Goals of Treating a Cough
Occasional coughs are normally not a serious condition in domestic dogs. However, if a cough persists, if the dog has nasal or ocular (eye) discharge or bloody sputum or if it has labored breathing, it should be assessed by a veterinarian promptly. The goals of treating a cough are to correct or cure the underlying disorder if at all possible, reduce the frequency and severity of coughing episodes and relieve the dog’s discomfort.
It is important to identify the cause of a dog’s cough, so that it can be corrected. For example, environmental irritants such as smoke, aerosol sprays, perfumes, caustic cleaners, room fresheners and dust, should be removed from the household. Lawn and plant fertilizers, pesticides and some bark ground coverings can also irritate a dog’s upper respiratory tract. Many dogs with coughs can benefit by resting in a closed bathroom while their owner showers, with the overhead fan turned off. Using a household humidifier or cool mist vaporizer may also be helpful. It generally is a good idea to restrict a dog’s exercise until the reason for its cough is identified and treated.
Some human cough medications can be used in dogs, although dog owners should always check with a veterinarian before giving any human drugs to their dogs. While cough suppressants can reduce the frequency and severity of a cough and cough expectorants can liquefy mucus secretions, they do not address or treat the condition that is causing the dog to cough. Bacterial and viral infections of the bronchi and lungs are frequent causes of canine coughs and require veterinary attention, including isolation from other dogs and administration of prescription medications. If the dog has severe bronchitis or pneumonia, it probably will need to be hospitalized at the veterinary clinic so that it can receive intravenous fluids and medication, such as antibiotics, bronchodilators and/or corticosteroids. Oxygen therapy is also available in the hospital. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary, such as to repair a collapsed trachea, correct laryngeal paralysis or remove a tracheal mass.
The prognosis for a dog with a cough depends upon the reason for the cough and the success of resolving that underlying condition. There is really no meaningful way to generalized about a coughing dog’s prognosis, until the cause of the cough is identified.