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Chronic Coughing in Dogs

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Coughing is a common protective reflex that clears secretions or foreign matter from the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea) or airways, and protects the lungs against aspiration. It affects the respiratory system by hindering the ability to breathe properly.

Common causes include obstruction in the windpipe, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung tumors, kennel cough and heart failure.

What to Watch For

Watch for a chronic cough, or one that lasts for more than two or three weeks. It can begin suddenly or develop gradually. An occasional, infrequent cough is normal. See your veterinarian if your pet has a chronic cough.

Diagnosis

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the cough. These may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination
  • Chest radiographs (X-rays)
  • A complete blood count (CBC)
  • Blood tests to help determine the cause and identify any related problems
  • Heartworm test

    Additional diagnostic tests may include:

  • Specialized tests such as ultrasound examinations or bronchoscopy to examine the inside of the lungs using a small scope

  • Lung fluid samples to determine presence of infection or inflammation

    Treatment

    Successful treatment depends on accurate diagnosis.

    Home Care

    Home care recommendations depend upon the underlying cause of the problem. There are several things you can do to help your pet:

  • Minimize exercise and stress until the cause of problem is determined.

  • Allow your pet to rest in a well-ventilated environment.

  • Provide plenty of fresh water.

  • Provide soft (canned) food, which is easier for pets with a coughing problem to tolerate.

  • DO NOT administer human, over-the-counter medicines such as Robitussin, aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprofen, which can be extremely toxic (even in small doses) to dogs. Talk to your veterinarian first before trying any of these remedies.

  • Give medications prescribed by your veterinarian as directed.

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