If you’re anything like the average dog owner, you will do anything for them. They are like children who we obsess and worry about to no avail.

If you hear a sniffle, you’re on alert for the next 12 hours. Your dog clears their throat after a meal, and you’re ready to call in for an emergency vet visit. All you want to know is:

“Why is my dog coughing?!”

Well, give yourself a break and relax for a moment. A lot of the time, dogs cough for the same reasons we do. Coughing is usually a response to irritation in the air—pollutants like cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes, or allergens like dust and pollen. Even smelly things like your perfume or cologne can cause a tickle in the back of your dog’s throat.

What Causes My Dog To Cough?

There are several reasons why your dog is coughing and gagging—anything from air pollutants to allergies to things more severe, like parasites and viral or fungal infections.

As in humans, different types of coughs and the sounds they make can indicate the specific cause of the cough. 

Mostly, dogs cough for the same reasons that we might, but it is more severe and dangerous in some instances.

If your dog just sniffed the dandelion in the yard only to cough and sneeze, it’s probably not an issue. Attention paid to the type of cough the dog is exhibiting will help you decide whether it is necessary to call the vet, make an appointment, or seek emergency services.

If you find that the cough is persistent if it sounds wet and bubbly, dry and hacking or wheezy, these are reasons for concern.

If you notice that your dog coughs intermittently in the home, it could be because of irritants.

What Irritants Can Cause My Dog To Cough?

What Causes Dog to CoughIrritants include but are not limited to:

  • Fire ash
  • Household sprays
  • Air fresheners
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Toxic cleaning products like bleach

Remember that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so if it smells strong to you, it’s stronger to them.

If your dog is having allergy symptoms while in the house, try cleaning well, including food and water bowls, use a filtered vacuum, go light on the air fresheners, and don’t smoke around your dog, see if that helps. You may be surprised how much a little tidying can do!

What Are The Most Common Reasons For Coughing In Dogs?

These are the five most common reasons for coughing in dogs:

  • Kennel cough
  • Sore throat
  • Heartworm
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Canine distemper

We’ll delve a little deeper into the symptoms, causes, and types of coughs that correlate with these conditions.

Different Types of Coughs in Dogs

We’ll discuss 5 different types of coughing in dogs, their potential causes, and options for treatment:

  • Hacking cough (dry cough)
  • Dog cough
  • Gagging cough
  • Wheezing cough
  • Honking cough
  • Wet cough

Pay close attention to what your dog’s cough sounds like, as this will help you diagnose potential problems and find a solution.

Dog Hacking cough (dry cough)

The dry cough usually comes with hacking and may sound like the cough is coming from “up high” in the windpipe.

If your dog has a persistent dry, hacking cough, he could be suffering from one of the following conditions:

  • Kennel cough
  • Chronic bronchitis

Kennel Cough

A dry, hacking, and honking coughs are most often associated with Kennel Cough. Kennel cough is a prevalent and contagious condition spread with ease throughout animal shelters, kennels and other places where dogs are near each other.

Kennel cough comes from the bacteria Bordetella. Bordetella is often accompanied by a virus such as Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, or Distemper. 

Other symptoms may include runny eyes, yellow or watery nasal discharge, and sneezing.

Kennel cough is rarely fatal and typically will only cause minor discomfort. However, if a dog develops a fever, loses its appetite, or suffers from lethargy, see your vet immediately. These could be signs of something more serious.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis is pretty common, causing a hacking cough and sometimes wheezing as

well. A cough is chronic when it lasts over two months.

Bronchitis comes from a variety of things. Similar to Kennel cough, it is more likely to be transmitted in places where there are a lot of dogs in a contained area.

Dogs will be the most vulnerable at places like Animal shelters, dog parks, and boarding facilities because Bronchitis usually comes after a virus-like Adenovirus or Parainfluenza.

Dog Gagging Cough

High-pitched gagging coughs can be due to upper airway irritation from the following problems:

  • Sore throat
  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Roundworms and other internal parasites

Sore Throat 

A gagging cough could be due to environmental factors, carcinogens, or smoke that result in a sore throat. These can result in sinus infections or infections in the mouth.

Obstruction of airway

What dog doesn’t like a good game of fetch with their favorite ball or a delicious bully stick for being a good boy or girl? Of course, we want to have fun with our furry companions, but we must be cautious of the choking hazards they may encounter.

A gagging cough could also suggest that something is lodged or caught in the pup’s throat, causing irritation and discomfort. Some may recommend attempting to remove the blockage manually, but you could make things worse, so get to the vet ASAP.

Roundworms and other internal parasites

Roundworms love yucky things like feces and contaminated soil. Who likes to stick their little nose in feces and contaminated soil? Dogs.

Dogs love gross things, and poop is no exception. When the roundworm is ingested, eggs will hatch and move up the windpipe, causing coughing and gagging. Luckily, a vet can typically fix a little run-in with roundworm pretty painlessly.

Dogs may have a pot-bellied appearance if they are experiencing a roundworm infection. They may also be malnourished due to nutrient deficiency from the parasites stealing all of the food in their belly.

Dog Wheezing Cough

A wet rattling or high-pitched “whistling” sound while inhaling is a wheezing cough, which can be caused by:

  • Heartworm
  • Canine distemper

Heartworm

Heartworm is transferred between dogs via mosquitoes who bite the dog, leaving the larvae to infect them. The larvae then swim toward the lungs, causing damage to the tissue. The damaged tissue leads to a wheezing, wet-sounding cough, and difficulty breathing due to the worms the dog is trying to cough up.

It can take up to six months for the heartworm cough to manifest after infection. Heartworm is pretty serious and can be challenging to treat. Monthly heartworm preventative medication may be a bit of an investment, but it is well worth keeping the risk of infection at bay.

Distemper 

Distemper is a dangerous virus accompanied by a dry wheezing cough accompanied by a fever and yellowish discharge from the eyes and nose.

Unlike the kennel cough vaccine, which can be optional depending on the dog’s interaction with other dogs and the likelihood of boarding, the Distemper vaccine is necessary.

This vaccine, kennel cough, or Bordetella vaccine, will be included in the first round of puppies shots. Distemper can be fatal, and no one wants that, so be sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and monthly heartworm medicine.

Dog Honking Cough

This cough is likened to the honk of a goose – which sounds weird until you hear it and understand the name!

A honking cough can be particularly concerning because it might indicate tracheal collapse.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is more common in smaller breeds and occurs when the trachea’s cartilage weakens and causes the trachea to fall in on itself. As a result, the dog develops a honking cough.

If you have a small dog and you suspect tracheal collapse, there are a few things you can look for.

  • Honking cough
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Bluish gums
  • Labored breathing
  • A dog may “honk” when you pick them up
  • Sensitivity to touch in trachea area

Always consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Dog Wet Cough

This is a moist, phlegmy cough that we’ve all experienced when we have a bad cold.

In your dog, though, a wet cough could be a symptom of the following conditions:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Fungal infection
  • Lung issues
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart disease

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis manifests in dogs the way it does in humans. A moist cough accompanied by heavy breathing and bloody spews will be evident. Dogs will only contract TB if they come in direct contact with the disease.

Though TB is easily transferable, dogs tend to have natural immunity and will only become infected if someone within close quarters has the disease.

Fungal infections

A wet cough can be an indicator of a fungal infection. Sometimes fungus can grow inside a chicken, find its way to the digestive tract, and end in their feces.

If you have chickens, be wary of your dog’s interest in their poop. Dogs can develop a fungal infection from eating chicken waste.

Lungs issues

A phlegmy, bubbly cough is often the result of pulmonary or lung issues. The bubbly sound is fluid in the lungs, gurgling as the dog breathes and coughs.

Lung cancer is a possibility, but it is relatively uncommon and only accounts for a mere 1% of dogs’ cancer.

Pneumonia

Pneumonia affects the lungs and comes after a severely weakened immune system.

Pneumonia can develop if prompt diagnoses of viruses such as Parainfluenza or Distemper are not recognized. Even Kennel cough can turn to pneumonia without proper care and attention to treatment guidelines.

Heart Disease

Congestive Heart Failure is when the heart stops functioning correctly, and fluid can accumulate in the lungs.

If your dog is coughing more or only at night or while they are lying down, this could be a possibility. Fluid builds up around the lungs can be detrimental. Get them to the vet right away.

Treatment Options For Different Types of Dog Coughs

This helpful table summarises the definition, symptoms, and treatment options for different types of dog cough:

AilmentType of Dog CoughTreatment
Kennel CoughDry, hacking, gaggingRest, hydration, nutrition, antibiotics, cough suppressants.

 

Isolation from other animals

 

Severe cases may need to be hospitalized with intravenous fluids.

Sore ThroatDry, GaggingRest, hydration, nutrition, avoid irritants like smoke and pollutants.
Airway ObstructionGaggingIf you can open the dog’s mouth and see anything, blocking the airway, it’s recommended to schedule an emergency vet visit right away.
Roundworm/ParasitesWet, wheezing, rattling coughParasites are stubborn and will not leave on their own, therefore vet intervention is crucial.

 

Luckily, a slight infection can be resolved pretty painlessly with a one-time wormer that will kill eggs and larvae.

Heartworm/Heart DiseaseWet, wheezing, rattlingAgain, vet intervention is crucial if you suspect your dog to have heartworms. However, this is easily avoided by the use of monthly medication prescribed by your vet.
DistemperDry, wheezing coughA preemptive Distemper vaccine is the ideal solution, but if you suspect your dog has contracted the virus, make an emergency vet visit immediately.
Tracheal CollapseHonking coughTalk to your vet if you suspect tracheal collapse.

 

Use harnesses only instead of collars to avoid additional damage from pulling on a leash.

TuberculosisWet, phlemy, cough with blood spewDogs tend to have an immunity to TB but it is possible to catch it if they are in very close quarters.

 

See a vet immediately

Fungal InfectionWet, phlegmy coughAssess your dog’s surroundings for fecal matter or other funky or yeasty things and get rid of them or keep your dog away from them.

 

Ask your vet to test for a fungal infection. If that is the culprit they will prescribe an oral anti-fungal to clear the infection.

Lung Issues & Lung CancerWet, gurgling, or bubbly coughIf lung issues or lung cancer is a concern, take your dog to the vet immediately and schedule an X-ray if necessary.
PneumoniaWet, phlegmy coughSee your vet as soon as possible.

If caught in its early stages, pneumonia can be treated with a round of antibiotics.

Keep your dog super hydrated.

You can help your dog by patting their chest gently and light exercise to help loosen the phlegm and fluid in their throat and lungs.

Extreme cases need to be treated by a vet sooner than later.

This table provides a rough guide but always consult with your vet if you have any concerns or specific questions about your dog.

Telltale Signs That You Should Bring Your Dog to the Vet

Better to be safe than sorry! If your dog displays any of the following symptoms, you should take them to the vet immediately:

  • Extremely tired or lethargic
  • Vomiting
  • Persistent coughing or retching
  • Fever
  • Loss or lack of appetite
  • Coughing is indicative of something more serious
  • Coughing up blood
  • Coughing goes on for an extended period of time (24-48 hours)

Dog Cough Treatment – How Can You Help?

There are some helpful natural remedies and quick-fixes that can relieve your dog’s coughing symptoms:

  1. Honey
  2. Coconut oil
  3. Humidifier
  4. Steam
  5. Vitamin C
  6. Probiotic foods
  7. Exercise and rest
  8. Take off the collar
  9. Vet intervention

Honey

You can add a teaspoon of honey to warm water or just have them lick it off of the spoon. Honey soothes a sore throat while also being a yummy treat.

Be careful not to exceed one teaspoon a day. Honey can be beneficial for medicinal purposes but is high in sugar and calories.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil not only has natural antiviral properties that are super advantageous but also, dogs love it! You can give your pooch two teaspoons daily to reduce most types of dry coughs and sore throat.

Humidifier

A humidifier can help lessen your dog’s cough by moistening the air making it easier to breathe in with an irritated throat.

Steam

A DIY sauna can be just what the doctor ordered to help open a blocked bronchial tube and loosen phlegm.

Do your dog a favor and steam up the bathroom, then bring them in there. Dogs may be anxious because of the noisy shower, so get it real steamy and sit in there with your dog. They will get some relief while you get a mini steam detox!

Vitamin C

Like humans, vitamin C can boost the immune system and help move along the dogs’ recovery process. Do not exceed 500mg, and feel free to talk to your vet first.

Probiotic foods

Probiotics have many benefits for humans and their furry counterparts by fighting bacteria in the body. Next time try sharing some of your greek yogurts with your favorite four-legged friend. You may also consider asking your vet about probiotic supplements.

Give your pup time to rest

Exercise is vital for a pup’s health and well-being, but take it easy for a while and give them time to rest. Consider replacing the morning job with a meditative walk, then take some time for a little R & R. You could probably both use it!

Take the collar off

A collar can irritate an already sore throat. Whether the dog is suffering from a simple cough or tracheal collapse, ease up on the collar.

If you don’t already have a harness, BUY ONE. Excessive pulling on the trachea can be damaging even for healthy dogs.

Vet intervention

If any symptoms last for longer than 24 hours, go ahead and give the vet a call to get their two cents on the situation.

You can do lots of things to make your coughing pet more comfortable, but consulting professionals is always a good move.

Check Your Dog’s Gums!

What To Do About Dog CoughA sick dog’s gums may change color depending on the illness and the severity. 

Knowing what to look for can come in very handy when you’re worried about your pup.

Other than apparent symptoms, you can also tell a lot from the color of your dog’s gums. Healthy gums should be a pretty pink shade of bubblegum. If they vary, ask your vet.

Color of GumsPossible Causes
Pale gumsAnemia or internal bleeding
Blue  or purplish gumsLack of oxygen or trouble breathing
Red gumsInfection or shock
Yellow gumsLiver problems

Conclusion

Well, we’ve learned a lot here. I told you not to worry in the first paragraph then I gave you a list of worries to contemplate!

We all love our dogs. Overthinking their comfort or spoiling them like Daddy Warbucks are just things that are going to happen. Loving someone this much is bound to bring about some anxiety and even heartache.

Lucky for us, dogs make all the unease and concern worth it with their light-hearted and unconditional devotion. Where would we be without them?