What’s Up with Your Dog’s Hacking Cough?
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on September 22, 2018
Posted in Dog Coughing
It can be startling to hear your dog cough. Like in humans, dogs can get dust or food particles stuck in their throats and will need to clear them, so a few coughs every now and then is usually no cause for concern. But if your dog begins to cough regularly and forcefully, there is likely something wrong with its respiratory system.
When your dog starts to cough, it’s important that you listen to the type of cough it has. The different sounds of coughs can help you determine what might be ailing your dog. For example, a wet-sounding cough might be attributed to allergies, while a combination of coughing and gagging might be because it has an object stuck in its throat.
One of the most common causes of canine coughing produces a deep, dry, hacking cough: kennel cough. Kennel cough is a respiratory tract infection caused by the Bordetella virus or bacterium and is very common among dogs that get boarded often or are surrounded by other dogs in places like doggy daycare.
Dogs of all ages and breeds can get infected with Bordetella. The condition is extremely contagious, so it spreads quickly through kennels. The bacteria or virus can spread through the air, through direct contact with infected saliva and through contaminated surfaces like water bowls.
The infection causes severe inflammation in the airway, resulting in a hacking cough. Dogs with kennel cough will usually experience strong “fits” of coughing followed by gagging. The persistent cough may also be accompanied by a runny nose and sneezing, as well as lethargy and a lack of appetitive.
How to stop the hacking
Kennel cough is usually not very serious. The coughing typically only lasts about a week and won’t require significant treatment in most cases. Your dog will become healthy once the condition is treated or overcome by its immune system. However, the infection can lead to pneumonia in young puppies and immunocompromised dogs.
The best way to prevent your dog from getting kennel cough is by keeping your dog up-to-date on all of its vaccines. There are numerous forms of vaccines for kennel cough that help protect dogs from the virus and ease symptoms somewhat if they do get infected. Most of the vaccines are administered yearly, unless your dog gets boarded regularly and is thus at a higher risk for the infection. Then, your vet may recommend giving your pup a booster shot every six months.
If you discover your dog has kennel cough, take it into the vet to rule out any other serious coughing-related ailments like tracheal collapse and heart disease. The vet may send you home with some medication to clear up the kennel cough or suppress the coughing. However, the typical treatment recommendations are just rest and nutrients. Also, make sure your dog is drinking lots of water, as fluids can help ease a sore throat and will prevent dehydration.
Rest allows your dog’s body to recuperate as the immune system fights the infection. Nutritious food and supplements can give the immune system a boost and help beat the illness faster.
Hacking constantly can make your dog very uncomfortable because of the consistent stress and soreness of its throat. If your dog is having trouble eating due to a sore throat, you can try some supplements that offer relief from sore throats. Other supplements may help to boost your dog’s immune system to help its body fight off the infection more easily and prevent the condition from worsening into pneumonia.
Another thing to remember is that, if you take your dog on a walk while it has kennel cough, make sure you use a harness rather than a leash to avoid putting express pressure on the throat. Pressure can make your dog extremely uncomfortable if the throat is sore, and it can also aggravate the throat and cause more coughing.
While your dog is recovering, keep it out of kennels, groomers and doggy daycare to prevent it from spreading the infection to more dogs. Also, do not let your dog go into a dog park because it could infect the other dogs there.
If your pooch is showing signs of difficulty breathing, is refusing to eat food or has a cough that is worsening over time rather than getting better, take it to a vet as soon as possible to avoid a potentially-life-threatening condition. Otherwise, keep your dog comfortable and healthy while its body fights the infection. After a short while, the hacking should stop.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan