ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Case Of The Coughing Dog

Updated on December 18, 2008

Being a veterinarian is like being a parent: it defines you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I wasn’t too surprised when the topic of a phone conversation with a friend turned to his dog. “Why is Abby coughing?” Man, if I could diagnose that over the phone, I’d be a millionaire!

There are three categories of disease that cause coughing in dogs: lower airway, upper airway, and heart disease. Cats are different—they don’t like to cough, they’d rather vomit. “Cats vomit, that’s just what they do,” according to one of my vet school professors.

Lower airway disease can cause a dry or wet cough. Other potential signs include difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, fever, tiredness, and weight loss. Examples of things that cause lower airway disease include infections, asthma, and cancer. Your veterinarian might hear abnormal lung sounds on examination, but chest X-rays, blood tests, or collecting samples of what’s being brought up may be necessary. Bronchoscopy—sending a tiny video camera into the airways—or lung biopsies are required in difficult cases. Lower airway diseases require medications and possibly a hospital stay or even surgery to give the best chance of full recovery.

Upper airway and heart disease coughing sound the same—dry, maybe honking, with not much brought up. A veterinarian may be able to differentiate between these two types of disease by asking some questions, listening to the dog’s heart and lungs, and squeezing its trachea to elicit a cough.

Some examples of upper airway disease include kennel cough, collapsing trachea, or a partial airway obstruction. Kennel cough is the most common cause of coughing. It is a contagious infection, usually passed around by an infected but non-coughing dog, similar to the way strep throat is passed among children. No matter what is causing the problem, the coughing itself causes continued irritation and inflammation of the trachea. Antibiotics and/or anti-cough medications are generally prescribed.

Heart disease can cause coughing in two ways. If the heart becomes enlarged, it pushes against the end of the trachea, triggering a coughing reflex. Also, a dog in heart failure will often have fluid building up in its lungs. If there is enough fluid present, the dog could have a wet cough, or even be breathing out foam.

When assessing a dog for coughing, your veterinarian may ask if you’ve noticed signs of heart disease, such as collapsing episodes, an inability to exercise normally, a poor appetite, difficulty breathing, and bluish gums or tongue. Your veterinarian may be able to hear a heart murmur or detect an abnormal rhythm, find weak or absent pulses (yes, there can be absent pulses in a live animal!), or hear signs of fluid in the chest. Heart disease can be the main problem, or it can be happening because of something else. It may take a variety of tests to reach a diagnosis, including chest X-rays, an EKG, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), and blood tests to look for underlying infections, hormone problems, or heartworm disease.

So what happened with Abby? I asked some questions and found out that she had a dry, honking cough, with no other symptoms. She had recently been around a new dog. Any guesses as to what was wrong? I told my friend kennel cough was most likely, but that she better have a chest X-ray, just in case. She visited her local vet the very next day. Sure enough, it was kennel cough.

So where’s my million bucks?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Hi! I just bring my dog went to see doctor this morning, its actually 2nd time I went dog cough seems like not recovering and today he totally lost appetite and vomit when he try to eat. By the way he still coughing...

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      10 years ago from India

      Hi Retired Vet - it feels great reading your hubs - it's like having a vet sitting next to you! Thanks - look forward to reading many more of your hubs!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)