Excessive Coughing in Pugs

A pug's short airway puts him at extra risk of respiratory diseases.
i a beautiful Pug dog image by John Steel from Fotolia.com

It's upsetting to see your pug in distress. A pug can start coughing for a number of reasons, ranging from kennel cough to a congenital condition that produces a distinctive cough. Most of these are treatable. If your pug starts coughing, listen to him, then take him to the vet.

Collapsed Trachea

Tracheal collapse or narrowing is a congenital condition commonly seen in small dogs such as the pug. The distinctive coughing sound a pug makes if he has this condition is usually compared to the honking sound that geese make, or to a child with croup. You need to take him to a vet, who will examine his windpipe using various diagnostic tools such as a fluoroscope, X-ray and endoscope.

The trachea consists of rings of cartilage. In affected pugs the cartilage is weaker than usual, and over time normal breathing flattens the rings, causing narrowing or collapse.

Standard treatments for the condition are cough suppressants, bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, and sometimes tranquilizers to keep your pug from overexcitement that can bring on a coughing fit. If your vet can't manage the condition with medication, he might recommend surgery.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

A significant number of pugs are affected by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Because of their shortened airways, this condition is harder on pugs than on humans. At its most basic, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an obstructed airway, with coughing, wheezing and gurgling sounds as typical symptoms. Environmental factors such as smoke, dust and chemical irritants are external causes of the disease.

An elongated soft palate is the most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in a pug, but a swollen larynx, enlarged tonsils, narrow nostrils and asthma can also cause it. A pug with asthma usually has a chronic cough. Coughing and gagging up phlegm are often signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, combined with louder than normal breathing.

See your vet if you notice any of these signs. Your vet will treat your pug with a bronchodilator and anti-allergy drugs, treatments also used for humans.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an infectious disease that your pug can catch from other dogs. As its name suggests, boarding kennels, grooming salons, and places where dogs hang out in groups are often sources of the infection. Typical signs are a high-pitched, honking cough if your pug's vocal chords are swollen, or a dry, hacking cough. Other symptoms are fever, nose and eye discharge and breathing problems.

Pugs are prone to upper respiratory tract diseases like this, so prevention and treatment are important. Vaccination is the main form of prevention. Treatment usually consists of cough suppressants or expectorants, but if the condition persists, the vet usually prescribes antibiotics.

Because kennel cough is so infectious, it is important to seek your vet's diagnosis as soon as possible, particularly if you have other dogs, or if your pug regularly socializes with neighbors' dogs.

Heart Disease

According to the ASPCA "Complete Dog Care Manual," a persistent nighttime cough might be a sign of poor heart function. Fluid builds up in the lungs over time, and your dog coughs or gags in unsuccessful attempts to bring up the fluid. This is most noticeable after exercise.The coughing increases if the condition is not diagnosed.

If your vet diagnoses a cough related to a heart condition, he will prescribe medication to improve the pug's heart function.

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