Coughing is a reflex initiated
by an irritation in the airway. Coughs are caused by respiratory infections, congestive heart failure, chronic bronchitis, respiratory tract tumors, collapsing
trachea, pressure from tight collars, and inhaled irritants such as grass
seeds, fumes, and food particles.
Coprophagia is the name given
to the habit of eating stools-either the dog’s own
or another animal’s. Cats’ stools seem particularly tempting to dogs.
Most dogs with coprophagia are well nourished and show no evidence of a
nutrient deficiency that would account for the compulsion to eat stools. These
individuals may have acquired a taste preference for stools beginning in
puppyhood. Other reasons sometimes suggested for stool eating include boredom
and confinement in close quarters, such...
A deep, dry, hacking cough made worse by exercise or excitement is
characteristic of kennel
A moist, bubbling cough indicates fluid or phlegm in the lungs and suggests
A high, weak, gagging cough, followed by swallowing and licking the
lips, is characteristic of tonsillitis and sore throat.
A spasm of prolonged coughing that occurs at night or while lying on the
sternum suggests heart
A “goose-honk” cough in a toy breed dog indicates a collapsing
The diagnostic workup of a dog with a chronic cough includes a chest X-ray
and transtracheal washings. Washings are cells obtained by flushing the trachea
with saline solution. This can be done with a sterile tube passed down the
trachea while the dog is sedated, or by direct penetration of the trachea
through the skin
of the neck using a needle and catheter. The washings are processed for
cytology and bacterial culture. The information usually leads to a specific
Bronchoscopy is particularly useful in the investigation of chronic coughs
and coughs with the production of mucus and blood. The procedure requires
sedation or general anesthesia. A rigid or flexible endoscope is passed into
the trachea and bronchi. This enables the veterinarian to see the interior of
the respiratory tract. Biopsies can be taken with accuracy, and washings
collected for examination and culture. Bronchoscopy is also the procedure of
choice for removing bronchial foreign bodies.
Treating a Cough
Only minor coughs of brief duration should be treated at home. Coughs
accompanied by labored breathing, a discharge from the eyes or nose, or the
production of bloody sputum should be seen and treated by a veterinarian.
It is important to identify and correct any contributing factors. Eliminate
any irritating atmospheric pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, aerosol
insecticides, strong cleaners, house dust, and perfumes, from the home
Cough suppressants should be used selectively and only for short periods.
Although they decrease the frequency and severity of the cough, they do not
treat the condition causing it. Overuse may delay diagnosis and treatment.
Cough suppressants (but not expectorants) should be avoided in dogs with
bacterial infections and when phlegm is being brought up or swallowed. In these
cases, productive coughs are clearing unwanted material from the airway.
Dogs with a dry cough can be helped by keeping them in the bathroom while
you shower and not using the fan. The added moisture may loosen secretions.
Using a humidifier can also be helpful.