Hack. Snort. Gag. Honk. If you hear your pet making any of these noises, you may wonder about the cause, and whether the issue is serious. While a cough here and there is normally not a problem, a persistent cough, especially paired with other illness signs, requires a trip to your Dove Mountain Veterinary veterinarian. If your furry pal is sneezing, lethargic, or not eating, or develops a fever in conjunction with their cough, schedule an appointment with our team.

Some of the most common causes for a pet’s cough require immediate treatment, to prevent the problem from worsening. If your four-legged friend is coughing, they may have one of the following underlying conditions. 

#1: Heart disease in dogs and cats

Dogs are more likely than cats to develop heart disease, which affects the heart valves and muscles, and prevents the heart from efficiently pumping blood. Pets with heart disease will begin coughing when the heart becomes enlarged, which puts pressure on the airways, or as a result of fluid buildup in the lungs. 

Heart disease signs include:

  • A soft, persistent cough
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Collapse

A pet who has heart disease generally coughs more badly at night, or when resting on their side. In most cases, heart disease can be managed with medication, giving the affected pet a good quality of life. 

#2: Foreign object in pets

Foreign objects can become lodged in your pet’s airway or esophagus, creating the urge to cough and expel the item. Pieces of food, grass, or other debris can easily be inhaled, especially if your dog loves sniffing out adventure when outdoors. Hairballs can also cause your pet to cough. During their grooming process, cats can accumulate a great deal of hair, which they then try to cough or retch up, so the fur ball doesn’t end up in the intestinal tract and cause a blockage. While hairballs are considered normal for cats, they shouldn’t cough one up more than one per month.

#3: Kennel cough in dogs

A highly contagious illness, infectious tracheobronchitis (i.e., kennel cough) causes inflammation of the lower main airway and trachea. Dogs who visit boarding facilities, training centers, or dog parks are most likely to catch this illness. If your dog develops a dry, hacking cough after staying in a boarding facility, they likely have kennel cough. Additional signs include lack of appetite, sneezing, mild fever, lethargy, and a runny nose. While kennel cough generally resolves on its own in a week or two, secondary infections can develop that require antibiotics and a cough suppressant. 

#4: Heartworm disease in dogs and cats

Parasitic infections can also cause your pet to cough. Although dogs are more likely to develop heartworm disease via a mosquito bite, cats can also contract this condition. One of the most obvious heartworm disease signs is a progressive cough. Left untreated, heartworm disease can progress and cause exercise intolerance, abdominal fluid buildup, and respiratory difficulties. In cats, the first sign may be sudden collapse or death. Keeping your pet on year-round heartworm prevention is critical to avoid this disease. 

#5: Collapsing trachea in pets

Tracheal collapse occurs when the trachea’s cartilaginous rings weaken and become soft. This condition most often occurs in small dogs, and progressively worsens with age. Signs include difficulty breathing, vomiting, and a harsh, dry cough. To minimize the likelihood of a collapsing trachea, keep your pet at an ideal body weight, and avoid lung irritants like smoke and strong scents.

#6: Pneumonia in pets

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of reasons, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, swallowing difficulties, regurgitation, and metabolic disorders. If your pet has pneumonia, they’ll likely have a moist, soft cough, along with a high fever, poor appetite, and low energy. Occasionally, a pneumonia case requires hospitalization, but most pets improve with antibiotics, fluid therapy, and rest. 

#7: Asthma in pets

More common in cats than in dogs, asthma is a respiratory condition triggered by pollen, mold, dust mites, smoke, or other allergens. Inflamed airways lead to coughing, wheezing, rapid breathing, vomiting, and lethargy. Allergy testing is generally recommended to determine the main culprit, so you can avoid the allergen as much as possible, and help your pet breathe more easily. Although asthma cannot be cured, many treatments are available that will help keep your pet comfortable. 

If your furry pal is coughing, don’t wait to see if the cough improves on its own. A cough can signal a serious underlying condition, so contact our Dove Mountain Veterinary team to schedule an appointment.