Why Does My Dog Keep Coughing?

Is your dog coughing? You may be worried when your dog develops a cough. Luckily, coughing is a natural reaction to certain stimuli or illness. Determining the cause of your dog’s cough will make it possible to treat the cough.

Read our Livonia, MI, animal hospital‘s article below to find out what could be causing your dog’s coughing and what you can do to help your best friend.

dog coughing livonia, mi

Causes of Dog Cough

There are many causes of coughing for dogs. From having a sore or dry throat to having lung problems – determining the cause is key to treating your dog’s cough.

Dry or Sore Throat

A dry or sore throat can cause coughing. If your dog coughs only a few times. It may be a sign of a dry or sore throat.

A sore throat may also be caused by an infection. If you suspect an infection, call your veterinarian for options. A cough caused by a sore throat may sound high pitched or like gagging.


An obstruction in your dog’s throat may also cause coughing. Your dog will likely cough until they are able to get the obstruction out or moved. If the coughing continues, call or take them to an emergency vet.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a common cause of coughing. Your dog may get kennel cough while staying in a dog hotel or with other dogs. Kennel cough is passed along like a cold.

Group settings are the most common threat. Pay attention to the other dogs around your dog. If any of them are coughing, your dog may end up with kennel cough.

Avoid dogs that seem sick. This may not always be possible, but fortunately, kennel cough is not a major issue. It can resolve itself or you can use antibiotics prescribed by your vet. A kennel cough is a dry, hacking, and raspy cough.

Lung Problems

Lung problems can cause coughing. These can be as simple as inhaling water with their air and as complicated as influenza or pneumonia. If a dog’s cough sounds wet and phlegmy it is a sign it might be pneumonia.

Lung problems, such as pneumonia, can affect any dog but are especially those with weakened immune systems, young puppies, and senior dogs.

Other Symptoms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory distress
  • Blue gums

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse happens when the tracheal rings become slack or start to sag. It can also be caused by a lack of strength in tracheal muscles.

Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Toy Poodles, and Yorkshire terriers are more vulnerable to tracheal collapse.

A cough caused by tracheal collapse is persistent, dry, and harsh. The cough may sound somewhat like a honk.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the most common causes of coughing. Heart disease can cause swelling of the heart which constricts the space for lungs to expand.

If your dog’s cough is soft and continuous, heart disease is a real contender. The cough will also be worse at night when they are lying down.

Other Symptoms:

  • Tired
  • Lack of energy
  • Fainting
  • Collapsing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Quickly getting winded
  • Reduced appetite
  • Noticeable weight gain or weight loss
  • Swelling in the abdomen


Canine distemper is caused by a virus that causes respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system problems. Similar to kennel cough, distemper can be passed by coughing and sneezing.

Other Symptoms:

  • Watery discharge from the eyes
  • Pus-like discharge from the eyes
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • New or severely increased Circling behavior
  • New or severely increased Head tilts
  • Muscle twitching
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Hardened foot pads


If you live in a warmer climate, heartworm disease is a more likely the cause of coughing than if you live in a cold climate.

Heartworm can be passed to your dog by mosquitos. Prevention is key. Quick treatment is important.

Other Symptoms:

  • Intolerance for exercise
  • Abnormal lung sounds
  • Weak pulse
  • Syncope
  • Increase intolerance of exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen belly
  • Heart failure
  • Labored breathing
  • Collapsing cardiovascular system
  • Pale gums
  • Dark urine
  • Organ failure

Canine Influenza Virus

Canine influenza virus, like kennel cough, can be passed on from dog to dog. Other symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Purulent nasal discharge
  • Runny eyes
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing

Canine influenza can sometimes be mistaken for kennel cough. If you are not sure which your dog has, check with your Livonia, MI, veterinarians.

Chronic Bronchitis

Canine chronic bronchitis is similar to humans and affects small airways called bronchi and bronchioles. Inflammation is the main cause of bronchitis. Sometimes this is referred to as asthma but that can confuse people.

Bronchitis may also be acute instead of chronic. Acute bronchitis can be reversible whereas chronic cannot be cured.

Treating and Preventing Cough

Treating a cough requires a diagnosis. In most cases you will need the help of your vet to make a proper diagnosis.

Dry or Sore Throat Treatment

To treat a dry or sore throat, provide your dog with water to drink. You may need to refill a water bowl or two.

If your dog’s sore throat is caused by an infection, there are medicines your vet can prescribe to help treat the discomfort and infection.

Obstruction Treatment

If coughing does not clear the obstruction, you need to call your vet or a local emergency vet. They can remove the obstruction, and if necessary, perform a tracheotomy until the obstruction can be removed.

Kennel Cough Treatment

If your dog has a kennel cough, talk to your vet about options. They may tell you to let your dog try to heal itself. However, you can get antibiotics to help. Keep your dog away from other dogs so that you do not pass the cough along.

Treatment of Lung Problems

Lung problems and pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, or exposure to toxins. Depending on the cause there are different treatments. In all cases, call your vet for help.

Lung problems caused by bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. You can also treat pneumonia with oxygen therapy or fluid therapy. Ventilation is another option. The last options are nebulization and coupage. Talk with your vet over which treatment will work best.

Tracheal Collapse Treatment

Tracheal collapse can be treated by a vet through surgery. There are a number of medical procedures that can be used based on how severe the collapse. Talk to your vet about next steps.

Treatment of Heart Disease

Treating your dog’s heart disease can help with coughing caused by an inflamed heart. Talk to your vet about heart disease treatment options.

Distemper Prevention

Vaccination is key to preventing distemper and protecting your dog. Unfortunately, once your dog has distemper, you cannot cure it. However, there are medications that can be used to mitigate the symptoms. Keep dogs with distemper away from other dogs.

Heartworm Treatment and Prevention

The key to heartworm is to prevent it. However, if your dog does get heartworm, there is treatment. The sooner you get treatment for your dog, the easier it is to heal them. Contact your vet for the best recommendation.

Canine Influenza Virus Prevention

While you cannot treat or cure canine influenza, you can help mitigate the symptoms. Just like with humans, dogs’ bodies will fight off the flu if they are given the chance. Talk to your vet about how to proceed.

Chronic Bronchitis Treatment

Treatment of bronchitis depends on the causes. Chronic bronchitis can be treated by treating the inflammation. Acute bronchitis can be treated with medication or surgery to strengthen the airways. Talk to your vet about the options available for your dog.

Our Animal Hospital in Livonia, MI, Can Help with Your Dog Coughing

If your dog keeps coughing, and needs diagnosis and treatment, reach out to our veterinarians in Livonia, MI, by giving our animal hospital a call at (734) 464-6281.