It’s normal to feel worried whenever your canine companion shows signs of sickness. All the more because they cannot speak in words to tell us if there’s something wrong. When your pup is coughing, different scenarios may come into mind. “Why is my dog coughing?” “Is it minor or is it an emergency situation?”, “Should we head to the vet?”. These are just some of the questions that may run inside our heads when your dog coughs.

There are numerous possible causes of coughing in dogs. While some may be as simple as our pooch clearing their throat, others could be serious and may need immediate attention and treatment. Read on to know more about dog coughing, what it might mean, and what we can do to address it.

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Types of Dog Cough

Identifying the type of cough and its nuances is an important step in determining the cause of your dog’s coughing. It’s essential to observe and note down what you see, hear, and notice when your dog is coughing. Inform your veterinarian about what you’ve observed to help them determine how to care for your dog and to find out whether or not the treatment is necessary.

Observe whether your dog’s cough is…

  • Wet cough with phlegm;
  • Short, deep, and dry;
  • Deep and honky;
  • Screeching and gagging;
  • Dog coughing while sleeping.

These types of cough indicate corresponding problems. When you call your veterinarian, accurately describe the sound of your dog’s cough, their behavior while coughing, and if they’re experiencing other symptoms at the same time. This will help them identify and determine if it’s an emergency situation, if it is transmissible, or if further tests and examinations may be needed.

Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs

  1. Reverse Sneeze

Because it may sound similar, a reverse sneeze may be mistaken for a cough. This happens when air is inhaled and exhaled too fast and loudly through the nasal passageways, causing a minor irritation.

A reverse sneeze is more common in small, flat-faced / brachycephalic breeds. It may sound like your dog coughing when excited and yeah, it could be just a result of them being excited to see you. Meanwhile, dog coughing and sneezing may also occur at the same time.

If it occurs just occasionally and briefly, it’s usually nothing to be worried about. However, if it happens more frequently and if you notice your dog having difficulty breathing, it’s best to have them checked with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  1. Sore Throat

If you hear your dog producing a screeching and gagging cough, it may be due to an irritation in your dog’s airways or an infection that has caused a sore throat. You may consult with your veterinarian as to the remedies you can give your pooch to help their throat heal faster. When it comes to an infection, the primary cause should be addressed as well.

  1. Foreign Objects

There may be times when dogs inhale foreign objects that disrupt their airways. As a natural reaction to this, they may try to gag and cough it out. Yes, if a dog is coughing like something is stuck in their throat, there probably is.

Among the signs that there is a foreign object in your dog’s throat are: sudden and intense coughing, gagging, attempting to swallow, licking their lips, and struggling to breathe.

If your pup couldn’t remove the foreign object, it’s important to address the issue ASAP. A foreign object stuck in your dog’s throat is dangerous as it might block your dog’s airways, therefore it is detrimental to head to the vet immediately for them to remove the foreign object through endoscopy. If it doesn’t work, surgery might be recommended.

  1. Kennel Cough

If your pooch is exhibiting a hacking dry cough, it might be an airway infection called kennel cough, a highly contagious infection with the ability to survive for weeks in the environment. Your dog can catch kennel cough in areas where dogs frequent such as a doggie daycare, kennels, and dog shows.

A dog might get it upon direct contact with an infected dog, from airborne droplets, and on surfaces. If diagnosed with kennel cough, they should avoid other dogs and public areas while they are showing symptoms of coughing, and 2-3 weeks after symptoms.

The usual symptom of kennel cough is a hacking cough. More severe cases however may also exhibit symptoms such as a fever or a lack of appetite.

Read more: Kennel Cough in Dogs: a Highly Infectious Respiratory Disease

  1. Chronic Bronchitis

If your old dog is coughing and gagging regularly or has prolonged cough, it may be a case of chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is known as a syndrome where a dog coughs for many days, reaching 2 months or more without being able to identify a particular cause, affecting the lining of airways and causing inflammation.

Those who are more commonly affected are senior dogs and small breeds, but it may affect larger dogs as well. Diagnosis involves physical examination, lab tests, a bronchoscopy to examine airways, radiography to check the lungs, culture, and cytology.

The treatment of the condition is focused on controlling the cough, avoiding irritant exposure, and ways to reduce inflammation in the airways.

  1. Lung Problems

If you hear your dog coughing with a crackly sound that seems to signify wetness and phlegm, it may be because of a pulmonary or lung problem. This sound may suggest that there could be fluid present in your dog’s lungs.

One thing that sets it apart from other types of cough is that even during the times that your pooch isn’t coughing, they may show labored breathing. This shows that there’s difficulty and that your dog’s lungs are working extra hard. Lung issues may be dangerous, so it is important to seek the help of your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Among the lung problems that your dog might have is pneumonia, a serious pulmonary disease that may take weeks or months to recover from. It’s commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections, with bacteria almost always present or developed. It may also be caused by parasites, fungi, or aspiration due to toxins.

Dogs that are more susceptible to pneumonia are puppies who haven’t fully developed their immune systems yet and seniors who may have compromised immune systems.

  1. Heart Issues

Like humans, dogs can also suffer from heart issues, the most common of which is mitral valve disease which often causes a dog to cough. With this disease, the heart isn’t able to pump well, and this may cause congestive heart failure due to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

The coughing often starts as the disease progresses, and it usually occurs when sleeping or in a lying position, signifying the build-up of fluid in the lungs. As this condition is serious, it is essential to talk with your vet regarding the treatment options which may include a certain diet, exercise, medication, or surgery. The condition is more common in old dogs, so if your old dog is coughing and gagging, it’s best to have them checked.

  1. Tracheal Collapse

A chronic trachea disease is progressive and irreversible, and the tracheal collapse in dogs often shows symptoms of a honky cough. Toy breeds and obese dogs are more prone to this condition. Symptoms appear worse when your dog is coughing when excited, during exercise, or when the weather is hot and humid.

Other less common causes of coughing in dogs that your vet may also look into include:

  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Distemper
  • Heartworms
  • Cancer

What To Do If Your Dog Is Coughing

If your dog is coughing, it is essential to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. While it is often treatable, medical attention may be needed. Also, early diagnosis of the cause of your pup’s coughing can lead to a better prognosis especially when it comes to conditions and diseases that are life-threatening.

Before giving treatment, your dog’s veterinarian would have to first determine the cause of the coughing. This may include a combination of physical examinations and laboratory tests among others.

In case of emergency such as when your dog’s cough is due to possible choking, you may have to perform some basic first aid procedures. However, you must take extra care to prevent being bitten or further aggravating the situation. Note: this is only until you arrive the vet clinic. Signs that they may be coughing due to an obstruction in their airway include: struggle breathing, pale gums, fast breathing, panicking.

Because pet emergencies such as choking in dogs is possible, it would definitely help us pet parents to equip ourselves with the support needed in such critical situations. Petcube’s Pet Emergency Fund is a good investment for our pet’s health and wellness as well as our peace of mind.

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Meanwhile, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dog’s vet if:

  • Their cough makes it hard for them to sleep;
  • Your dog is coughing up blood;
  • Their breathing is loud and unusual;
  • Your dog has been coughing for more than a few days.

Using Online Vet To Diagnose Your Dog’s Health

When our dog is showing symptoms of sickness, it would be a big help if we had someone to turn to right then and there to help diagnose and care for our pet. With Online Vet, you get professional help from a team of certified veterinarians who have the knowledge and passion to help your furry companion 24/7, and they’re just a chat away. With Online Vet, you get peace of mind when it comes to caring for your pet.


It is essential to get to know and understand your dog’s body language and learn to observe whether something is wrong. If your dog is coughing, contact your vet for the proper diagnosis and treatment. Before visiting, note down all your observations about your dog’s coughing, including the other symptoms and behaviors.

If you can, take a video of your dog while they are coughing so that you can show it to your vet. That way, they will be well-informed and will thus find it easier to diagnose and treat your dog’s condition.

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