Why Is My Dog Coughing?

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Has your dog been coughing more than usual lately? Do dogs cough for the same reasons we do or is something else behind it? This article takes a look at possible causes and treatments when it comes to coughing in dogs.

In most cases when we cough it’s because of a cold or when we want to clear our throat. In some cases, however, something more serious could be behind this.

This is the case with dogs as well. Sometimes a simple cold can be the reason why your dog is coughing, while a lot of other reasons could be behind it as well.

But the question is – can you differentiate a harmless cough from something that requires more attention? How serious is dog coughing?

Coughing is a protective mechanism against accumulation of secretions and other materials inside the respiratory tract. However, it can also be a sign of something more serious going on, such as a respiratory or cardiovascular problem.

It’s completely normal for dogs to cough occasionally, but if it seems that your dog has been coughing a lot more lately or can’t seem to stop, something else could be behind it. Let’s take a look at what that could be.

Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Is Coughing

Coughs can be difficult to diagnose, as it’s through nuances (and sometimes not even that) the different types of coughs can be distinguished. A simple cold isn’t something to worry about, but some other reasons are more alarming and ask for more attention. The following are some of the most common causes behind coughing.

1. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is contagious and dogs usually get it at boarding facilities from other dogs. It’s more serious than a simple cold, but fortunately it can be vaccinated against. This type of cough sounds more dry and hacking than regular cough and it can be rather painful to your dog. On top of that, the dog may have watery discharge in the eyes and nose.

Fortunately, kennel cough isn’t a serious problem. As long as your dog acts like himself, everything should get back to normal in approximately a week. Antibiotics or cough suppressants may be needed in some cases – check with your vet.

2. Distemper

This is another contagious disease, caused by the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). This is something your dog should be vaccinated against as it’s a fatal disease with no cure to this day. The DHHP vaccine prevents from canine distemper and shouldn’t be something you ignore.

Symptoms indicating this disease include fever, mood swings and coughing. After a while things go back to normal, only to progress into fever and lack of appetite and energy. Again – this can be prevented only by vaccinating your dog regularly.

3. Ingestion Of A Foreign Body

If your dog ingests a foreign body or something that goes down the wrong way, it can lead to an obstruction of the lungs or airways. Logically, this leads to an ongoing cough as the dog is trying to get rid of the object by coughing. The cough will start suddenly and be persistent. If you suspect that your dog has something in the throat or lungs, visit the vet as soon as possible for examination and removal.

4. Heartworm Disease In Dogs

A 8 to 10 inch worm living its adult stage in your dog’s heart may be causing your dog to cough. Namely, the female worm is producing and releasing larvae into the dog’s bloodstream. Symptoms of this heartworm disease include difficulty breathing, weakness, fainting, weight loss and ongoing coughing. If you don’t treat this in time, it can lead to heart failure.

Other worms, such as lungworms or roundworms, can cause these types of problems as well. If you notice worms in your dog’s stool or vomit, he or she will probably need an anti-worming treatment to get rid of these parasites. Coughing that leads to vomiting or sightings of worms are pretty clear signs of some kind of parasitic infection.

5. Influenza And Pneumonia

Dog influenza is the dog version of flu. If left untreated, it can lead to respiratory tract infection and pneumonia. Pneumonia can cause coughing and often occurs as a result of various upper respiratory illnesses, such as kennel cough. This disease is usually accompanied with symptoms like lethargy, fever, reduced appetite and couching. If you notice these symptoms take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

6. Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis is often associated with smoking when it comes to us people. Surprisingly, it’s the same with dogs! If you, or someone else, smoke around your dog their lungs will be affected the same way as ours. Bronchitis manifests itself through a productive, and usually painful, cough.

7. Heart Problems

Heart diseases lead to accumulation of fluid in the lungs, which puts pressure on the lungs. As a result, the dog is coughing in order to clear the fluid build up. The coughing becomes especially bad at night. If you recognize your dog in this situation, pay a visit to the vet to identify the cause.

8. Lung Cancer

Coughing is one of the obvious symptoms of lung cancer. Fortunately, this is rather rare when it comes to dogs. May that be as it is, it’s still important to take your dog to the vet and rule out this sickness.

9. Fungal Infections

These infections are also pretty rare, but can still happen. Stagnant water, ponds and bird droppings can all lead to them. Apart from coughing and difficulty breathing, weight loss and fever are symptoms indicating a fungal infection. If your dog is diagnosed with it, anti-fungal medication will be prescribed.

10. Autoimmune Causes

Dogs too can suffer from asthma and various allergies! The allergies can be numerous, from food to pollen allergy. Both asthma and most allergies are causing the dog to cough, among other symptoms. We’ll take a closer look at these autoimmune problems in our next segment of the text.

Autoimmune Causes Of Dog Cough

Sometimes asthma or an allergy could be behind your dog’s cough. Allergies can be everything from allergies to vaccines, the environment, food, fleas, drugs etc. Any dog at any age can become allergic, but it’s usually the dogs between 6 months and 2 years that contract an allergy.

Symptoms depend on the type of allergy, but they usually include a runny nose and eyes, scratching the face or another body part and coughing. Second hand smoke can also trigger smoking, as mentioned, and even lead to asthma.

When it comes to asthma, it can also affect any breed at any age, but it’s usually the younger ones that get asthma. The symptoms include difficulty inhaling, narrowed airway passage and a typical, wheezing sound when breathing in. The coughing is the dog’s way of trying to open the airway and breath better. These symptoms become worse during exercise or under extreme weather.

Treatment for asthma and allergies include various pharmaceuticals, such as cortisone, anti-histamines end bronchodilators. Improving the diet, living conditions and decreasing stress are also recommended suggestions.

For more information, check out the video below!

Are Some Breeds More Susceptible Than Others To Coughing?

Actually, yes! Congenital or breed related causes can lead to coughing in some breeds more than others. It’s usually the dogs with short noses and pushed in faces that are also cased brachycephalic breeds. Some of these breeds are:

  • American Bull dogs
  • Boxers
  • Pekingnese
  • Pugs
  • Brussels Griffith
  • Boston Terriers

These breeds are characterized by too small nostrils, an elongated soft palate and a narrowed trachea. Because of these genetic features, they tend to have more respiratory problems than other breeds – including coughing. It can start really early, when the dog is only a couple of months old, but it can also start later. Overweight dogs are especially prone to this kind of cough.

Besides coughing, these breeds tend to snore, breath faster, pant and gag more than other breeds. This becomes especially noticeable in warm and humid weather.

Dog owners of these breeds should be aware of these predispositions and take their dogs on regular check-ups. Treatment isn’t necessary as long as the symptoms don’t become more serious and are preventing the dog from leading a normal life. If that’s the case, consult with your vet and determine a treatment plan together, depending on the exact problem.

Cough Caused By Age

Finally, we wanted to take a look at cough dogs develop when they’re older. Older dogs tend to get sick more than younger dogs and, as a result, cough more. The most common problems are congestive heart failure, laryngeal paralysis and lung cancer.

  • Congestive heart failure is a result of a leak in one of the valves in the heart. Dogs can get this disease much earlier if they’re born with the problem, but if not, it usually affects dogs after the age of 7. This can be treated with bronchodilators and diuretics, but also by changing the dog’s diet and lifestyle in general.
  • Laryngeal paralysis happens as a result of a defect in the laryngeal nerve, usually between the age of 8 and 10. It becomes fully or partially paralyzed, making the laryngeal folds not pulls back out of the way when the dog inhales. This is why the dog starts coughing and breath in harder, as it’s trying to remove the obstruction. Unfortunately, the problem only becomes worse as the mucous membranes become more inflamed. This can be treated either surgically or by acupuncture.
  • Lung cancer, as we’ve already mentioned, isn’t that frequent in dog terms, but it still happens. It’s usually older dogs that get affected. It can be a result of the environment or cancer spreading from another part of the body. For more information read this text on lung cancer in dogs.

When Should I Be Worried?

Your head is probably spinning from information now, we know! Let us just remind you that coughing is completely normal, as long as it’s not ongoing or accompanied with other symptoms. Just because you’ve heard your dog cough a couple of times doesn’t make it a sign of something more serious. So, how do you know when it’s harmless and when you should take your dog to the vet? If you notice any of the following, a check-up would be a good idea:

  • Ongoing cough longer than a week
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Other health issues
  • No appetite


Your dog may be coughing for various reasons, as you can see! Some are benign, while other require a bit more attention. But, don’t panic as soon as you hear your dog coughing. It doesn’t automatically mean that something is wrong. It’s usually nothing!

However, if it continues, stand back for a while and look for other symptoms. Is the cough dry and persistent? Is it worse during night? If your dog shows other symptoms, besides coughing, take him or her to the vet in order to figure out what it is. We want nothing more than a good health for our dogs, so try to remain your cool and help your dog the best way you can!