Has your dog been coughing off late? Dogs rely on their nose when exploring their surroundings. On this exploratory journey, they can pick up dirt, grass, carpet fibers, and even unwanted germs and viruses. These foreign materials can cause your dog to cough.
If your dog coughs after barking, it could be its natural response to using that much force. Or it may be simply trying to clear its throat. However, you should consider the intensity of the cough. If it is too deep, has a honking sound, or is filled with phlegm, the condition needs to be treated.
Kennel cough is a common condition that dogs pick up when they come in contact with a group of dogs. Let us look at kennel cough symptoms, causes, and treatment options available.
- What are Different Types of Cough?
- Kennel Cough – What Is It?
- What Signs Does a Dog with Kennel Cough Present?
- What Are The Causes of Kennel Cough?
- How is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?
- What Treatments are Available for Kennel Cough?
- What Home Remedies Work Best for Kennel Cough?
- Can Kennel Cough be Prevented?
- Can Kennel Cough be Fatal for Dogs?
- Can Humans Catch Kennel Cough?
- Dog Coughs After Barking – What are Other Causes?
- When Should You Visit a Vet for Dog Cough?
What are Different Types of Cough?
Like humans, a dog can cough in different ways. The type of sound it makes can help you understand if the dog needs a vet’s immediate attention, or you can try home remedies to treat the condition.
Some common types of dog coughs are:
- Deep Hacking Cough: The hacking cough will sound like your dog is trying to remove something from its throat. Chronic bronchitis can produce a hacking cough.
- Deep Honking Cough: As the name suggests, your dog’s cough will sound like a honk coming from a goose. It could be an indication of kennel cough.
- High-Pitched Gagging Cough: If the dog has foreign materials stuck in its airways, the cough will often sound like it is gagging or choking on something. The sound could indicate a sore throat.
- Wet Cough: Along with the sound, you will see that the cough contains phlegm. A dog with lung problems can produce a moist, wet cough.
- Coughing While Sleeping: If your dog coughs only while sleeping, it could indicate a heart condition.
This article will focus on the deep honking cough and what needs to be done for the condition.
Kennel Cough – What Is It?
The technical name for this condition is canine infectious tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough is a result of different bacteria and viruses. The responsible microorganisms are Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus, and canine reovirus, among others.
Your dog can get infected with kennel cough when it inhales any of these microorganisms. This cough is highly contagious. Respiratory droplets, contaminated surfaces, or direct contact can spread the cough from an infected dog to a healthy dog.
Your dog is likely to catch this cough at the dog park, doggy daycare, or other places where there are large groups of dogs.
Most dogs develop mild cases of kennel cough. But, in some dogs, the cough could be life-threatening. So, it is best to seek your vet’s consult at the earliest.
What Signs Does a Dog with Kennel Cough Present?
The deep honking sounding cough is one of the first symptoms the dog will show. You may notice the dog coughs after barking, or it could be more frequent throughout the day and night.
The dog can also show other symptoms like:
- Runny nose
- Eye discharge
- Sensitive trachea
If the condition is left untreated, the cough can progress, and your dog can develop fever, pneumonia, difficulty breathing, lose its appetite and become lethargic.
What Are The Causes of Kennel Cough?
As mentioned above, kennel cough can quickly spread from an infected dog to other healthy dogs. If the infected dog coughs or sneezes, it can contaminate its surroundings. For example, it could be contaminated toys, playmats, and water bowls.
If the dog comes into direct contact with the infected dog while playing or uses the contaminated toys, it can catch kennel cough.
A dog’s respiratory system is lined with mucus, so it can trap foreign particles (kennel cough causing bacteria and viruses) and keep the dog safe. But, this natural defense mechanism can weaken if the dog is exposed to cold temperatures, dust, and smoke or if the dog is kept in poorly ventilated rooms.
The cough affects a dog’s lung, trachea, and voicebox.
How is Kennel Cough Diagnosed?
Kennel cough is typically diagnosed based on the symptoms the dog presents. The vet will first start the dog on supportive care. If the treatment does not show results, then a diagnostic test will be performed to identify the specific virus or bacteria causing the condition.
In severe cases, the vet might get complete blood work done along with chest radiography. If your dog’s condition is chronic, radiography can help find if the cause could be a trachea, lung, or heart condition.
What Treatments are Available for Kennel Cough?
If you notice your dog is showing symptoms of kennel cough, ensure to isolate the dog. Do not let it play with your other pets. The cough can quickly spread among dogs, and you will be left tending to multiple pets.
If the dog has a mild case of kennel cough, the vet will recommend only supportive care to manage the symptoms. In some dogs, the cough can resolve without any treatment. Medications, though, such as cough suppressants, can reduce the frequency of coughing and speed up the recovery.
With medications, a dog with a mild case of kennel cough should recover in about two to three weeks. However, older dogs or those with underlying health concerns may take four to six weeks to recover completely.
If the dog has developed complications because of the cough, is refusing to eat and drink, has become listless, or the cough has progressed to pneumonia, then the vet can hospitalize the dog. The dog will receive antibiotics and intravenous fluids to help stabilize its condition.
What Home Remedies Work Best for Kennel Cough?
If your vet has diagnosed the dog with kennel cough, you first need to stop using collars and leashes. These accessories can pressure the trachea, making the coughing worse. While out for walks, use a harness instead.
Placing a humidifier near your dog can help soothe its respiratory tract. It raises the level of humidity in the air by releasing moisture. Similarly, steam therapy can provide some comfort to the dog. For example, if the dog has a runny nose, the steam can loosen the mucus and moisturize a sore throat.
You can try giving your dog honey mixed with warm water to soothe its throat. Some claim that honey can act as a cough suppressant and help settle your dog’s coughs after barking, but it is best to consult with your vet.
Honey is safe for most dogs. However, if your dog is too young or has a compromised immune system, stay away from honey. If your dog is otherwise healthy, you can give it warm water mixed with half or one tablespoon of honey a day.
Give the dog plenty of rest to aid the healing process. Please contact the vet immediately if you notice its condition worsening, as a persistent cough could indicate a more serious condition.
Can Kennel Cough be Prevented?
The bordetella bacterium is a common cause of this cough. There is a vaccine available for protection against this bacterium. It can be administered in three ways – injection, nasal mist, and through the mouth.
Your dog will receive two doses of the vaccine within a gap of two to four weeks. After that, the vet can give a booster shot at intervals of six months to a year.
The vaccine, though, does not provide complete protection from kennel cough. As we have seen above, bordetella might be the common cause, but other viruses can cause this cough.
So, you can arm your dog with a layer of protection with the vaccine, but kennel cough is not completely preventable.
Can Kennel Cough be Fatal for Dogs?
Most dogs can completely recover from kennel cough in three to six weeks. Some do not even need any treatment, while cough medications seem effective for others.
However, the cough can lead to complications like pneumonia in a few cases. It is a complication that affects the dog’s respiratory system and interferes with the dog’s ability to breathe normally. If pneumonia is left untreated, the condition can be fatal for the dog.
Suppose you have a young puppy at home that has not received all its vaccinations, a pregnant dog, or a dog already suffering from a respiratory health condition. In that case, they are at a higher risk of complications related to kennel cough.
Can Humans Catch Kennel Cough?
Yes, humans can catch kennel cough from their infected pet. But, know that this is a rare occurrence. It is possible that a dog can be a carrier of the disease. It may not show any symptoms, but it is capable of transmission.
Humans with kennel cough show similar symptoms like:
- Persistent coughing
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
If you have been diagnosed with kennel cough, your doctor can give you antibiotics and cough suppressants to fight off the virus and reduce coughing.
If you have an infected pet at home, keep them away from family members who have a weakened immune system or suffer from respiratory health conditions like lung cancer.
Such people are at risk of catching kennel cough from the pet. They are also at a higher risk of developing complications like septic shock, lung abscesses, and pleural effusion.
Dog Coughs After Barking – What are Other Causes?
Apart from kennel cough, below are a few other common causes of coughing in dogs.
1. Sore Throat
A dog having a sore throat is uncommon, but it can happen. The coughing can be a reaction to tonsillitis. It could be a secondary reaction to an infection or sinus. It could also indicate a possibility of foreign materials being stuck in the airway.
The dog’s cough will make a hacking sound. Some other symptoms you might see are loss of appetite, fever, and drooling.
Treatment can involve antibiotics. In case of any foreign substances are stuck in your dog’s throat, they will have to be extracted by the vet.
2. Chronic Bronchitis
This condition affects the smaller airways that branch out from the trachea. The airways get inflamed, and their lining starts to swell and produce mucus. All these factors congest the passage to the lungs.
The clogged airways impact the oxygen delivery mechanism to the entire body. The symptoms of chronic bronchitis are frequent coughing, difficulty breathing, and retching. Causes can be exposure to pollutants, cigarette smoke, bacterial infection, and parasites, among others.
Treatment involves getting rid of the underlying bacterial or parasitic infection. Corticosteroids are given to manage the inflammatory response. As the pet’s airways are sensitive, its surroundings will have to be kept clean, and irritants will have to be entirely removed or kept to a minimum.
3. Collapsed Trachea
There are cartilage rings around the dog’s trachea. The rings support the trachea. In this condition, the rings weaken and can no longer provide support. The trachea then collapses on itself. The result is a narrow passageway to the lungs.
Smaller dogs and obese ones are at a higher risk of trachea collapse. When they cough, they will make a honking sound like a goose. They have reduced exercise tolerance and have difficulty swallowing food.
The vet will prescribe medications to help open the airways and bring down the inflammation. In extreme cases, the pet may require surgery.
4. Lung Problems
If your dog’s cough starts sounding like a gargle and the resulting cough has phlegm, your dog could be suffering from a lung problem. The dog’s lungs could have fluid in them, thus the gargling sound. It will also have difficulty breathing normally.
Pulmonary edema is one such condition. It is the alveoli that help with the breathing process. It is where the lungs and blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. If the alveoli fill up with fluid, your dog will have reduced breathing capability. This requires the vet’s immediate attention.
Oxygen therapy and antibiotics will be given first to stabilize the dog’s condition. Then depending on the cause of the fluid build-up, diuretics, anti-inflammatory medication, and intravenous fluids may be administered.
5. Heart Problems
Dogs can develop various heart problems. Congestive heart failure (CHF) often shows signs of persistent coughing. If your dog tends to cough the most when sleeping, it could also point to CHF.
When the dog is sleeping or lying down, fluid starts building around its lungs, resulting in coughing. This is because the heart that is supposed to work as a pump does not function correctly.
The vet will perform tests such as blood and urine analysis, chest x-rays, electrocardiogram, and echocardiogram to understand the heart’s size, shape, and functioning and determine the appropriate treatment.
When Should You Visit a Vet for Dog Cough?
If your dog coughs once in a while, it is not a reason for alarm. It could be just trying to clear its throat. What you should note down is the frequency, intensity, and type of cough.
For example, does your dog start coughing after waking up? How long does the dog cough – for a couple of seconds, or does it go into a coughing fit? How does the cough sound? Does it contain any phlegm? Did you change the dog’s diet and immediate surroundings?
If the dog coughs frequently and makes a honking or gagging sound, it is best to get its condition checked by the vet. The sooner it gets medical attention, the better will be its prognosis.
Also, look out for other symptoms such as loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, and retching.
Have you noticed your dog coughs after barking? Kennel cough, sore throat, collapsed trachea, and lung and heart problems are common causes of coughing.
Bacteria and viruses cause kennel cough. It can quickly spread from an infected dog to other healthy dogs. Symptoms of this condition are persistent coughing, runny nose, sneezing, and lethargy.
In some dogs, kennel cough resolves within two to three weeks without treatment. Unfortunately, the cough can progress in a few dogs and result in serious complications that require hospitalization. Medication, though, can help speed recovery.
Ensure your pet is up-to-date with its vaccination. Kennel cough cannot be completely prevented, but vaccines can offer some protection.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.