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.
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.
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.
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.
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.