Why Is My Dog Coughing: The Cold And Kennel Cough in Dogs

Why Is My Dog Coughing
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Although the cold and the Kennel cough are the most frequent affections that determine dogs to cough, there are multiple types of cough experienced by dogs that are generated by multiple causes. This is a case when symptoms in dogs are really different than the ones humans have, so there isn’t an obvious way to resemble these two.

Your tail-wager might be coughing because too much dust got in his lungs while you were cleaning the house and that’s not something to worry about. However, persistent cough is a reason to worry and it should convince you to visit the vet for a short check-up.

A classification of cough types in dogs

Coughing is a reflex that manifests through sudden expirations that are loud, strong and force the opening of the glottis. One can classify cough by:

  1. The cough can be respiratory (generated by pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchus and pleura), peripheral (generated by stomach, intestines, peritoneum and middle ear) or central (generated by the central bulb).
  2. The cough can appear spontaneous (because of irritation) or it can be generated by the palpation of the larynx and the trachea in order to find clues about the topographical diagnosis of the condition.
  3. The cough can be unique or accidental when it is caused by the presence of a foreign body. It can also be repeated, case in which the most probable causes are an acute inflammation or a chronic disease.
  4. The cough can be weak, strong or rappel. The first is not noisy, while the second and the third ones are. The rappel cough is followed by an intense reflex inhaling air.
  5. A pup’s cough can be dry or wet. If it is wet, it is often accompanied by secretions that are eliminated from its body through cough. When the voice chords are affected, a pup’s cough can sound hoarse.

What causes a dog to cough is not as easy to find out as there is a wide range of causes. It includes upper respiratory diseases, chronic bronchitis of various etiologies, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary neoplasms, and pneumonia and so on. In order to identify the type of respiratory illness present in a dog, a vet must take chest radio graphs and evaluate the integrity of its airways, whether or not there are infiltrates, pulmonary parenchyma or foreign bodies or formations in its chest.

Moreover, there is a type of cough that occurs as a result of heart disease, which is accompanied by heart murmur or heart rate changes. Dogs that have heart problems cough more at night. However, this is not a cause that appears as frequent as the others. The cold and the Kennel cough are the most common ones.

The cold in dogs that cough

The cold type that might affect dogs is different than that of humans. This disease is not transmissible between species, so you do not need to worry that you could get it from your dog or give it to your pup. You can safely stay close to your doggy when it is ill or when you are. Firstly, you should learn how to distinguish a mild form of cold from a serious affection like the Kennel cough is. The latter is easily transmissible through aerosols or contaminated objects, fact which makes your pup contaminated.

Dogs that cough

There are many other conditions that resemble the cold in terms of symptoms such as adenovirus and tuberculosis, which can be transmitted from one dog to the other in a very easy way. Regardless of the type of virus contracted, your doggy will have the same symptoms. It will cough, wheeze, sneeze and have runny nose and eyes. Whether a pup’s cough is wet or dry is a big help for a vet to determine what type of problem affects your pup. However, the best solution is a chest radiography followed by a full consultation.

If your pup coughs and sneezes, but it doesn’t have any other serious disease, then you can help it by ensuring healthy meals, plenty of water to drink and a warm place for it to lie down. Your pup will most definitely say yes to a portion of chicken soup. In case you want to cook for it, remember to remove the bones from the chicken and not to use salt or any other condiment except a puff of garlic. However, if your dog is very young, old or has a weak immune system, you might have to treat it with antibiotics that must be prescribed by a vet.

Certain bacterium is hard to fight with by pooches that are not in their best shape ever. Furthermore, do not try to use cough syrup for humans in your attempt to cure your doggy.  There is special cough medicine for dogs that only a vet can prescribe.

After starting to treat your best canine friend, you should remember to disinfect and clean all the surfaces it has access to. The bacterium might jump back into its body if it is not completely removed from the house. This includes cleaning its pillows, sheets, toys and bowls as well.

Boiling them or setting the washing machine at the highest temperature possible is recommended. Seeing your pet suffer is surely unpleasant, so try to keep a clean and airy environment to avoid unpleasant situations. Do not delay a visit to the vet in case your pup is not getting better in a few days.

The Kennel cough in sick dogs

The cold season affects pups too, especially when it comes to their respiratory systems. Although it can occur at any time of the year, the infectious tracheobronchitis aka the Kennel cough is frequently met during the cold season because of the low temperatures and the high humidity levels. This affection refers to the inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, including the larynx, trachea and bronchi.

This disease is part of the list with syndromes because it is caused by one or more viral agents or bacterial agents. Moreover, it is a highly contagious disease and it can be transmitted from one dog to another through the contamination of food bowls, toys and so on, as well as through nasal or oral secretions that are spread by air.

Checking for kennel cough

The Kennel cough has a relatively short incubation period, between 4 and 8 days. In most cases the dog looks healthy, but it is coughing in a persistent manner. The cough is firstly wet and productive and then it turns into a rough, dry type of cough. It is often generated by strong emotions or pressure on the puppy’s trachea. In most cases, this disease disappears by itself within maximum 3 weeks.

However, some dogs keep coughing for more than 6 weeks. This situation is more frequent in young dogs and older dogs. It might generate severe pneumonia if it is not treated in case of a young pup.

If you’d like to know what signs to look out for, please read our article on kennel cough, which includes symptoms and treatments for this painful condition.

There are two types of treatment that depend on the severity of the disease. The antibiotics can be used in case of lighter disease forms. Even if your dog is under treatment, it can still be contagious. In addition, there are antitussives, which may be used in mild cases as an adjuvant for the antibiotics treatment.

For complicated cases, when the pooch is not eating anymore, it is feverish and it shows signs of pneumonia, doxycycline and clavamox seem to work the best. There is a wide range of medication that can be prescribed for Kennel cough, but try not to pick one by yourself without consulting a vet. For example, steroids and cough suppressants are not usually recommended because of the risk to clear any fluid or mucous in canine patients with pneumonia. A good adjuvant is the aerosol therapy.

Vaccinating dog

As for vaccines, there are two types of vaccines especially made for the Kennel cough. One is administered by injection and the other one intranasal. Even if these two vaccines help, there is no guarantee that they will one hundred percent protect your canine friend from viruses and bacteria.

The vaccination is only done preventive and it cannot treat an existing disease. A young puppy receives two doses that are administered 4 weeks apart, followed by an annual revaccination. The intranasal form is done once a year, but it can also be administered twice a year to dogs that are exposed to infection factors. In any case, vaccination is extremely important. Your pup is protected from diseases and you don’t have to spend on additional treatments or medication.

That’s why it’s important that your new dog, no matter what age, is up to date on his vaccines. You can read our article on the course of puppy’s first shots and when they should be administered.

The flu affects dogs too

It looks like the canine flu is closely connected to a virus that affects horses. At some point, that virus has suffered a mutation, which made it capable of jumping from horses to dogs. The canine flu was first diagnosed in 2004.

The first canine flu case was registered in the spring of 2005. Every authorized institution has taken samples of this virus in order to study it. Unfortunately, all dogs can contract this dangerous virus for which there is no vaccine yet. In order to detect this flu, you should observe your dog and figure out whether or not it is coughing for more than 3 weeks even if it is on antibiotics treatment.

Most dogs with flu have a mild, wet cough, while others cough like they have the Kennel disease. However, even if there is no vaccine to prevent the canine flu, a dog cannot die because of it and the antibiotics definitely help. However, keeping your pooch away from other dogs might be a good idea especially when the flu season begins.

The incubation period of this new virus is between 2 and 5 days. No one can tell for sure if a dog is affected by the flu during the first days. The first steps to cure a cold or the Kennel cough will be taken immediately and, in case the symptoms stay the same, then, a vet can establish if it is a case of flu or not.

One condition that hasn’t been mentioned in this article is the possibility of lung cancer. This isn’t an attempt to scare you, but reading our article on lung cancer in dogs could make you more aware of your dog’s symptoms and help him get the medical attention he needs.

Helpful treatments and special care

Since the causes that can generate cough in dogs are so diversified, a dog owner should keep calm and take his/her pup to the vet. In most cases there is nothing serious going on with your pooch, so you might want to keep thinking positive until the vet tells you what is wrong with your canine friend. As always, there are certain steps you can take to keep your doggy away from disease or to make it comfortable in case it contracts a disease that makes it feel weak and less alive than usual.

Sick dogs must be isolated from other dogs until they get better. While you keep your pup away from its friends, you can make its stay with you very pleasant. You can take your dog in the bathroom with you when you take a shower because the steam is known to soothe irritated airways. In addition, you can buy a humidifier or a vaporizer that has the same action as the steams from the bathroom. Moreover, keeping you pup in an airy room where there is no cigarette smoke or other toxic gazes to irritate it is highly recommended.

Dog coughing and sneezing

Offering support, time and care to a sick dog is imperative. Try to protect it from stress factors, ensure a healthy diet and take extra care of your pooch until it gets better. Do everything you would do if your kid catches a cold and he/she should lay in bed for a while in order to get better.

You cannot get sick by staying close to your beloved animal friend, so don’t avoid contact thinking that is actually possible because it is a hundred percent impossible. Viruses and bacteria have developed different strains for every species of animals and humans as well.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.