8 Conditions That Can Cause Your Dog to Cough

Coughing is usually a clue we have a cold or the flu, and it’s also how we clear our throat. For humans, a cough can indicate a serious medical issue.

Dogs can also develop a cough that could be nothing to worry about, or an indication of medical issues you need to be aware of. If your dog has a persistent cough, call your vet.

Kennel Cough

Although highly contagious, most dogs who develop kennel cough will recover on their own. However, it can take up to three weeks depending on your pet’s age and health. Older dogs, puppies and canines with a depressed immune system can take longer to recover. Your dog can be infected if he has spent time in a kennel, at the groomer, a dog park, a training class or anywhere there’s multiple dogs. A kennel cough is characterized by a deep, dry honking or hacking cough that might cause gagging afterwards. It gets worse when he’s playing or running. If his cough persists or worsens, call your vet. A serious bout of kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.

Sore Throat

Like us, dogs can get a sore throat. It’s rare, but canines can also have tonsillitis. If you notice your dog licking his lips and making swallowing motions, and he has a high pitched gagging cough, it could be a sign of a sore throat, or an indication he has something caught in his throat.

Lung Problems

Pneumonia can be caused by parasites like heart-worm or roundworms, a bacterial or viral infection, or by inhaling something like dirt, grass seeds, food, or even vomit which can cause an infection. A wet, gargling cough is an indication of pneumonia. Bronchitis is a dry hacking cough with wheezing and gagging. Smoking can be a cause of bronchitis in dogs.There’s two types of lung cancer, primary and metastatic. Primary lung cancer is rare. Metastatic lung cancer migrates to the lungs from other parts of the body through the bloodstream and is more common, especially in dogs over ten years.

Heart Disease

Some small dogs and certain breeds, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Boxer and Doberman, are more prone to congestive heart failure than other canines. A buildup of fluid in the lungs causes coughing, especially when the dog is lying down. Coughing can also be an indication of an enlarged heart.

Tracheal Collapse

A collapsed trachea is more often found in older, overweight and overexcited miniature and toy breeds. Pressure changes cause the tracheal cavity to narrow and collapse when breathing. If your little dog honks like a goose, especially when he’s pulling on his leash or after eating or drinking, that’s a sign of a collapsed trachea. Ways to prevent the problem include feeding a quality dog food like CANIDAE Grain Free PURE to maintain a healthy weight, providing moderate exercise, teaching your dog not to pull on his leash, using a harness instead of a leash, and avoiding situations that cause him to cough.

Foreign Bodies

Grass Awn Migration Disease is caused by barbed grass seed awns like foxtail plants, and can be hazardous to pets. Awns have sticky dagger-like hooks that go one way and can pierce the skin and move through the body of dogs and cats, causing injury and even death. They can be inhaled or ingested. Loud coughing is only one symptom. Small sticks and other objects can get lodged in the gums or at the back of the throat. If you suspect something is caught in your dog’s mouth, it’s best to call your vet and let him remove whatever is causing the problem. If you find a seed awn in the skin, mouth or nose, don’t try to take it out yourself, especially if the area is swollen and looks red. Let your vet take it out so he can make sure the entire awn is removed. Foreign bodies can cause a bacterial infection and lead to pneumonia.

The Flu

Canine flu is a highly contagious respiratory virus that can infect dogs any time of the year. A new strain, H3N2, was recently discovered in the Chicago area and has spread out to neighboring states. Most healthy dogs recover from both strains of flu on their own, but older dogs, puppies and canines with depressed immune systems are more at risk of developing pneumonia.


This highly contagious viral disease can be prevented with a vaccination. It is spread through urine, feces and respiratory secretions from an infected dog. An occasional cough isn’t anything to be concerned about, but if your dog has a frequent or persistent cough, you’ll want to take him to the vet instead of waiting to see if the cough goes away on its own. Most conditions can be dealt with and treated if they are caught early.

Blog sponsored by Canidae Pet Food, written by Linda Cole.

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