What Causes Canine Cough?


Having a dog with a cough is a cause for concern. Coughing in dogs is typically a sign of an underlying condition that’s having some sort of effect on the respiratory system. These conditions can range from mild to severe and life-threatening, so it’s always good to have your veterinarian look into your dog’s symptoms if coughing occurs.

What Causes Canine Cough?

There are several underlying causes that can result in a dog developing a cough. These conditions can be broken down into four primary categories:

1. Infections

Bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections can all cause canine cough. Examples of some of these infectious diseases that can lead to canine cough include Bordetella, Canine Distemper Virus, Parainfluenza Virus, Canine Influenza Virus, lungworms, and heartworm disease.

2. Inflammatory and Auto-Immune Issues

Like people, dogs can suffer from inflammatory disorders like allergies and asthma, and both of these issues can lead to coughing.

Allergies in dogs most commonly cause dermatological problems that affect the skin and coat, but they can also cause a cough. A dog with asthma or other auto-immune diseases will typically experience worsening symptoms (coughing and wheezing) with exercise and other activity. 


3. Degenerative and Age-Related Problems

Several age-related or degenerative diseases can cause a dog to develop a cough. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, and laryngeal paralysis

4. Genetic Predisposition

Some dog breeds, called brachycephalic breeds (those with short or “pushed in” noses), are genetically prone to developing a condition called Brachycephalic Syndrome which can cause persistent coughing. 

These breeds include:

  • American and French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Japanese Chin
  • Pekingese
  • Pugs and Puggles

Respiratory issues in brachycephalic dogs typically start at a young age. Additionally, weight gain and obesity in these breeds can exacerbate respiratory problems and increase the risk of breathing problems

Another type of genetic disease that can cause dogs to cough is Tracheal Collapse wherein the cartilage of the trachea (or “windpipe”) is softer than it should be, causing the airway to narrow and inducing a cough.  

Breeds prone to this condition include:

  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Lhasa apso
  • Miniature and Toy poodles
  • Pomeranian
  • Shih tzu

What You Should Do If Your Dog Is Coughing

Since the underlying causes of coughs in dogs can range from mild to life-threatening, it is always best to err on the side of caution. If your dog develops a cough, we strongly encourage you to schedule a veterinary appointment right away. 

Our veterinarians will examine your dog and run any necessary diagnostic tests to determine what’s causing your pet to cough. Once we’ve reached a diagnosis, we can provide you with a variety of treatment options and recommendations to ease your pet’s symptoms while addressing the underlying problem. 

To learn more or schedule an exam for your dog, we welcome you to contact us.