Like humans, dogs cough for several reasons. Occasional coughing in dogs is normal if the dog drinks or eats too quickly, tries to clear its throat or swallows an object like an insect. However, severe, constant and prolonged coughing in dogs requires medical attention. Persistent coughing may be a symptom of heartworm, kennel cough, trachea or respiratory infection or signs of other serious conditions.
Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis is the one of the most common causes of constant coughing in dogs. Kennel cough can be contracted from several different sources. One source is a virus bordetelle, and is somewhat preventable in dogs with a vaccine, since dogs may still contract kennel cough even if they have had the vaccine. Typically, kennel cough lasts up to 10 days, but is contagious after treatment to other animals for up to 14 weeks.
Symptoms of Kennel Cough
Many dogs attract this cough after being in close quarters with other dogs in a veterinary office or kennel for a period of time. Within a few days and up to two weeks, symptoms of the infection start to appear. In some cases, symptoms include hacking, dry cough, gagging, honking sound and a runny nose. Yet, the dog still has a normal appetite and remains active. Serious cases are found in dogs that have weak immune systems or haven't been vaccinated as puppies. Other symptoms may include listlessness, loss of appetite and fever. Untreated, kennel cough can lead to pneumonia and death.
Treatment of Kennel Cough
If you suspect your dog may have kennel cough, take it to your vet as soon as possible. You will need to tell your vet if your dog has been exposed to other dogs recently. Your vet will diagnose kennel cough based on symptoms, but may draw blood work and bacterial cultures to be absolutely sure that this infection is causing your dog's persistent coughs. Treatment includes cough suppressants and antibiotics.
Heartworm can cause shortness of breath and persistent coughs. Other symptoms include general weakness, vision problems and weight loss. Heartworm is a disease contracted through infected mosquito bites. The mosquito's infected larvae makes it way into the dog's circulatory system through the skin. Heartworm is a serious condition. If left untreated, it can cause death. Vets diagnose heartworm through a blood test. If caught early, chemical medication or surgery will be used to treat the disease. Heartworm is easily preventable. You should receive a monthly oral preventive tablet to give to your dog to ingest from your vet.
If your vet has ruled out kennel cough and heartworm as possible causes for your dog's persistent coughing, your dog may be suffering from another condition. These conditions include bronchitis, pneumonia, lung tumours, cancer, trachea disorder or respiratory infection. Your vet can diagnose these conditions by administering bacterial cultures, blood tests and X-rays.