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Coughing dog – causes and treatments

25.12.2023 - Reading time: 6 minutes

Dog lying on the floor

As in humans, coughing in dogs can have many causes.

A dog’s cough is not an illness, but a symptom of possible health problems or a sign that a foreign body is stuck in its throat. Your coughing dog may also react this way because they can’t stand cigarette smoke. Older dogs sometimes suffer from a collapsed trachea, which also leads to coughing. The following information is no substitute for a visit to your vet.


Coughing dog – What to do?

As in humans, there are different types of coughs in dogs:

  • Acute cough: appears all of a sudden and does not usually last long
  • Chronic cough: lasts several weeks or even months
  • Dry cough: a noisy cough with no mucus
  • Chesty cough: a hoarse cough with mucus

If your dog’s cough is accompanied by breathing difficulties and signs of choking, you need to act fast. Call your closest vet immediately. Depending on what they tell you, you may have to help your dog yourself. But beware of biting! If the dog is panicking, their reactions may be different from what you are used to. Open your dog’s mouth to see if anything is stuck in their throat. If yes, speak to them gently to reassure them and try to take the object out with your fingers or the end of a spoon. Even if you manage to remove what was preventing your dog from breathing, you should visit your vet for an examination. Adult dogs rarely eat just anything, but puppies tend to nibble on anything they find interesting. Walk around your garden, picking up dead branches and pieces of wood. If you have children, make sure their toys are not lying on the floor. Swallowing a piece of plastic is very dangerous for a puppy. Buy toys for your pet that are specially designed for them to chew on without risk.

Dog that coughs and eats grass

Some dogs have a tendency to nibble on all sorts of objects found around the house or garden. When it’s your shoes, it makes you angry and when it’s a fallen tree branch, it can be dangerous for the dog. A small piece of wood can get stuck in their throat and affect their breathing. If the dog has swallowed something they are not supposed to eat, they will probably try to get rid of it by vomiting. To do so, they will eat grass. This behaviour is quite common in dogs, so it’s best to stay outside with them for a while when they’ve just eaten some grass. It is almost certain that they will vomit soon. Sometimes the dog gobbles up grass so quickly that a blade of grass goes astray and causes them to cough. This allows them to spit it out. Generally, a coughing and vomiting dog is not serious. If your faithful companion eats grass excessively and repeatedly, it may be a sign of gastric problems or a dietary deficiency. In this case, it’s best to make an appointment with your vet.

Coughing and spitting dog

The reasons why a dog coughs and spits are varied. In addition to the foreign body already mentioned, your dog may also be suffering from a respiratory tract infection or tumour, chronic bronchitis or heart failure. Some parasites also cause breathing difficulties. If you live in a hot area or go on holiday with your dog in sunny southern countries, they may be bitten by a mosquito that transmits cardiopulmonary heartworm disease. If you have a coughing and spitting dog, do not try to treat them yourself, and especially not by giving them cough syrup intended for humans. Some of the ingredients may be poisonous for the dog. Call your vet, tell them all of your dog’s symptoms and they will tell you if a visit to the surgery is necessary or not.

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Dog that coughs a lot

If your dog’s cough isn’t temporary and lasts several days, they may be suffering from an illness such as kennel cough, an infectious respiratory disease that is unfortunately very common. It is also known as whooping cough because of the dry coughing fits that accompany it. Other symptoms such as a runny nose or fever are sometimes present. In puppies and weak dogs, this disease should be taken very seriously. Prompt treatment by your vet will prevent serious complications. The disease is highly contagious, so if your dog has kennel cough, they will need to be separated from other dogs for some time. Other illnesses can lead to a chronic cough and only your vet will be able to make a diagnosis after carrying out the necessary examinations.

Dog that coughs at night

Have you noticed that your lovely furball sometimes coughs at night? When a dog has a dry cough during the day and also at night, this could be a sign of heart disease leading to pulmonary oedema. When the heart no longer pumps enough, water accumulates in the lungs, impairing their proper function. Some breeds of dog like the Cavalier King Charles, the Yorkshire Terrier and the Poodle are genetically predisposed to heart failure. Regular veterinary monitoring can detect any heart murmurs or arrhythmias in good time. Additional scans, like an echocardiogram, must sometimes be carried out in order to make a more detailed diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. If your dog suddenly starts coughing at night, it may be due to an allergy. Have you changed the location of their bed? Are you using new cleaning products? Have you bought a new essential oil diffuser? Consider all the changes made in the last few days that may be causing your dog breathing problems. Do you think you have found the allergen? Stop using it and see if that makes a different to your faithful companion’s breathing.

Lungworm in dogs

Dog owners know that their four-legged friend must be wormed regularly to prevent intestinal worms. What very few people have heard of is that there are also worms that live in dogs’ lungs. This parasitic disease, known as angiostrongylosis, is transmitted by snails and slugs. The dog tires quickly and coughs, leading some owners to suspect heart failure. If you live in the countryside or have a garden where your dog can play to their heart’s content, the risk of them catching this type of worm is higher. For dogs with a cough, deworming is the right treatment. Your vet will prescribe the anti-parasite your dog needs after carrying out some tests.

How to help a coughing dog?

Has your vet not found anything serious or prescribed a treatment and you would like to improve your dog’s quality of life? For a coughing dog, a home remedy may provide significant improvement.

Home remedies for dog coughs include:

  • Honey: for a coughing dog, this natural product with many benefits can be given twice a day, half a teaspoon for small and medium-sized dogs and a teaspoon for large dogs. Dogs generally like the taste of honey, simply add it to their food or to a treat. High-quality, unprocessed honey has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Coconut oil: another home remedy that dogs generally love and that has antiviral and antifungal properties. Give your furball a virgin, unrefined coconut oil. Your vet will advise you on the ideal amount.
  • Cinnamon: with antiviral properties, this spice seems to be a good home remedy for kennel cough. You can sprinkle it on your dog’s food.
  • A humidifier: the quality of the surrounding air is vital for dogs who suffer from coughing. Air that is too dry can cause respiratory problems. If your dog coughs at night, an air humidifier in the room where they sleep could provide significant relief.

The reasons why your faithful companion may cough are so varied that self-medication is strongly advised against. Whatever the cause of the cough – cardiac, pulmonary, parasitic or allergic – only a vet will be able to tell you what to do and which treatment is suitable to relieve your dog and significantly improve their quality of life. Treatments for humans are contraindicated and should not be administered under any circumstances.


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