Why Dogs Cough

If you wonder why dogs cough, you should know that it may be anything from a minor throat irritation to a tracheal collapse. Coughing on rare occasions may not be serious, but if the coughing is chronic, you need to visit the vet.

Foreign Objects

A dog may cough if a foreign object is trapped in his throat. Dogs can swallow different objects that may harm them. Coughing is a natural response, as the dog tries to eliminate the object. The coughing is dry and the dog may cough up blood, so you need to visit the vet immediately. The vet can extract the object and in some cases, surgery may be needed.

Throat Irritation

A minor throat irritation may lead to coughing. The throat can get irritated when the dog is tugging on his collar or when he is agitated. If the dog swallows or inhales an irritant, he may cough.

Respiratory Infections

Dogs suffering from a cold or flu will cough.

Other symptoms of a respiratory infection include:

  • Fever
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent coughing at night

Canine kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection present in the upper respiratory tract. The infection is caused by bacteria or viruses, and can easily develop into pneumonia. Kennel cough vaccination can be administered to prevent the infection.


Smoke, pollens, dust or other irritants may cause allergic reactions in dogs. One of the symptoms of allergies is coughing. Only inhalant allergies cause coughing; food or contact allergies will not make the dog cough.

Cardiac Enlargement or Heart Disease

Dogs suffering from cardiac enlargement or cardiomyopathy may cough frequently. The cough will be followed by heart murmur and abnormal heart rate. The enlargement of the heart adds pressure on the airways, and causes cough or in more severe cases it may lead to heart failure or lung edema.

The coughing will appear when the dog is agitated, excited or after he's performed a strenuous physical activity.

Tracheal Collapse

Dogs with tracheal collapse will cough frequently, especially during nighttime. The coughing may also occur after the dog drinks water.

Tracheal collapse is more frequent in elderly, overweight dogs. The treatment includes cough suppressants, sedatives and diet for weight loss. In some cases, surgery is needed.

Larynx or Esophagus Disorders

If the dog coughs after ingesting food and the coughing is chronic, this may signal larynx or esophagus disorders. The larynx may not close properly when the dog ingests food, and the food will enter the trachea, causing a cough. If the esophagus is more dilated than usual, the dog will cough. You need to visit the vet, as the food can enter the lungs and cause pneumonia and other complications.

Other less frequent causes of dog cough include pythorax (pus in the lung area), heartworm, or lung fungal infections:

  • Histoplasmosis
  • Coccidiomycosis
  • Blastomycosis

Lung cancer may also cause coughing.

The treatment of cough depends on the cause. In a typical case, cough suppressants can be administered. Antibiotics are helpful to cure infections, while steroids can heal allergies.