Let’s start off this time by taking it as a given that fur-moms obsess over their babies just the same way human moms do. He throws up, and you don’t assume that he’s just eaten something that disagrees with him and he’s feeling a little bit off. He scratches and you don’t think to yourself, “Well, I scratch sometimes.” Instead, you reach for the flea powder. You may even have been known to take your dog to the vet for no reason other than he just doesn’t seem to be himself.
So, what about coughing? You know, that horrible hacking sound that could be nothing at all, or could be something serious. How do you know the difference?
First off, take it easy. It probably isn’t anything more than the same things that make you cough, even though you have a clean bill of health. Much of the time, a cough is simply due to an irritation in the throat that is due to dry air, or exposure to pollutants like cigarette smoke.
You only need to worry if the cough is persistent, dry and hacking, bubbly and moist, or weak and wheezy. Even then, it might not be a huge issue, but a visit to the vet could be in order. Let’s talk about some of the more serious types of coughing in dogs.
Kennel cough most often occurs when dogs are around other dogs, which is why people who show dogs are vigilant about keeping the kennel cough shots up to date. This type of cough sounds very dry, and as though it is occurring high up in the throat.
The good news about kennel cough is that it is not fatal, and seldom even all that problematic. More often, it is uncomfortable for the dog, and highly annoying to the owner. Treatment includes rest, isolation so that other dogs are not infected and sometimes the use of a canine cough syrup to ease the symptoms.
Right now, Amazon is offering HomeoPet Cough, 15 ml for just $12.50, down from $13.99, and if your order totals over $49.00, shipping is free. You can also try drizzling a tiny bit of honey mixed with water down your dog’s throat, but not too much honey since sugar can be harmful to your pet’s kidneys if too much is used.
If your dog has been vaccinated against distemper, this is not the cause of the cough. Now, I have to tell you that I often hear people say “I didn’t bother with the distemper vaccine, because he’s never around other dogs.” That is a huge mistake. Your dog does not have to be near other dogs to get distemper – it is an airborne virus, and your dog could contract it from blocks, or even miles away. And distemper can be fatal, especially in young dogs and puppies, so please, please have your friend vaccinated!
The distemper cough is dry, and often accompanied by fever, listlessness, and yellowish discharge from the eyes and nose. It looks a lot like what a cold looks like in humans, but trust me on this – your dog does not have a cold, because dogs do not get colds. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Let’s face it, dogs eat a lot of nasty stuff. Roundworms live in nasty stuff like feces and dirty soil. Once consumed by your dog, the roundworm eggs will hatch in the intestine, and move up the windpipe, causing coughing.
Often, puppies get roundworms before birth, from their mother. Worming the mother will not protect the puppies.
Now, light roundworm infestations don’t usually present a problem. You simply see your vet for a wormer that will take care of both eggs and larvae, and move on. Heartworm, however, is a whole other thing.
Heartworms are carried by mosquitoes. Imagine that another heartworm-infected dog is bitten by a mosquito. Then that mosquito travels to your yard, bites your dog, and transfers the heartworm larvae to your dog. The larvae swim toward your dog’s lungs, and in six months or less, your dog begins to cough and wheeze. In severe cases, your dog might not even be able to walk from one side of a room to the other without becoming totally exhausted.
Heartworm can be treated, but it is much easier to prevent. Your vet can provide you with tablets that will ensure that your dog is protected from heartworm. This type of preventative treatment is not cheap, but is still far less expensive than what is needed to cure a serious, or even a moderate heartworm infestation.
Very rarely, dogs can develop tuberculosis, and the symptoms are much the same as they are in humans – a moist cough that results in labored breathing and bloody sputum. A dog with tuberculosis can easily infect another dog.
Fungal diseases can also mimic the symptoms of tuberculosis. If you are an aficionado of backyard chickens, your dog could inhale fungus spores from the feces, and develop trouble breathing. This type of condition is very hard to diagnose and treat, so if your menagerie includes poultry, keep your avian friends away from your mammalian friends.
Err On The Side of Caution
Any episodes of coughing that continue should be a reason for a visit to the vet. Note when the coughing occurs as well as any other symptoms that might be present so that your vet can make a proper diagnosis. Most types of coughing can be prevented with proper vaccinations, so don’t play Russian roulette with your dog’s health. You want to have your best buddy around for many years to come, so if all vaccinations are up to date (as they should be) and a cough worries you, err on the side of caution and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to identify the cause of the cough and begin a course of treatment.