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My Dog Has a Dry Cough and Gags

By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. Updated: April 2, 2020
My Dog Has a Dry Cough and Gags

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A dog shouldn't be coughing and gagging at exactly the same time. It may happen we notice that they have a dry cough, but gag sometime before or after. Since a dog's symptoms can help us to understand their underlying problem, we need to look at overall context. This is why we look at these clinical signs and their relationship to each other in terms of a dog's health. We look at the most common causes of a dog coughing and gagging, as well as any possible treatment options available.

If you notice your dog has a dry cough and gags, AnimalWised helps you to understand why this might be. We also look at possible home treatments, but it is important to know that we should always seek a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

You may also be interested in: Bronchitis in cats - Symptoms and Treatment

My dog has a dry cough

Coughing is a reflex which is triggered by irritation in the respiratory tract. Most often, it is the body's attempt to get rid of the discomfort it feels in a certain area. While it is possible the dog can cough to relieve themselves of discomfort, most coughing is involuntary. It can self-perpetuate since it causes the mucosa to dry out, making them susceptible to further irritation.

There are different types of coughing which can affect a dog. They include:

  • Dry
  • Wet/phlegm
  • Hoarse
  • Sharp
  • Weak
  • Prolonged
  • Hacking
  • Wheezing

Coughing in dogs is either chronic or acute. Acute coughing appears for short periods and then leaves. Chronic coughing is prolonged and may never go away completely. The characteristics of a dog's cough help us to determine its cause. When it is accompanied by gagging, this can also help us know what is wrong.

A dry cough is often associated with a well-known canine disease known as ‘kennel cough’. Medically, this is known as acute tracheobronchitis or canine infectious respiratory disease. It is caused by various viruses, as well as the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. If your dog has a dry cough and gagging, they could be suffering from this pathology. It is also possible they are suffering from pharyngitis, an inflammation in dogs which is associated with various viral diseases. These include infections in the mouth or respiratory system infections, such as parvovirus or distemper.

Chronic bronchitis is another possible reason a dog will have a dry cough. It is possible the dog can expectorate in these case. Not all coughing in dogs is due to respiratory conditions. A dry cough might also be due to a foreign object stuck in the dog's throat. When the coughing occurs after exercise or becomes more intense at night, it is also possibly a symptom of heart disease.

My Dog Has a Dry Cough and Gags - My dog has a dry cough

Why is my dog gagging?

Gagging in dogs is self-evident. It is usually accompanied by hypersalivation and repeated attempts to swallow. If the gagging continues, it is likely they will vomit, although this does not always occur. Most gagging and retching is associated with gastrointestinal problems. A dry cough may appear which triggers gagging. If the coughing attack is severe, they are more likely ro vomit.

The order in which the coughing and gagging occurs is important. If the dough first has a dry cough and gagging follows, it is likely due to a lower respiratory tract problem. If the dry cough comes after the gagging, it is possible there is a problem with the larynx. Laryngitis is a general term for inflammation of the larynx which can cause gagging. Brachycephalic dog breeds are more prone to this problem, as are those affected by obesity.

Causes of a dry cough and gagging in dogs

It is important to remember that a dog coughing and gagging can have various causes. They are symptoms which don't always occur together. When they do, the most prominent reasons are:

  • Upper and lower respiratory tract infections (including canine distemper and kennel cough)
  • Inhalation of irritation substances (chemicals, smoke, etc.)
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Tumors in the respiratory tract
  • Wearing very tight collars
  • Excessive barking
  • Parasites such as filaria or some intestinal worms
  • Presence of foreign bodies in the throat, esophagus, or lungs

My dog coughs and seems to choke

If your dog is coughing and seems to be choking, it is most likely due to foreign bodies in their throat. The object obstructs their airways and the coughing is an attempt to remove and dislodge it. Depending on the size, shape and location of the object, it may be a veterinary emergency. Some can be easily removed, others will need to be taken out by a professional. An attempted removal by some who doesn't know what they are doing can cause further harm.

However, there are reasons why a dog might be coughing and choking. Neoplastic growths such as tumors can lead to pressure being put on the airways. It is for this reason it is always necessary to get an accurate diagnosis from the veterinarian.

Coughing and gagging in dogs treatment

The treatment for a dog's cough or gagging behavior will depend on the cause. It is possible the reason for the dry cough is evident. For example, if there has been a fire nearby, the dog will likely be coughing due to the smoke. While they may be able to get over this quickly, smoke inhalation is very dangerous. We need to monitor the dog closely and take them to a vet if there is a possibility of serious injury.

When a dog's collar is too tight, they may have a dry sounding cough and gag. While we can loosen or remove the collar, it is also possible permanent injury has been caused. In these cases, we need to take the dog to the veterinarian for evaluation.

We should not try to treat a cough ourselves. Only a professional will be able to determine the underlying cause by using appropriate diagnostic methods. This may include an x-ray or even an intratracheal lavage. The latter is when a camera is inserted along with fluid to see inside the respiratory system.

Coughing due to a foreign body is treated by its removal. This can be a very delicate process and may even require surgery in severe cases. Infections causing dry cough and gagging will usually be treated with pharmaceuticals. Antibiotics will also be used in the case of secondary bacterial infection. It is very important we do not treat the dog with any medication not prescribed by the vet. Not only might it be ineffectual, it can prove toxic to the dog.

Dogs with acute tracheobronchitis will need to be taken into a veterinary hospital. They will need to be isolated from other animals and the room will need to be well-ventilated. Once they start to recover, they will also need moderate exercise. It should be noted there is a vaccine available against this disease.

A chronic dry cough might be due to a chronic illness. If a veterinarian suspects the cause is heart disease, they will need to manage the symptoms. This is carried out through a special diet, controlled exercise and certain medication.

My Dog Has a Dry Cough and Gags - Coughing and gagging in dogs treatment

Are there home remedies for a dry cough in dogs?

With humans, we are often able to treat a dry cough on our own. However, with a dog, it is very difficult to determine the cause of the problem. Since there are multiple pathologies which have this as a symptom, we need to determine the right one to ensure their well-being.

Even when we have a diagnosis, we need to follow the veterinarian's orders closely. Home remedies will not be able to take care of serious pathologies, even if they can help alleviate some symptoms. However, there are some ways we can help avoid a dry cough in dogs:

  • Maintain proper hydration to prevent the airways from drying out.
  • Avoid any potential irritants like smoke, aerosols, pollution, dust, etc.
  • Use a humidifier or take advantage of the steam generated in the bathroom while you shower with hot water.
  • Do not allow excessive physical activity.
  • Stroll with a harness instead of a throat collar.

In general, maintain their good health with an appropriate diet and sufficient exercise. However, with dogs which are prone to a dry cough, we need to ensure we do not encourage excessive exercise. Again, follow your veterinarian's recommendations according to the specific dog.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Has a Dry Cough and Gags, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.

Bibliography
  • Carlson, D. G., & Giffin, J. M. (2002). Practical Canine Veterinary Manual. Madrid: Editorial El Drac.

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Shirley
My dig has cough and gagging. Seen vet healthy given 24 hour Steroid.. Cough lessened overnight
My ? My yard where she spend less than an hour a day grows lots of moss everywhere., can this be cause? Thanks

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