Common Causes and Treatment of Coughing in Dogs

All it takes was your dog coughing in the morning when you don’t expect it. Suddenly, the strutting doggo you know turns into a little pupper in your eyes. They’re so small and so precious; what if that cough is an indicator for something else? Do I need to go to the vet?

sick dog chihuahua coughing

Now, you’re keeping a sharp eye and ear for other symptoms. But you’re still coming up blank. It’s not your fault, though. Unless you’re a trained veterinarian, you won’t be able to figure out your dog’s symptoms so quickly or easily.

An occasional cough is not an issue. They might have felt an itch in their throat, might be excited, or it might just be a random cough. However, if your dog’s cough is persistent, there is a chance that it might be a more serious issue.

Why is My Dog Coughing?

Dogs have a keen sense of smell, which they use to explore the world around them. But while sniffing, your dog picks up many things detrimental to their health, like germs, dust, viruses, parasites, and more, which they can pass to other dogs.

Dogs often cough to expel those things they breathe in. But those things may not be so microscopic. Dirt, dust, grass, even debris can become lodged in your dog’s throat, which they then cough out. And that’s where your help comes in.

If your dog is coughing, the type of cough they have tells you plenty about the kind of problem they may have. It also lets you know whether their cough is worth an emergency trip to the vet.

Types of Coughing in Dogs

Typically, dogs cough in four different ways:

  • Hacking Cough: This is when your dog coughs in a dry, hacking way as if they’re trying to get something out of their mouth or their throat
  • Wet Cough: This is when your dog’s cough is moist and may indicate a cold or nasal infection
  • Honking Cough: This is when your dog emits a goose honk-type noise, which may indicate that your dog’s throat is dry
  • Gagging Cough: This is when your dog may emit a loud, high-pitched sound when they cough

A hacking cough is not so serious since your dog usually coughs out whatever it is that’s tickling their throat. But, if your dog’s cough is wet, gagging, or honking if they cough in series of coughs if it’s persistent, happens only sometimes, after physical activity, or even while they’re sleeping, they may be experiencing a health problem.

Types of Health Problems in Dogs that May Cause Coughing

Pulling on the Leash

Does your dog pull on the leash a lot, enough that they may yank it out of your hands?

When your dog pulls on the leash, that puts pressure on their windpipe because of the collar and the lead. Consider leash training or get a harness suitable for their size. This will prevent any further damage to their windpipe or their neck.

Kennel Cough

This is the dog version of a cold.

Kennel cough is contagious, so if your dog started coughing after their weekly play date, that’s most likely the cause of it. Kennel cough makes a honking noise, so that should give you some idea of the diagnosis.

If your dog is acting like their usual self, though, it’s not a problem. They should recover within the next two-three weeks without a problem. But in that time, keep them indoors, so they don’t spread it to other dogs. However, if you see them weakening and cough persists, take them to the veterinarian straight away.


Coughing is one of the more common symptoms if your dog has bronchitis, in addition to the loss of appetite, wheezing, as well as lack of energy. Bronchitis is caused by viral or bacterial infections, though allergies also have a role to play in this.

If your dog starts to have trouble breathing, or if they start vomiting, it might be time to take them to the vet.

The Shape of their Airways

This is common in smaller breed dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas. Your dog may cough more if they’re excited or getting some exercise. They may also need treatment sometimes if the coughing gets too much. Although, this may not be applicable for dogs who’ve never had coughing problems.

sick dog coughing under a blanket


This is possible if you live in a warmer area like California or Florida, where there are more mosquitos.

Dogs who have heartworm disease do develop a cough. But that depends on their size, as well as their overall health, and how many worms they have. If your dog develops a persistent cough, starts losing weight fast, and doesn’t eat much, that’s a sign that the heartworm infestation is severe.

An emergency veterinary checkup is necessary in case your dog may be going toward heart failure.


Bacteria or a preexisting viral infection typically causes dog pneumonia. Other problems that may cause this condition include specific metabolic disorders, regurgitation, and swallowing difficulties.

If your dog’s cough is soft and moist, this may be the cause. However, if they have a bad appetite, feel lethargic, and have a high fever, you may need to rush them to the doctor. Pneumonia can get bad very fast and requires medical care and, in some cases, hospitalization for your dog to recover.

Heart Disease

No pet partner wants to learn that their dog’s heart may be suffering. But it doesn’t hurt to get their heart checked if they get an increasingly worrisome cough.

Unfortunately, coughing due to heart disease is one of the more common symptoms and usually points to this problem. Because the condition prevents the blood from pumping properly, this causes other parts of the heart to enlarge, which compresses the lungs’ major airways.

If your dog’s coughing is continuous and soft, it’s worsening at night, and your dog is feeling lazy and weak and lying on their side, this may be an indication of heart disease and will require heart medication.

What Should You Do about Coughing in Dogs?

First, check your dog’s mouth and nose for any small debris.

If there’s dust or even a small twig stuck in there, you could take it out, and your dog will be alright. However, if they’re clean and their cough is continuing to get worse or is still present after 24 hours, your best bet is to get them to a veterinarian.

While it may not seem like your dog is suffering, only a trained professional will be able to tell you whether your dog’s condition is severe or not. After the vet has conducted a clinical exam, they may take some blood tests to get a specific diagnosis.

Your vet may most likely offer a range of treatments that may include but not be limited to surgery, some medication, or a good few days of rest and love. After the diagnosis, ask your vet about any other care tips and don’t hesitate to ask why exactly your dog was coughing. You’ll want to be warned for the next time.

When to Go into Emergency Care for Coughing in Dogs

Here are some conditions for which you’ll need to get your dog to the vet as soon as you can:

  • If they start showing breathing difficulties
  • If they show a faster breathing rate and a high heart rate
  • If their cough is continuous and getting worse in a short time
  • If they start acting unwell
  • If they lose interest in food
  • If they cough up blood, medication, or vomit of any particular color

If that’s the case, you’ll need to get your vet on the phone for the time it takes to get your pet to the vet so they can get the clinic ready for your arrival.

Preventing Further Episodes of Coughing in Dogs

As a dog parent, you want to do all you can to protect them completely. Yet, if there’s anything we know, it’s that it’s challenging to protect your dog from all the risks that surround us. All we can do is ensure that we take the right steps to minimize the problems we have.

So, keep your dog up-to-date on their vaccinations, avoid getting them in contact with any dogs that show signs of kennel cough, and keep an eye out when you’re in a public area to ensure that no choking hazard comes within reach.

dog which recovered from sickness and cough

Trust your instincts

Finally, when it comes to your dog’s health, trust your instinct. It’s very easy to figure out if your dog isn’t feeling well. But if you think there’s something more to your dog’s mood than just laziness, check with your local vet and have them checked anyway.

Dogs cannot speak for themselves. As their parents, we must ensure that we keep track of their moods and movements to live a happy, healthy life, surrounded by the people they love.

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