From Pet Health Learning Center
Dog Coughs (Canine Kennel Cough)
Signs and Symptoms
A dog may require cough medicine as a result of numerous different underlying causes and conditions. A canine cough can manifest itself in several different forms, including dry, hacking, wheezy, moist, or weak. It can also plague your dog frequently or just occur occasionally. In some cases, a canine cough will occur more often at certain times of the day than at other times. Or, certain activities such as exercising or eating may act as triggers for your pet's cough.
Rather than being an actual illness in itself, a canine cough is actually a symptom of another condition or problem. The way that your dog will be affected by a cough tends to depend upon the illness or condition that is triggering the coughing response. Furthermore, whether or not cough medicine will be an appropriate and effective remedy for your pet's condition will depend upon the underlying cause. In some cases, additional treatment will be required.
When your dog is suffering from a cough, it's important to note of the type of cough and to look for other symptoms and warning signs that your pet may be exhibiting. This could help to pinpoint the underlying factor that is causing the cough. For example, a soft, moist cough accompanied by symptoms such as fever, mucous discharge from the nasal passages, lethargy, and loss of appetite could be a sign that your canine companion is suffering from a respiratory infection such as pneumonia. Coughing up blood, on the other hand, may indicate that your dog has a pulmonary vascular disease, pancreatitis, or canine Cushing's Disease.
Furthermore, dry canine coughs may be associated with tonsillitis or kennel cough, while a mostly nocturnal cough accompanied by difficulty with breathing may be signs of a serious heart condition. As a result, a dog's cough can be a symptom of a multitude of different medical conditions and in many cases it will be just one of several warning signs. Depending upon the cause of the canine cough, cough medicine may be an effective treatment on its own, or it may need to be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment. No matter what type of cough your dog is displaying, however, he or she should be examined by a veterinary doctor.
In order to determine whether or not canine cough medicine will be an appropriate remedy for your dog, the cause of the cough will need to be diagnosed. There are a number of tools and tests that a veterinarian can employ in order to identify the problem or condition that is giving rise to the canine patient's cough. Such tools and tests include x-rays, heartworm tests, ultrasound, and inspection of fluid samples. Prior to employing any of these methods, a veterinary doctor will typically conduct a physical examination of the dog and become familiar with the dog's history and the symptoms displayed at home. These two steps will then be combined with one or more of the above tests in order to determine why the dog has been coughing.
Chest and throat x-rays are commonly used as a diagnostic tool with regards to coughing canines. Radiographs can reveal a number of potentially cough-causing conditions, including the presence of diseases of the heart, lungs, or airways. These x-rays also allow veterinarians to observe suspicious or abnormal masses. A thoracic ultrasound can also be a helpful method, allowing the practitioner to view the inside of the canine patient, including soft tissue abnormalities that do not show up on x-rays. Such ultrasounds are particularly helpful when attempting to observe the heart.
Another diagnostic method involves taking a fluid sample for examination. Such a fluid sample may be procured from the chest, lungs, trachea, or bronchial tubes. Once obtained, the fluid sample will then be inspected under a microscope for the presence of harmful bacteria or other abnormalities. Finally, if a dog's records are out of date and the animal has not undergone recent, regular checkups, heartworm testing will likely be carried out. This is usually done through one of several forms of fecal testing, where a sample of the dog's stool will be inspected for parasites and their eggs. As a result, a number of diagnostic procedures can be combined with a physical examination and the dog's history in order to determine the reason behind the animal's cough. Once the cause is determined, the veterinarian will then know whether or not dog cough medicine is an appropriate form of treatment.
Pathophysiology A cough disrupts a dog's regular breathing pattern and occurs when there is a sudden expelling of air. While underlying factors are numerous and varied, a cough is typically caused by some form of irritation of the air passages. The sensory nerves in these passageways then become stimulated, resulting in this type of sudden expiration of breath. As mentioned previously, canine coughs can be dry, moist, or wheezy. At times they will be accompanied by gagging and what is referred to as reverse-sneezing, which is characterized by noisy inhalation and exhalation without the suddenness and explosive nature of a cough. In its most basic description, however, a cough is a reaction to an irritation or stimulation of the nerves in the airway.
Causes The potential causes of canine coughs are so numerous that it's impossible to mention them all. However, some of the most common triggering conditions will be discussed below. At times, the characteristics of certain dog breeds can lead to coughing. For example, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos tend to have flat faces and are more prone to snoring. These types of dogs also have an elongated soft palate in the upper rear section of their mouths. At times, flareups of this tissue can lead to coughing and other respiratory troubles. Small and toy breeds of dogs are particularly susceptible to tracheal collapse, which results from a genetic abnormality. When this occurs, the lining of the windpipe becomes inflamed, causing a persistent, dry cough.
Other common causes and triggers of canine coughing include allergies and irritants. Pollens, grasses, cigarette smoke, and certain chemicals irritate the airways of some dogs, generating a coughing response. Tonsillitis and tooth and mouth infections can also lead to coughing. When the tonsils are infected, they become inflamed and partially block the animal's airway. The dog then coughs in an attempt to remove this obstruction. In the case of tooth and mouth infections, the back of the throat can occasionally become inflamed. Such infections are particularly common in small dogs like toy poodles and Pomeranians.
Heart problems are also known to cause dogs to cough. In fact, this symptom is one of the most consistent warning signs of heart disease. Often, this type of cough is more common at night and is generally the result of fluid buildup in the lungs. Another condition that frequently generates a coughing response is the common respiratory infection known as kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis. While cases of this infection tend to not be serious for otherwise healthy dogs, they can be annoying and uncomfortable for your pet, mostly due to the characteristic dry coughing that occurs.
Treatment Since there are so many different potential causes and triggers of a canine cough, the treatments required will not always be the same. At times, dog cough medicine will be all that is required, while in other cases additional courses of treatment will be necessary. For instance, if heart disease is the underlying cause of your dog's coughing, then this condition must be carefully addressed and looked after. Yet, even in situations where an underlying condition requires special treatment, cough medicine may also be helpful when used in conjunction with these other methods.
Administering dog cough medicine to your canine companion can help to reduce this irritating symptom, thereby increasing your dog's comfort and ability to rest peacefully. There are many different kinds of canine cough medicine available, including homeopathic products. These products use natural ingredients to treat and sooth a dog's cough. In fact, there are a number of different natural substances which are known to have properties that have a positive effect upon a coughing canine.
For example, plantago lanceoleta is a plant whose extract acts as an expectorant, loosening mucus and helping with fluid discharge. Licorice and mullein also act as expectorants. Other natural ingredients that may be used in homeopathic cough medicines include marshmallow, Lobelia, and colt's foot. These substances help to treat a cough by relaxing spasms, soothing the airway and tissues, and reducing inflammation. Therefore, if your dog is suffering from a cough, canine cough medicine may be of great help. However, it's important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian before attempting any form of treatment, as it's vital to know if there is an underlying condition that requires attention.