Is your dog coughing? You ask yourself, should I be worried? Should I make an appointment with the vet? 

If you are asking yourself these questions, then the answer is yes! Call your vet and describe your symptoms, including the type of cough your dog is experiencing.

There are many reasons a dog could be coughing, from allergies to heartworm.

If your dog is coughing, take note of what it sounds like to help your vet determine possible causes and solutions.

Do you suspect Kennel cough as a diagnosis for your dog’s recent rasp? We can help! We will go over several sounds to explicitly watch out for, or should we say, listen for.

First, a quick review:

What Is Kennel Cough?

Dog Coughing SoundsKennel Cough or Tracheobronchitis is an all-encompassing term for upper respiratory illness in dogs and is the number one reason for coughing in dogs.

Kennel Cough is an upper respiratory condition that is usually accompanied by a virus-like Adenovirus or Parainfluenza.

In many cases, a dog’s immune system is already affected by one of these familiar viruses before Bordetella. This kennel cough bacteria latches on and takes a ride to the upper respiratory system, causing the infamous persistent “goose-like” cough.

The Bordetella bacteria is exceptionally contagious, airborne, and transmitted from dog to dog by inhalation.

Kennel cough can spread quickly despite the most valiant sanitation efforts because it is transmitted through the air. Kennel cough can be passed from dog to dog in a few ways:

  1. Aerosol – from sneezes and saliva
  2. Contaminated water & food bowls
  3. Dog toys & bedding

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like?

The five most common kennel cough sounds in dogs are:

  1. Hacking (dog dry cough)
  2. Honking
  3. Gagging
  4. Deep Cough
  5. Wet Cough

Dog Hacking Cough

Dog Coughing Sounds

If your dog sounds like they’ve been out one too many nights at the jazz club, they might have a dry hacking cough. Unlike a late-night hangover cough, it is persistent and won’t go away quickly with tea and juice.

A dry, hacking cough that sounds raspy can sound like your dog is trying to cough something up. The cough can also sound like it is coming from “up high” in the windpipe.

Listen to this cute pomeranian with kennel cough. Her hacking cough is raspy and dry. This cough can easily be mistaken for airway obstruction, or something caught in the throat. Whether it is kennel cough or a blockage, the dog needs medical attention.

A persistent dry, hacking, or honking cough is the number one symptom of kennel cough, but a cough can manifest from many things. A dry cough is almost always associated with an upper respiratory illness like kennel cough or chronic bronchitis.

Honking

Honking Cough in DogsThe honking cough is known to correlate with kennel cough specifically. The goose-like sound is startling and irritating for the dog as well as everyone around.

Honking can sometimes be quite loud. The dog may gag at the end like they are trying to get something out of the windpipe. Gagging at the end of the cough is a sure sign of kennel cough.

In this video, this hound dog has a typical, honking cough.

This type of cough strikes fears into the heart of a loving dog owner who knows that this honking sound accompanies the incredibly contagious canine tracheobronchitis or tracheal collapse.

Although kennel cough and tracheal collapse are rarely fatal, if your dog is honking like a goose, call your vet immediately.

Tracheal Collapse

A honking cough can also be evidence of a tracheal collapse in dogs. Smaller breeds like pugs, Shih-Tzus, Chihuahuas, and Yorkies are more likely to suffer from this condition. Take a listen to this poor baby.

Some dog breeds are predisposed to degeneration of the cartilage rings making up the trachea or windpipe.

As the trachea’s natural breaking down progresses, the dog is more likely to damage its trachea by doing silly things like pulling too hard on a leash.

The solution? Buy a harness if you haven’t already. 

Tracheal collapse can occur in any dog from yanking on the leash with a collar of any style. A dog suffering from a cough should be taking it easy with the exercise and avoiding any extra stress or irritation to the throat. Get a harness.

Gagging

A retching and gagging dog can be enough to make a doting pet owner weep while contemplating the potential pain and irritation their canine best friend is enduring.

A commonality of these characteristics is, they all may sound like the dog is choking or trying to cough something out of the windpipe. In the case of kennel cough, nothing is stuck in the throat; this is a reaction to inflammation and soreness.

The kennel “cough” is almost always associated with a gag at the end of the coughing fit. This sweet boy articulates the typical kennel cough gag.

Sometimes a dog with Bordetella can cough so hard that they begin gagging, and it becomes challenging for the animal to catch their breath.

The pup sucks bits of air in as they attempt to breathe between gagging coughs. This is retching. Gagging and retching go hand in hand when we’re talking about kennel cough.

High-pitched gagging coughs can be due to upper airway irritation from some other things as well:

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

Deep Cough

Deep Cough in DogsThough a dry, hacking cough characterizes kennel cough, it can also sound deep like the baritone in a barbershop quartet. Bordetella bacteria attacks the upper respiratory system, the cough that results can sound deep and full, as the honking cough does in large dog breeds.

Wet, Phlegmy Cough

Dog Phlegm CoughAlong with the coughing may come some phlegm, especially as the dog is beginning to heal and recover. The phlegm can manifest in foamy small piles or foam at the lips. A wet cough can also come with the classic yellowish, mucus-like phlegm.

Dogs with kennel cough will often have foam around their mouths from coughing. In this video, the mini pinscher is showing this sign of a bordetella infection.

Coughing up phlegm can be a good sign, It means the dog is finally able to get some of that junk up that they have been trying so hard to expel for the past couple of days. So be sure to comfort them and let them know they are not being a “bad dog” because of their recent mishaps.

If your dog is coughing up phlegm and you haven’t spoken to the vet yet, get there! What are you waiting for?

It’s important to start the conversation with your vet as soon as you begin noticing the coughing symptoms in your dog.

Type of CoughCharacteristics
Hacking CoughDry, unproductive cough that may sound like they are attempting to get something out of their windpipe
Honking CoughGoose-like honking sound. Trachea sensitivity.
Gagging CoughDifficulty catching breath, Retching
Deep CoughLow-sounding cough. Baritone
Wet, Phlegmy CoughFoamy or yellowish and mucous-like.

Kennel Cough Sound: Large vs. Small Dog Breeds

Dog Cough: Small & Large BreedsSmaller dogs have smaller organs, and body parts, where larger animals have well larger ones.

Right now you’re thinking, DUH but it really is that simple. Smaller instruments produce higher-pitched sounds. I’m not calling your dog an instrument, but can you see the analogy? It’s basic biology.

Just as small dogs like Chihuahuas and Yorkies have that high-pitched “yippy” bark that we all cherish dearly, their windpipe is capable of the same octave of sound when coughing.

Adversely, a big coonhound may have a big deep bark; therefore, his cough will reflect his octave.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like In A Yorkie?

Yorkie with Kennel CoughI know it’s hard to watch all of these fur babies coughs, but it is in the name of information and education for us to learn how to see the signs of sickness in our animals.

This little Toy Poodle has kennel cough. As you can hear, it sounds different than that of the hound dog up above.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like In A Lab?

Golden Lab with Cough SoundThis beautiful golden lab suffers from kennel cough.

You can hear in the video; the cough sounds quite dry, consistent and unproductive. Another perfect representation of what kennel cough sounds like in dogs.

What Does Kennel Cough Sound Like In Puppies?

Puppy With CoughCoughing in puppies can sound a little bit different than large or small, full-grown breeds.

Puppies will show the same signs and symptoms of kennel cough as an older dog, but they will have a high(er) pitched, persistent, honking cough and gag than a fully developed dog. 

This video shows a nine-week-old (absolutely adorable) puppy with kennel cough. If you compare this furry baby’s honking cough to the big boys in the videos prior, you’ll notice this puppy sounds more like a squeaky toy than a goose.

Puppies need extra loving care when it comes to kennel cough. They are more susceptible to the transmission of kennel cough because:

  • They have adorable baby underdeveloped immune systems and haven’t had the chance to build them up yet.
  • They haven’t yet had all of their vaccines.

What Are The Treatments For Puppies With Kennel Cough?

In most cases, kennel cough will clear up with rest, water, and healthy foods. Your vet can aid in medical management to soothe a sore throat and quiet a nasty cough with:

  • Antibiotics
  • A cough suppressant
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Bronchodilator treatments

There are several things you can do to help relieve your dog’s symptoms of kennel cough.

One of the simplest and most recommended is the use of a humidifier. Set up a humidifier near your pup to open nasal passages, moisten the throat and in turn lessen coughing and pain.

There are also many natural remedies for kennel cough.

Why Is My Dog Vomiting White Foam?

Firstly, don’t panic!

One of the most common reasons that a dog coughs or vomits white foam is nausea. Pet owners know that if they notice their dog eating grass, they are probably nauseous. This act usually leads to vomiting foam.

Most of the time, this fond act of eating fresh grass and vomiting on your new rug is no big deal; at least, it’s no threat to the dog’s health, a spoilt antique rug might be a big deal.

Still, if you notice other symptoms like lack of appetite, persistent coughing, lethargy or fever, you have a more significant issue on your hands that requires medical attention. 

Three dog diseases that can cause foamy vomit are:

  1. Kennel cough
  2. Rabies
  3. Parvovirus

Kennel cough

When a dog is suffering from kennel cough, the most common symptom is, you guessed it, the cough! Though people don’t talk about the foamy vomit that comes out after a dog’s coughing fit. 

This foamy aftermath is most likely a result of congestion in the sinuses and dryness and irritation in the throat. Dogs with kennel cough will often experience ocular secretions and a runny nose. 

Use of a humidifier, or a DIY sauna made from running the hot shower in the small bathroom, to help moisten the air as well as soothe the dog’s throat and congestion.

Rabies

Hopefully, we never have to worry about this one. With regular vet visits and rabies vaccines and boosters, no one should have to see their dog go all “Cujo” on anyone. This is one of the few diseases in dogs that cause foamy saliva and vomit to collect around the mouth, but it is also the least likely scenario.

Parvovirus

Puppies are very vulnerable to Parvovirus. It’s incredibly contagious, like kennel cough but it only occurs in puppies. Puppies are at high risk for parvo if exposed to the disease via direct contact with an infected animal or indirect contact with toys or water and food bowls.

Puppies can hold onto some of their mother’s antibodies for up to 6 weeks assuming the mother was up-to-date on her vaccines. This can protect them from the virus in their early weeks. It is a good rule to keep any puppy away from boarding facilities, shelters, and doggy daycares until they are fully vaccinated.

Puppies are vaccinated for Parvovirus at about six weeks old. They then receive a series of three shots every couple of weeks and a dose of parvo at 12 weeks to ensure protection from the virus. Before that, they need to be cautious due to their underdeveloped immune systems.

Parvovirus is extremely serious and should not be taken lightly. This virus can even result in a fatality in puppies. Be careful with your new baby.

What If My Dog’s Cough Isn’t Kennel Cough?

Different Types of Dog CoughingKennel cough is very prevalent, especially in the colder months and for dogs who are boarded, frequent doggy daycares, or have been in an animal shelter.

However, there are several possible reasons why your dog could be coughing.

Listen carefully and make a list of the characteristics of the cough you’re hearing, so you have substantial evidence to aid in diagnosis by your veterinarian.

Type of Dog CoughPossible Ailment
Dry, hacking, gaggingKennel Cough
Dry, GaggingSore Throat
GaggingAirway Obstruction
Wet, wheezing, rattling coughRoundworm/Parasites
Wet, wheezing, rattlingHeartworm/Heart Disease
Dry, wheezing coughDistemper
Honking coughTracheal Collapse
Wet, phlegmy, cough with blood spewTuberculosis
Wet, phlegmy coughFungal Infection
Wet, gurgling or bubbly coughLung Issues & Lung Cancer
Wet, phlegmy coughPneumonia

Any cough, sneeze, or act that is out of the ordinary can be a sign of something else going on. I’m not saying to blow up your veterinarian’s phone line with every sneeze but any symptom that lasts more than a day can plausibly be something more serious.

Pay attention and note symptoms, and signs when your pet is acting weird. Everything you notice will help in a diagnosis and prognosis for your canine companion.

We Love Our Pets

We’re all caring parents that want the best for our animals, and it’s our responsibility to seek professional help as soon as you notice any of these dog cough sounds.

Be sure to call, discuss, or visit your vet with any questions, concerns, or symptoms your dog may be experiencing.