Your dog's cough can be indicative of several problems, ranging from mild to very serious. If your dog coughs due to an upper respiratory issue, such as kennel cough, he may have contracted it because he wasn't up-to-date on his Bordatella vaccination. A cough can also be your dog's way of trying to remove a foreign body or allergen in his throat. If the cough sounds moist or rattles, it could indicate fluid in the airways or inside the lungs, according to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. A brachycephalic dog might cough due to congenital issues. A dog whose trachea is injured from pulling on his leash, or one who is coughing due to a cardiac condition may require immediate veterinary care. Because cough is symptomatic of many illnesses, your dog should be examined without delay by your vet. Until you get him to the vet, however, there are a few things you can try at home to soothe his cough.
Add moisture to the air by using a humidifier or vaporizer, or by taking your dog into a hot, steamy bathroom. If your air is too dry, your dog's airway and throat may become irritated and your dog will react by coughing more, which creates a vicious cycle. Moisture lubricates your dog's airways and can be soothing to his throat.
Take off your dog's regular collar or choke chain and use a harness. If your dog's cough is caused by compression or injury to the trachea, the harness is more comfortable for your dog. In brachycephalic, short-nosed breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, the cough-like "reverse sneeze" is a struggle for breath triggered by the tongue temporarily blocking the airway. If your short-nosed dog chokes, coughs or has trouble breathing, open his mouth from the side and free the tongue manually to open the airway; sometimes several attempts are necessary to end an episode. If this occurs frequently or causes extreme distress, consult a veterinarian about possible palate trimming and nostril enlargement surgery. Dogs with this problem are at high risk for collapsed trachea and other respiratory issues. All brachycephalic dogs should use harnesses instead of leashes and avoid extreme temperatures, which can provoke episodes.
Feed your dog soft food, such as canned dog food, or moisten dry kibble with water or broth. Kibble is hard and can scratch a throat that is sore due to cough.
Ensure that your dog drinks plenty of water to keep his throat moist.
Call your veterinarian. Ask if she can recommend an over-the-counter cough medicine for your dog and in what dosage. According to Dr. Liisa D. Carlson, D.V.M, a children's cough medicine that contains an expectorant called guaifenesin may be helpful. Don't use a cough suppressant.
Call your vet if your dog's cough persists for more than one or two days, or if your dog is coughing repeatedly.
Your vet may prescribe antibiotics if your dog has a bacterial infection or steroids if the cough is an allergic reaction.
Items You Will Need
- Humidifier, steam or vaporizer
- Soft food
- Over-the-counter children's expectorant
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: The Coughing Pet
- Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide: Good Health, Loving Care, Maximum Longevity; Matthew Hoffman
- PetMD: Coughing in Dogs
- Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook; Debra Eldredge, et al.
- dog image by Michal Tudek from Fotolia.com