When Your Dog Can’t Stop Coughing

It's normal for your dog to cough every now and then. It's part of everyday life for an animal that can sniff 4 to 6 times per second. But if your dog does it a lot or can’t seem to stop, you may have a sick pup, and he may need treatment.

What’s Behind the Cough?

Like us, dogs cough to get rid of dust, germs, and other stuff they breathe in.

Also like us, they sometimes get infections or viruses.

Dogs are social creatures that naturally sniff and slurp. This is why bacteria and viruses – including a canine form of the flu -- quickly spread from dog to dog. Germs also can land on floors, furniture, food bowls, toys, and other surfaces where the next dog to come along picks them up.

Kennel cough is the common name for a deep, honking canine cough. Is your dog having bouts of hacking, followed by gagging? Think back a week or so. Was he at the groomer, dog park, obedience class, shelter, or playground? Chances are, he was around another sick dog.

Kennel cough is highly contagious, but it's not a serious problem on its own. As long as your dog is eating well and acting like himself, he'll probably feel better in a week or so. Your vet should make sure that he doesn’t need antibiotics or cough suppressants.

Less common causes of coughing include:

  • Fungal infections. Yeast and other fungi can be picked up in dirt or through the air. There are prescription medications that can help.
  • Heartworms. Mosquitos spread this disease. Monthly medication or an injection that lasts 6 months can prevent it. Treatment is hard on your pet, and expensive.
  • Distemper. This virus spreads through the air. It's serious but can be prevented with a yearly vaccine.
  • Heart disease. Leaky valves and other problems can weaken and thicken the heart muscle. This puts pressure on the lungs and airways. Medication along with the right diet and exercise can bring relief.
  • Lung problems Sometimes dogs get bronchitis or pneumonia. They also may suck in dirt, grass seeds, or food, which can lead to an infection of the airways. Antibiotics can help. In rare cases, lung cancer is the diagnosis. Your vet will help you decide if medication or surgery is the best course.