Coughing in dogs can be caused by a variety of issues, from kennel cough to heart disease. While some coughs may resolve on their own, others require veterinary attention and treatment. However, there are some home remedies that can provide temporary relief for your dog’s cough and soothe their throat while you monitor their condition or await your vet appointment.
Home Remedies to Soothe Your Dog’s Cough
Here are some simple home remedies that may help provide relief when your dog has a cough:
- Honey – Honey can coat and soothe your dog’s throat. Add a teaspoon of pure honey to your dog’s food or water a few times a day.
- Broth – Warm broth can provide moisture to your dog’s throat. Use chicken or beef broth, preferably low-sodium.
- Humidifier – Keeping the air moist with a humidifier can ease coughing and throat irritation. Place near your dog’s sleeping area.
- Throat spray – Pet supply stores sell soothing herbal throat sprays for dogs that can provide temporary relief and comfort.
- Tea – Make an herbal tea using ingredients like licorice root, marshmallow root, or slippery elm. Let cool and add to your dog’s water bowl.
- Essential oils – Certain pet-safe oils like eucalyptus and peppermint can help clear nasal passages and provide relief. Use a diffuser or rub gently on dog’s neck/chest.
It’s important to note that these home remedies are only for temporary relief and should not replace any treatments prescribed by your veterinarian. If your dog’s cough persists more than 1-2 days or seems severe, contact your vet.
When to See the Veterinarian
While mild coughing may resolve on its own, it’s important to call your vet if:
- Cough lasts more than 1-2 days
- Cough seems severe or your dog struggles to breathe
- You notice discharge, blood, or vomit when coughing
- Your dog seems lethargic, has a fever, or is not eating
- Your dog shows other concerning symptoms like collapsing or weakness
Some signs warrant an emergency veterinary visit. Seek immediate care if your dog collapses, has blue gums or tongue, shows signs of distress when breathing, or coughs up large amounts of blood.
Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs
There are many possible causes for coughing in dogs. Some common reasons include:
Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is highly contagious between dogs. It’s caused by bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections that inflame the trachea and bronchi. Kennel cough often results in a forceful, hacking cough and retching. Most cases resolve within a few weeks with rest. Vaccines can help prevent against some causative agents like Bordetella.
Coughing can sometimes be a sign of heart disease if fluid begins to build up in or around the lungs. Cough from heart disease may worsen at night or when lying down. Dogs with heart disease may also tire easily or have difficulty breathing.
Chronic bronchitis leads to inflammation in the bronchial tubes and mucus production. It can result from inhaled irritants, infections, or allergies. Coughing and wheezing are common symptoms. Treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and managing symptoms.
In small dog breeds, the tracheal rings that keep the airway open can weaken, causing the trachea to flatten and collapse. This results in a dry, harsh cough often triggered by excitement, exercise, pulling on a leash, or eating/drinking. Cough suppressants, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery may be recommended.
Heartworm disease is caused by parasitic worms that infect the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels. Infected dogs may cough as well as experience fatigue and trouble breathing. Monthly heartworm preventatives can help prevent infestation. Treatment options include medications and sometimes surgical removal of worms.
Primary lung tumors or tumors that have metastasized to the lungs occur less often in dogs compared to people but can still result in coughing. Lung tumors are more common in older, large breed dogs who smoke. Treatment options depend on the type and stage of cancer.
When to See a Veterinary Specialist
For coughing that persists longer than expected or is not responding well to treatment, your veterinarian may recommend referring you to a specialist for additional diagnostics and care. Relevant specialists include:
- Veterinary internal medicine specialist – Focuses on diseases affecting internal organs. Can help diagnose and treat complex or chronic respiratory conditions.
- Veterinary cardiology specialist – Manages heart and cardiovascular conditions like heart disease and heartworm.
- Veterinary oncologist – Specializes in cancer diagnosis and treatment, including lung tumors.
- Veterinary surgeon – Performs complex surgeries and procedures, like tracheal stent placement for collapsing trachea.
A specialist has advanced training, expertise, and diagnostic tools to help provide the best care for complicated coughing cases.
Diagnostic Tests for Coughing
To get to the root of your dog’s cough, the veterinarian may recommend some tests such as:
Chest x-rays allow visualization of the heart, lungs, trachea, and chest cavity to check for abnormalities or fluid buildup. This helps rule out conditions like pneumonia, heart enlargement, or lung cancer.
A tracheal wash involves injecting saline into the lower airway and recovering fluid for examination under a microscope. It can detect cancer cells, bacteria, fungi, or inflammation.
A bronchoscopy uses a tiny camera on the end of a scope to visually inspect the lower airways. The veterinarian can see inflammation, foreign objects, masses, or collapse.
A complete blood count and blood chemistry helps assess for infection and organ issues. Specific heartworm or tick-borne disease testing may also be warranted based on risk and location.
If heart disease is suspected, tests like chest x-rays, ECG, cardiac ultrasound, and blood pressure evaluation can help evaluate the heart.
Treatment Options for Canine Cough
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of your dog’s cough. Some general treatment options vets may recommend include:
- Antibiotics – For bacterial infections or respiratory infection complications.
- Cough suppressants – To control coughing fits and discomfort.
- Bronchodilators – Help open airways and make breathing easier.
- Anti-inflammatories – Reduce airway inflammation in conditions like chronic bronchitis.
- Diuretics – Remove excess fluid from the lungs or chest cavity.
- Heart medications – Dogs with heart disease may benefit from drugs like ACE-inhibitors, beta-blockers, etc.
- Deworming – For dogs with heartworm disease.
- Surgery – May be done to remove tumors or foreign objects, stent collapsing tracheas, drain fluid, or debulk masses.
- Chemotherapy/radiation – To treat certain cancers and reduce tumor size.
The veterinarian will tailor treatment recommendations to your dog based on exam findings, diagnostic results, and the most likely underlying cause.
How to Make a Dog with Kennel Cough More Comfortable
If your dog has infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough, some ways to help them feel better while they recover include:
- Administer cough medication as prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Give honey or broth to coat and soothe the throat.
- Keep your dog calm and rested to avoid coughing fits.
- Take outside on leash for bathroom breaks to prevent roaming and barking.
- Wipe nose with warm washcloth to clear discharge.
- Ensure adequate hydration with broths or wet food if not drinking normally.
- Feed smaller, frequent meals if coughing with eating.
- Avoid irritants like smoke, dust, pollen, etc.
- Use essential oils or throat spray to provide relief.
Most cases of kennel cough resolve on their own within a few weeks. Avoid dog parks, daycare, or boarding until your dog has fully recovered to prevent spread.
Are There Any At-Home Remedies for a Collapsing Trachea?
There are some temporary at-home remedies that can provide relief when your dog has a collapsing trachea (also called collapsing trachea syndrome):
- Use a harness instead of a collar, which puts less pressure on the trachea
- Control coughing with prescribed medication
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the trachea
- Use calming supplements to reduce anxiety and excitement that can trigger coughing
- Install ramps to prevent jumping on/off furniture
- Avoid hot/humid weather that can irritate the airways
- Keep your home cooled and use a humidifier
- Give honey, broth, or herbal drinks to soothe the throat
- Gently massage the neck to provide comfort
Ultimately, collapsing trachea often requires surgery to implant a stent that keeps the airway open. Though not curative, at-home remedies can provide supportive care. Work closely with your veterinarian for appropriate treatment.
What natural remedies help dogs with heart disease?
Here are some natural remedies that can provide additional support for dogs with heart disease when used under veterinary guidance:
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Found in fish oil, flaxseed, walnuts – help reduce inflammation.
- Coenzyme Q10 – An antioxidant that may improve heart function and blood flow.
- Hawthorn – A plant extract that can help dilate blood vessels and improve circulation.
- Taurine – An amino acid vital for heart health. Found in meats and supplements.
- Carnitine – Helps the heart metabolize fats for energy. Found in meats and supplements.
- Magnesium – Helps maintain regular heartbeat rhythm and blood pressure.
- Herbal diuretics – Like dandelion, help relieve fluid retention and swelling.
Always check with your veterinarian before giving supplements or herbal therapies, especially alongside prescription medications. Work closely with your vet for the best treatment protocol.
How can I soothe my dog’s throat and reduce coughing?
Here are some tips to help soothe throat irritation and reduce coughing frequency in dogs:
- Give honey to coat and soothe the throat. Use 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon as needed.
- Add low-sodium chicken or beef broth to your dog’s water to provide hydration.
- Use a cool air humidifier near your dog’s sleeping area to prevent dry airways.
- Try an herbal tea with ingredients like licorice root, marshmallow root, slippery elm. Let cool before giving.
- Gently massage your dog’s throat to provide comfort and help relax the muscles.
- Ask your vet about safe throat lozenges or sprays made for dogs.
- Give cough suppressant medication as prescribed to control symptoms.
- Limit collar use which can put pressure on the trachea. Switch to a harness when possible.
- Avoid exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke, dust, perfumes, pollen, etc.
See your veterinarian if your dog’s cough persists more than a day or two or seems severe. They can pinpoint the cause and provide appropriate treatment.
When to Take a Dog with a Cough to the Emergency Vet
Most coughing in dogs can be managed by your regular veterinarian. However, seek emergency care if your dog exhibits any of these signs:
- Coughing up large amounts of bright red blood
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea accompanying the cough
- Very rapid breathing or excessive effort breathing
- Blue/gray gums or tongue
- Collapsing or weakness
- Coughing that leads to loss of consciousness
- Signs of oxygen deprivation like restlessness, anxiety, confusion
- Abnormal fever above 104°F (40°C)
- Sudden onset of coughing and respiratory distress
Emergency vet care provides oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, diagnostics, and cough relief medications to stabilize your dog until the underlying cause can be treated. Don’t delay if your dog shows any critical signs of respiratory distress.
Coughing is a common concern in dogs that can arise from many underlying problems. Mild cases may resolve with home remedies and monitoring, while chronic cough or cough along with other symptoms needs veterinary attention. Diagnostic tests help pinpoint the root cause so appropriate treatment can be provided. Work closely with your vet to ensure your coughing dog receives the necessary care to get back to good health.