Some Causes of Dog Coughs

By Tess Thompson

A dog cough can be acute, chronic or intermittent, and in most cases, there are different underlying conditions behind the symptom. In addition to the original cause of the symptom, a cough is self- perpetuating in nature, since it causes dryness in the throat. Internal parasites, infection, distemper, fungus diseases, tuberculosis, allergic reactions and pollutants are some of the most prominent causes of dog cough.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough in canines is characterized by a dry and hacking cough and is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica. It is a contagious disease and is commonly seen in dogs that have been boarded recently in a kennel or have recent migratory history. Puppies that have been recently brought home, especially from pet stores, are more prone to show early signs of kennel cough. A dry cough in puppies should be attended to promptly to eliminate infection. Although the duration of kennel cough in dogs is limited, preventive measures like vaccination can help avoid future episodes.


A dry cough-- often accompanied by fever, thick yellow nasal discharge and watery eyes-- is the first stage of distemper. Even though the symptoms of distemper are similar to a common head cold in humans, it should be understood that dogs do not catch colds. Distemper in dogs is preventable by vaccination, but yearly booster doses may be required.


Intestinal parasites like roundworms are highly migratory. Roundworm larvae travel to the lungs through the bloodstream and crawl up to the windpipe to be swallowed again to reach the intestines. These can cause bouts of coughing during their stay in the windpipe. A proper de-worming is necessary in such situations.

Heartworm microfilaria can be transmitted to dogs by mosquitoes. Heartworm larvae can enter the bloodstream of a dog when the dog is bitten by a host mosquito. These larvas can then swim towards the lungs. The process of infection can take up to six months and a cough tends to surface when adult heartworms restrict exchange of oxygenated blood between lungs and the heart. Treatment of heartworm is a long process and is likely to be successful only if it has been diagnosed in its early stages.


Tuberculosis, though not common, can affect dogs. It causes a moist, labored and productive cough. Infected dogs may also cough up bloody sputum.

Fungal Infections

Symptoms of some of the fungus diseases are also similar to those of tuberculosis. Dogs kenneled near accumulated chicken, pigeon or bird dung may inhale fungus spores that can cause coughing, a change in breathing patterns, pneumonia and fever. Fungus diseases are better prevented, as diagnosis is difficult.

In some cases, a dog cough is a simple matter of a small obstruction in the throat that the dog will eventually expel by coughing. But the cause of a dog’s cough may not always be that simple. It is better to be careful and investigate a dog cough further so that you are able to arrive at the real cause of the symptoms to be able to treat it well.


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