Coughing and your pet

Coughing is not a disease but rather a sign of an underlying problem in an animal. Dogs and cats cough because their airway is irritated. Airway irritation can begin from inside the airway or as a result of disease processes in the tissues surrounding it.

Coughing -- a pet owner's guide

The airway begins at an opening at the back of the throat, extends down the neck as the trachea, and ends inside the lungs.

Identifying the problem

If your pet has coughing problems, the underlying cause must first be identified to ensure that your pet receives the correct treatment. A wide variety of diseases are associated with coughing, including:

  • Bacterial and viral infections
  • Tumors
  • Heart disease
  • Allergies
  • Parasites

Some problems can occur more often in specific breeds or in pets with certain conditions like heart disease. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests to determine the source of the cough. Sometimes the cause can be inferred from your pet’s history and physical examination. Other cases are more challenging. Your veterinarian may recommend a combination of tests, for example, taking samples of blood and/or fluid from the lung for examination or using one of a number of techniques that allow visualization of what’s going on inside the airway (radiography, echocardiology, or bronchoscopy).


There is no single type of treatment used to treat all coughing pets. Treatment will be tailored to your pet’s specific illness. One of the most frequent causes, bacterial infections, are often simple to treat with a brief course of antimicrobial administration at home. More serious underlying problems like heart failure may require in-hospital care. Whatever the cause and/or treatment plan, your veterinarian may also recommend that the pet be given a medication to control the cough and help relieve discomfort until the problem can be resolved.

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