Coughing is one of the most common reasons for a dog to visit their veterinarian. It’s distressing for them, and it is worrying for their owner.

Dogs cough because of irritation or inflammation anywhere in their respiratory tract. This includes their pharynx, or back of the throat, their airways and their lungs.

Here are the most common causes of coughing in our dogs:

1. Heartworm. These worms don’t actually live in a dog’s heart, but in the large veins that carry blood from their heart to their lungs. They damage the lining of these veins and in large enough numbers; they interfere with the flow of blood. The result is heart failure, and the main symptom of this disease is coughing.

2. Canine Cough. You may have heard of the disease called “kennel cough” or “canine cough”. It’s a highly contagious infection of the upper respiratory tract, which causes a harsh hacking cough. It occurs in dogs that frequently mix with other dogs so if your dog has regular play dates at the local dog park, they are more likely to become infected. Fortunately, it’s not usually a serious illness, and your dog should recover within a week or two.

3. Bronchitis. This basically means inflammation of the airways. It can occur in any dog but it is particularly common in elderly dogs. Their airways are less flexible and it’s also harder for them to get rid of mucus in their airways. Both of these conditions lead to an increase in coughing.

4. Heart disease. Heartworm is only one cause of heart disease in dogs; other common causes include failure of the heart valves, or weakness of the heart muscle itself. These conditions can be age related, or they may be genetic conditions in some breeds. When the heart isn’t pumping blood around the body effectively, there is blood leakage into the lungs which causes a cough, particularly at night.

In Summary – Your vet will get a good idea of the possible causes of your dog’s cough, just by examining them. However, further tests such as x-rays or blood tests may be necessary to reach an accurate diagnosis. When you know the reason for your dog’s cough, you can start the right treatment, and that will bring you both relief.