Why Do Dogs Cough?

by Cindy Quarters, Demand Media
    Coughing can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem.

    Coughing can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem.

    Just like people, dogs cough for all kinds of reasons. It may be temporary and nothing to worry about, but continued coughing can also signal serious problems. If your dog seems to be coughing a lot, pay attention and get him checked out, just to make sure he’s OK.

    Temporary Irritation

    Sometimes dogs cough because they’ve breathed in some dust, hair, a bug or another temporary irritant. If this is the case, your dog will usually cough for a few minutes, but the coughing will fade when he gets rid of whatever it is. The cough may recur off and on for a little while, perhaps even a couple of hours, but the coughing is normally not violent and fades fairly quickly, and is unlikely to require any type of treatment. If your dog continues to cough, take him to the veterinarian to be sure there isn’t a more serious problem.

    Partial Blockage

    A dog can sometimes get a foreign object stuck in his throat that causes repeated, often violent, coughing, but without obvious signs of illness. This can occur if he’s gotten something stuck in his throat that is causing irritation but is not blocking his airway. Dogs swallow all kinds of things that can get stuck, including bits of bones and various weeds, such as foxtails. These blockages usually need to be removed by a veterinarian before they cause your dog any serious harm, since they can lead to infection or even a total blockage of his throat.

    Respiratory Illness

    A dog that coughs continually, often bringing up mucous or even blood, may have some type of respiratory condition such as bronchitis or pneumonia. He may also have kennel cough, or it could be something as simple as a cold. Typically runny eyes, fever, difficulty breathing and other signs of illness accompany this type of cough. Your dog may also cough more at night than he does in the daytime. Take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible, since he is likely to need treatment to get over the illness.

    Heart Problems

    Continued dry coughing can be a sign of a serious heart problem. If your dog is coughing repeatedly without any apparent reason, take him to your vet as soon as possible. This type of coughing occurs most often when the dog’s heart is seriously enlarged and is interfering with his breathing or is not pumping blood efficiently. Heart-related coughing typically shows up when the dog is active or excited. This type of coughing can signal heartworm or other potentially fatal conditions and requires immediate treatment.

    About the Author

    Cindy Quarters has been writing professionally since 1984. She writes travel, pet, gardening and technical articles, with work published in "Radiance Magazine" and the "AKC Gazette," as well as online. Quarters earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington State University and a master's degree in management information systems from West Coast University.

    Photo Credits

    • stray sleeping dog image by Cherry-Merry from Fotolia.com