smoke
  • Acid reflux


Pneumonia can also be caused by Mycoplasma, Klebsiella Pneumoniae, and E. coli. It affects the lung tissue, and it’s a severe illness. Just like in humans, pneumonia in dogs is usually caused by bacteria. However, as mentioned, it can also be a consequence of kennel cough.

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Dogs with pneumonia will have a wet, productive cough. Phlegm, mucus, and other oral and nasal discharge, along with a fever, are the most common symptoms. The productive cough is a result of fluid buildup in the lungs. If that’s the case, coughing will probably be painful.

Furthermore, even when they aren’t coughing, our poor doggies will probably have trouble breathing. Labored breathing and shortness of breath are sure signs of pneumonia.

Treatment and Prevention

If we make sure that our dogs have a stellar immune system, and take them for regular checkups, then pneumonia isn’t that likely. However, since most cases of pneumonia are bacterial in nature, we can’t really completely prevent it.

When our furballs get that distinctive wet cough, we should take them to the vet immediately. They’ll diagnose them and prescribe antibiotics and cough suppressants. When it comes to at-home treatment, we should make sure that our four-legged best friends get plenty of fluids, rest, and tasty food.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Just like with pneumonia, it’s usually caused by bacteria. Dogs can inhale dirt, leaves, food, and other small particles that cause an infection in the airways.


A productive cough and a discharge that’s funny in color is a sure sign of bronchitis. The cough is also persistent and quite harsh. Aside from that, dogs with bronchitis will also wheeze, have foamy saliva, develop a fever, and have difficulty breathing.

A noticeable lack of appetite isn’t uncommon with infections of any kind. Chronic bronchitis that has symptom presentation for up to two months can even cause anorexia in dogs. What’s more, severe cases of this disease can cause dogs to cough so violently, they lose consciousness because their brains aren’t getting enough oxygen.

To find out what to do when the answer to the question of “Why is my dog coughing” is chronic bronchitis, check out this video:

Treatment and Prevention

Your vet will most likely prescribe antibiotics as well as anti-inflammatories to a dog with bronchitis. Depending on the severity of symptoms, the doggy might even get bronchodilators. If the dog has symptoms that are so severe they are preventing proper breathing, then your dog will be hospitalized so they can get oxygen.

Parasitic Infections

If you’re squeamish at the thought of worms, either get over it quickly or don’t get a dog. Worms are one of the most common issues dogs face.

Heartworms, which get into the dogs’ systems via a mosquito bite that passes larvae from one dog to another, are one of the biggest worm-related problems all dog owners fear. Unlike other worm types (and there are quite a few), heartworm is quite hard to spot as it doesn’t have as distinctive symptoms as other worm-related issues do.

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Image souce: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/heartworm-disease-in-dogs

Hookworm, lungworm, and roundworm may cause problems similar to heartworm. Because the worms aren’t stationary, they will eventually migrate to your dog’s lungs. When they do, they’ll cause something called a verminous cough.

The heartworm cough isn’t sporadic like the kennel cough. It’s persistent (usually lasts all day), and it’s dry. What’s more, physical activity often worsens it because the larvae in the lungs move during exercise, which can be quite painful.

Aside from coughing, if your dog has heartworm disease, they’ll be lethargic. They’ll also lose weight because they’ll be reluctant to eat, and their breathing will be labored. Of course, a potbelly or a rounded belly is also one of the definitive signs of worm infestation.

Treatment and Prevention

We can prevent heartworm disease by giving our dogs heartworm preventives. This is a vital step when it comes to maintaining the health of our dog. Preventives can be monthly spot-on or chewable meds, or we can opt for the injections that our dogs should get every six months.

Unfortunately, getting rid of heartworm and other forms of worms is expensive, complicated, and, most importantly, hard on your dog. It can be quite painful, and there’s no guarantee that it will work. Your dog might still have heartworm disease after treatment.

Because this disease is progressive, it’s vital that we catch it early. If we suspect our dogs have it, we should take them to the vet so they can do a blood test to make sure. Once they do, they’ll develop a plan of attack according to the American Heartworm Society’s protocol.

Unfortunately, heartworm disease is a common answer to the question, Why is my dog coughing?

Heart Disease

Coughing is one of the early symptoms of heart disease. So, when we ask ourselves, Why is my dog coughing? many of us jump to conclusions and think of the worst. Congestive heart failure, heart murmurs, and cardiomyopathy are some of the heart diseases that will present with a persistent cough.


11% of young dogs have some form of heart disease, while that number skyrockets to 60% in old dogs. All heart diseases cause fluid buildup, whether due to an enlarged heart or leaky valves. The buildup causes pressure on the airways, which results in a dry, persistent cough.

Aside from coughing, dogs with heart issues also have trouble sleeping and eating. They have low energy and can experience fainting spells. Furthermore, they might also have fluid buildup in their abdomen (as well as lungs).

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Image souce: https://vetspace.2ndchance.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/conghtfaildog-imageXrayLgfl.jpg

Treatment and Prevention

Once our dog has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure or any other heart disease, we can’t reverse it. We can, however, treat it.

Surgery is sometimes an option (depending on the type and severity of the disease). But, in most cases, we can only treat the symptoms of heart disease, including coughing. We can effectively get rid of most symptoms by lessening the pressure on the heart and lungs. That means getting rid of the fluid buildup around the heart.

Your vet will probably prescribe ACE inhibitors, diuretics, beta-blockers, inodilators, and other medication that’s supposed to stabilize blood pressure, strengthen and relax the heart muscle, as well as dilate blood vessels.

Collapsing Trachea

The trachea is a vital part of the respiratory system. It gets the air from the dog’s nose and mouth into the lungs. Therefore, when it collapses, coughing, alongside other issues, is not uncommon.

If your dog has a collapsed trachea, they’ll probably have intense coughing episodes that worsen when the dog is active. So, when they are playing, running around, or when they are stressed or excited, the cough will get worse.

There are many causes of tracheal collapse. What’s more, we can’t pinpoint one definite cause, although a congenital defect that leaves the trachea weak and underdeveloped is probably the main culprit.


The distinctive goose-like, intense cough is the main symptom of a collapsed trachea. When the trachea collapses, it restricts the airways. Now, it can collapse partially or totally, and depending on the severity of the obstruction, we might notice other symptoms in our dogs.

Difficulty breathing or rapid, labored breathing is also a primary symptom, along with retching, exercise intolerance, fainting due to lack of oxygen, and blue-tinged gums.

However, because these symptoms are also frequent with other diseases and conditions, we can’t really tell when our dog’s trachea collapses unless we take them to the vet. They’ll do a physical exam and x-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

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Image sourece: https://vhc.missouri.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/trachea2-1024×498.jpg

Treatment and Prevention

A collapsed trachea can be resolved surgically. However, that’s really a last resort treatment option. Instead, most vets treat dogs with anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants, sedatives, antibiotics, and bronchodilators.

Laryngeal Paralysis

“Lar par” usually affects older dogs and larger breeds. More often than not, it’s an idiopathic disease. It causes the muscles of the larynx to become weak or paralyzed.


Initially, a dog with laryngeal paralysis will have shortness of breath or labored noisy breathing. They’ll also lose their bark and cough after any activity (even eating and drinking).

Treatment and Prevention

Mild cases of laryngeal paralysis can be treated with various medications. Anti-inflammatories, sedatives, and antibiotics, as well as medicine that will dilate and strengthen the laryngeal muscles, are a staple treatment.

If the paralysis is severe, then surgery might be the only available treatment option. The operation has the goal of permanently dilating the larynx, thus allowing the dog to breathe normally.

Why Is My Dog Coughing At Home But Not At the Vet’s?

This isn’t that uncommon, as dogs are more relaxed at home and are acting naturally. However, if you’ve followed our advice and made the why is my dog coughing checklist, you’ll still have plenty of information to give to your vet. What’s more, your vet will know how to induce the cough in the dog, even if the dog isn’t coughing naturally during the exam.

Why Is My Dog Coughing Even After the Diagnosis and Treatment?

All treatment takes a while to kick in. There are no magic pills that will make the coughing disappear in a few minutes. So, if your dog is still coughing, give them time. However, if this becomes a prolonged issue, take the dog back to the vet. Maybe the dog needs another round of treatment or another run through the Why is my dog coughing? checklist and thus a different treatment option altogether.

Why Is My Dog Coughing Differently Than In the Beginning?

During treatment, your dog’s cough might change. That’s especially true if you’re treating any respiratory infection. Again, this isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, unless the cough becomes much harsher or keeps being productive even with the medication. If that’s the case, make another trip to the vet before the scheduled checkup appointment.

Why Is My Dog Coughing — A Few Parting Words

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No matter the cause, you should call your vet the moment you notice your dog has started coughing. That is a good idea even if the cause isn’t that serious, but it’s especially crucial if the cough is caused by a life-threatening illness like heartworm or cancer.

Sometimes the cough will be the only symptom, and we’ll be left wondering, Why is my dog coughing when there’s nothing wrong with them?” However, just because we can’t see other symptoms doesn’t mean a professional won’t be able to either. Always ask for help rather than waiting or relying on home remedies — it can save your doggy’s life.


*Image source: http://vhc.missouri.edu/small-animal-hospital/small-animal-internal-medicine/minimally-invasive-interventional-procedures/tracheal-collapse-medical-management-versus-stents/v

*Image source: https://vetspace.2ndchance.info/all-of-dr-hines-dog-health-articles/dog-health-articles/

*Image source: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/heartworm-disease-in-dogs