Pet parents are very observant of anything out of the ordinary with their fur babies. When your dog is making weird coughing sounds, such as honking, hacking, or whooping, it’s a cause for alarm. Though most coughs are nothing to be concerned about, a continued hack can be troublesome, and it warrants further investigation.
10 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Coughing!
It’s normal for pets to try to clear irritants from their passageways, just like you would if you were to be in a dusty room. However, a chronic cough needs to be examined. Here are ten of the most common reasons why your dog may be coughing.
1. Respiratory Infection
Dogs can get a respiratory infection just like humans. Because pups must go outside to use the restroom in the winter months, it can cause their respiratory track to become irritated. These infections are usually seen more in smaller dogs.
Signs of a respiratory infection usually include a hacking cough that lasts for several weeks. It gets better with rest and worse with any exertion. The dog will usually appear otherwise healthy.
They don’t typically have fevers or any nasal discharge with this type of infection. However, you can hear their lungs crackle, and their breathing becomes labored by the smallest of activities. A trip to the vet and a round of antibiotics should clear it up without issue.
2. Heart Problems
Congestive heart failure is one of the most horrific conditions that anyone can suffer. Fluids fill up around the heart and cause labored breathing and overall malaise. Dogs can get CFS, and the cough with this condition is undeniable.
Some owners say their pet has a goose like honk when they cough, and they can hear the fluids moving about when they cough. You must be careful in trying to self-diagnose with this type of hacking. Kennel cough also sounds much like the hack from a CFS patient.
A veterinarian will do an x-ray to check for an enlarged heart, fluid build-up in the area, and any other signs of heart disease. The cough is annoying and non-stop, so it’s hard to ignore. Your pet won’t get much sleep and neither will you.
Lasix is a great medication that can help eliminate the excess water from the chest cavity. They are inexpensive and can extend the life of a pet. Other treatments can also improve the comfort of your dog.
3. Heart Worm Disease
When a mosquito bites a dog, their larva creates Dirofilaria immitis worms. These worms fill the heart, lungs, and other organs causing disease. Coughing is one of the first ways to identify these worms as they don’t come out in the stool like other young insects.
It can take six to seven months after a bite for the worms to appear. A veterinarian will examine the worm burden, which is the number of worms inside the pet. The average burden is about 15 worms, though the most in history were 250.
The Antigen test is used to confirm the presence of heartworms. Dogs should be regularly tested after seven months of age for these parasites. Both indoor and outdoor animals are susceptible to these worms.
Most dogs with heartworms require extensive treatment, and even with treatment, it’s often too late. Prevention is the best way to ensure your fur baby doesn’t suffer from these deadly parasites.
4. Sinus and Allergy Issues
A canine companion’s hacking can be quite troublesome when you cannot find an underlying cause. Animals can suffer from allergies too. One way to tell if the cough is associated with sinus is you notice a nasal discharge, dripping eyes, and other typical allergy symptoms.
Sinus problems are more annoying than they are dangerous. However, it can be quite miserable for the pet suffering. A veterinarian can access the situation and give medications that can control the irritated sinus passageways.
5. Indoor Irritants
Have you ever sprayed hairspray or air freshener and your dog sneezed or coughed? Their delicate little respiratory systems cannot handle all the inhalants that you do. In some instances, the inhalants aren’t good for you either.
Using deodorizers and things to enhance smells has become a part of today’s culture. You go into a bathroom, and candles are burning, perfume bottles, deodorant, and all sorts of sprays are scattered about. However, the pup may be coughing because these smells are irritating their respiratory tract.
While they don’t have an infection, they are irritated. If they are coughing constantly when you use a specific scent, then you may need to change to another one to help ease the irritation. Thankfully, this is one reason for coughing that you can control.
A pet must maintain their weight for optimal health. Have you ever been overweight? Doing daily tasks can be unbearable if you have an extra 20-30 lbs. you’re carrying around. To a pet that is supposed to weight 7-10 lbs. an extra one or two pounds of weight can be damaging to their heart.
If your pet is struggling to make it up the stairs, coughs when he is exerted playing outside, or just seems to be packing on the pounds, then the extra weight could be causing the hacking. Any weight problem should be addressed immediately as it can lead to arthritis, heart disease, and other complications.
In some canines, the excess fat can push on their respiratory tract, which will cause excessive coughing. Reduce calorie counts to around 300 per day for a small animal and 400-500 for a larger one. Reducing their intake will help them lose fat.
7. They’ve Inhaled a Blade of Grass
Did you know that one, a single blade of grass causes major respiratory problems for your pup? Many times a vet uses an endoscope to look deep into the respiratory tract checking for infection. However, they often find grass in there instead.
All grass is not dangerous. The variety that seems the most troublesome is the varieties that grow in the western part of the United States tends to be sharper. These blades can easily penetrate the pup’s skin and can even make its way to the lungs. The can fester in the lung and cause coughing.
If the grass is not discovered quickly, then it can cause all sorts of problems like:
There is really no way to prevent this from occurring. Dogs are eye level with the grass, and it’s easy for them to chew on it or roll around. The sharp blades can easily penetrate, which is why this needs to be considered in Western states.
8. Lung Lobe Torsion
In some breeds, like the Afghan Hound, the lung can twist and rotate into what is called a lobe torsion. When the lung flips, it causes the airway to block. Signs of this condition are lethargy, fever, pain, and the pup will often cough up blood.
When a veterinarian suspects this condition, they look for fluid in the chest as a warning sign. However, this condition can occur without CFS too. Pugs, English bulldogs, and other broad-chested dogs are predisposed to this condition.
9. Lung Worms
A lungworm infection should not be confused with heartworms as they are not as common. Animals contract this worm by eating infected meats or they can also get them from the consumption of terrestrial snails and slugs too.
Since animals eating prey are more likely to contract these parasites, it’s easy to see it occurs more often in the wild than in domesticated dogs. The worm begins in the intestines, and then it migrates outwards into the bloodstream, where it finally settles in the lungs. The intense coughing that comes with these worms is a sure sign the pup is in respiratory distress.
A dog infected with lungworms needs advanced respiratory support. They need to be under the care of a veterinarian that can handle both emergency and critical care issues. Like heartworms, lungworms can kill before you even know your dog is infected.
10. Carbon Monoxide Exposure
It’s odorless, colorless, and cannot be detected without a machine. Yet, your pet’s coughing can indicate that you have a problem with carbon monoxide. An animal has senses that are 100 times that of a human, so they can detect things that your nose cannot.
Ingesting carbon monoxide can lead to lower levels of oxygen. As they gasp for air, they will cough and choke trying to get sufficient oxygen. While it’s not the first thing you think of when it comes to your pets and they’re hacking, if all other things are ruled out, then it should be considered.
Your home is at a higher risk if you heat with gas, though it can occur higher in some areas naturally. Investing in a monitor is a small price to pay when it can save lives.
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Diagnosing Chronic Coughing
If you have any concerns about your pet’s health from coughing, it’s best to err on the side of caution with a vet visit. You may find that it’s something simple like a side effect of a medication or they have sinus issues, but it can be something serious too.
The veterinarian will need to use diagnostic tools like an x-ray, ultrasound, or blood tests to make a definitive diagnosis. If there is an underlying issue, like a respiratory infection or congestive heart failure, you want to address those issues quickly with the right medications. It can mean saving your pup’s life.
"If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two."
-- Phil Pastoret