Pet Talk: Why is my dog coughing?
In my many years of practicing veterinary medicine here in the Vail Valley, I have seen innumerable coughing dogs, during every season of the year from many different causes, and some more life threatening than others.
As a pet owner, when should you get concerned when your pet is exhibiting a cough? What signs would you look for and what could this cough represent?
It’s normal for your pets to sniff and get their noses where perhaps they can be exposed to bacteria, viruses or even foreign material such as grass.
But why is your pet coughing now?
There are innumerable reasons for a cough in dogs, but these are the most common.
Kennel cough is a very common reason for the active pet who visits the dog park frequently or is often groomed or boarded in doggie day care where chances of exposure increases. Owners often confuse kennel cough with something caught in a pet’s throat, as the pet will try to cough up something with no success. Because this is highly contagious, your pet should be seen by your veterinarian and depending on the severity, may be treated with cough suppressants and potentially antibiotics for any secondary infections.
Lung problems or pneumonia can also cause a cough. Pets, just like people, can get respiratory disease, which is primarily infection based.
If your pet has an infectious lung disease, the cough will often be “productive,” meaning you will see discharge coming out both the nose and the mouth.
Allergic respiratory disease can also be present in a pet.
Pets can have allergies resulting in an asthma-like condition, especially during times of the high allergy season, or after exposure to wildfires, dust and changes in environment.
Allergic respiratory disease can be treated with both oral and inhalant medications and managed over time. The cough is often a dry, hacking cough.
Heart disease in pets can also be represented as a cough because as the heart begins to fail and fluid builds up in the lungs, making it uncomfortable for your pet to breathe.
This is common in your older pets, but can be seen in younger pets with congenital heart disease.
Often your pet will have a fluid sound when breathing, and the tongue color can become blue as your pet is less oxygenated.
Fungal infections can result in coughing as they can be picked up in the dirt or in the air in various parts of the country, and present themselves later when the owner has returned home.
Heartworm disease is often forgotten when we evaluate pets for a cough, but certainly has become more prevalent in our state in recent years in all ages of pets.
Parasites, in addition to heartworm, can travel to the lungs and cause coughing and lead to life-threatening lung disease.
If your pet is coughing, think of the many reasons listed that could be the cause, but certainly see your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Chest X-rays, in addition to baseline blood work will likely be performed to ascertain the cause and develop a treatment plan.
This article was written by Sheila Fitzpatrick DVM, owner of the Mountain Animal Hospital Center & Mobile Veterinarian. She can be reached at 970-328-7085.