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Coughing in dogs: What can I do?

Unfortunately, it doesn't always stay away: Your furry friend has a cough. You may be familiar with the jerky, barking sound followed by gagging from your pet when it can't eat fast enough. He has swallowed and is trying to get the food out again.

But what should you do if the cough continues and your four-legged friend keeps coughing? We have compiled all the important information about coughing in dogs, one of the most common dog diseases.

How dangerous is a cough for my dog?

When your dog suddenly coughs and chokes, it can be frightening. There may be a serious danger behind it: for example, if he has a foreign body in his airways, the gagging and coughing continues, but he can't vomit, every moment counts!

However, if the spook is over a short time later and then reappears, it is more likely that your dog has contracted a cough. A normal cough, such as occurs in the course of a respiratory tract infection, is no cause for concern at first! Basically healthy four-legged friends can often compensate for this themselves with their strong immune system and are often fit again in a few days.

While a dry cough causes an unpleasant coughing irritation, a wet productive cough (i.e. cough accompanied by mucous sputum) is often accompanied by rattling and gurgling sounds. Sometimes the cough persists or is even accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, watery eyes or rhinitis and nasal discharge.

Important: Especially if your four-legged friend is still very young, already old or weakened and you are not sure whether it is just a dog cold, you should definitely consult a vet and have the symptoms clarified!

A respiratory infection can be harmless, but it can also be caused by a serious illness. These include, for example:

  • Kennel cough: This is a contagious disease that can usually be easily recognised by a vet. You can find important information on this in the following paragraph under "Kennel cough".
  • Cardiac cough: Cardiac cough is actually a heart disease (often left heart failure) - the coughing, panting and shortness of breath are symptoms of this disease that show up in the respiratory tract. This form of coughing is especially noticeable when the animal is exerting itself or at night. A veterinarian can provide information about the severity of the disease and prescribe appropriate treatment options.
  • Tracheal collapse: In this case, a narrowed trachea can lead to shortness of breath and chronic coughing, as a result of which the dog gets too little air. In actual tracheal collapse (collapse of the windpipe), the windpipe can collapse in on itself - severe shortness of breath or even panic of the animal when it breathes in can be the fatal consequences. In an acute case, quick action is therefore required!
  • Lungworms: These extremely unpleasant parasites can infect your pet's trachea and bronchi. The lungworms enter the body of their host through the mucus of snails, irritate the lungs and cause inflammation, resulting in an irritating cough. A faecal sample can tell you if your pet has been infested with lungworms.
  • Pneumonia: In pneumonia, both dry and wet coughs can occur. Especially the long-lasting coughing fits cost the sick dogs a lot of energy. Accompanied by fever, listlessness and loss of appetite, the four-legged friends are often unrecognisable - they urgently need medical treatment!

Kennel cough

So-called "kennel cough" is a respiratory disease that is highly contagious and can take a severe course if left untreated - for example, severe pneumonia could be the result.

Kennel cough can be manifested by different symptoms, e.g.:

  • Strong urge to cough, sometimes even retching
  • Usually sudden barking cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal discharge and sneezing
  • Mucous sputum

If you visit your vet with this condition, they can take a swab from the mucous membranes and determine whether it is a viral or bacterial infection. This is because this respiratory disease is usually caused by pathogens such as viruses like canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV), canine herpes virus (CHV) or canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) and bacteria like Bordetella bronchiseptica. An antibiotic can help against the latter, the vet can prescribe a cough syrup against the cough; often medicines that strengthen your quadruped's immune system also help.

There is always an increased risk of infection where many dogs come together, for example in animal shelters, in boarding kennels, at the dog park or at dog shows. There is a particular risk of infection for unvaccinated dogs, young or old animals.

My dog coughs - what can I do?

The first commandment is: a cough can be a symptom of a serious illness. At the latest if the cough lasts for a long time or the general condition of your four-legged friend is poor, you should take him to the vet!

Otherwise, the following 5 measures can help your furry friend get better soon:

  • Cough syrup: The regular administration of special cough syrup for dogs can help to loosen the mucus and thus minimise the duration of the illness. However, it is also worth going to the vet to choose the right preparations. Cough syrup for humans is not suitable for dogs!
  • Relieve the neck and chest: You should also make sure that your dog's neck area is relieved. For example, instead of a collar, a chest harness is a better choice for walking. Take it easy so that the pressure on the ribcage is not so strong either.
Dog in harness
  • Humidifiers can provide relief if the dry room air repeatedly leads to irritating coughs or coughing fits. Alternatively, damp cloths on the heater also serve this purpose.
  • Drink enough: It is important to drink enough fluids - the moistened mucous membranes relieve the irritation of the cough.
  • Rest and warmth: If your darling seems tired and worn out, spoil him a little, give him rest and keep him warm!

Our tip: If your dog has general cold symptoms, you can find more tips on how to do something good for your pet in our articles "A cold in a dog: What is important now" and "Strengthening the immune system in dogs".

Coughing in dogs - these home remedies might help

If you would like to try natural remedies first to alleviate the symptoms, you can try the following home remedies for coughs:

  • Tea: Active ingredients of plants such as thyme, camomile or sage can develop their cough-relieving and expectorant effect in the form of cooled teas and help. You can also mix the tea with the food.
  • Honey: Many dog owners rely on honey or fennel honey and its cough-relieving effect. However, this home remedy is not suitable for puppies! Honey also contains a lot of sugar - you should also take this into account.

Preventing dog cough: 3 tips

To effectively prevent coughing in dogs, it is important to keep them in a species-appropriate environment: give your pet enough time to run around, play and explore, and also offer them mental variety and a healthy, balanced diet. In addition, the following 3 tips can help prevent coughing in dogs:

  1. Strengthen the immune system: It is generally helpful if your four-legged friend has a strong immune system.
  2. Vaccinations: There is a vaccine against kennel cough that can reduce the severity of the disease. It is best to ask your vet directly for advice on this and on possible booster vaccinations.
  3. Worming: Coughs caused by parasites are best prevented by regular worming. Your vet will be happy to advise you on this too.

Conclusion: Not every cough is a sign of a serious illness, but caution is advised and in many cases a visit to the vet is appropriate. If it's "only" a cough caused by a cold, it's a matter of patience, lots of loving care and cuddles, and at best your pet will soon be fit again! We wish you a speedy recovery!

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