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Causes and Prevention of Coughing in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Causes of Coughing

Coughs can be caused by any number of things, including respiratory tract infections (bacterial, viral or fungal), inflammation of the lining of the respiratory tract (bronchitis, tracheitis), pneumonia, cancer (neoplasia), congestive heart failure, trauma, excessive pressure on the neck from tight collars and inhaled or aspirated foreign bodies such as seeds, grass awns, foxtails or food particles. Coughs can also be caused by airborne environmental irritants, including dust, perfume, harsh chemical cleaners, cigarette or cigar smoke, aerosol sprays, room deodorizers, carpet powders and pesticides.

“Kennel cough” is a group of very contagious respiratory infections that most commonly involves the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria and the canine parainfluenza virus. Other possible contributors include canine adenoviruses types CAV-1 and CAV-2, mycoplasma, canine distemper virus, canine influenza virus and canine herpesvirus. Canine lungworms and heartworms can also cause severe coughing attacks.

Prevention of Coughs

Coughs that are caused by bacterial or viral airway infections are difficult to prevent. Certainly, a good vaccination protocol can go a long way towards protecting domestic dogs from contagious respiratory tract infections. Avoiding overcrowded, dirty boarding kennels and dog parks frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination or health status is also a good idea. Dogs that will stay at a boarding facility should be taken to a veterinarian several weeks before their trip to be vaccinated against Bordetella. The vaccine may need to be given twice yearly for it to achieve its maximum affect.

Special Notes

Coughing tends to dry out and irritate the mucous membranes lining the respiratory tract, which in turn causes even more coughing. Breaking this self-perpetuating cycle is a key factor in successful treatment. On the other hand, the cough reflex can be quite beneficial for dogs with productive coughs, because it is one of the key defense mechanisms that helps clear unwanted mucus secretions from the airways. In fact, a cough is the primary way that the upper respiratory tract airways are kept free from accumulated secretions and inhaled foreign material.

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