Dogs cough for a variety of reasons. Similarly to humans, coughing is a behaviour used to clear your throat, or as a symptom of an illness. Most of the time coughing is nothing to worry about. Humans and dogs naturally react by coughing when a foreign body enters their airway. Dogs who get very excited at meal times can show the coughing behaviour quite frequently – if they eat or drink too quickly they are likely to inhale an unwelcome particle into their lungs every now and then, but their bodies are designed to automatically clear it away and carry on with their activity. Sneezes can easily be mistaken for coughs – if you are unsure which it is, read our article about why your dog might be sneezing and hopefully you can pinpoint the cause.
Similarly to humans, dogs can get lung infections which cause coughing. Kennel Cough, the term for a contagious upper respiratory infection, is a prevalent problem in dogs, and doesn’t only occur if your dog has been to a boarding kennel. Kennel cough can be caused by a variety of different bacteria or viruses, and presents as a dry, hacking cough. If you think that your dog has a respiratory infection, it is best to consult your vet; they may recommend vaccinating your dog against kennel cough every six months if your dog regularly visits a kennel or day-care. Although it isn’t usually a serious problem, kennel cough can be highly contagious so it is best to protect your dog if they are likely to be meeting up with a lot of other dogs.
Persistent coughing over a longer period of time can be an indicator of a more serious problem. Coughing can be a symptom of allergies, fungal infections, heart worms, pneumonia or even heart disease. If your dog is coughing for any reason, other than to clear away a small bit of food or water, we recommend that you take them to the vet.