This article was updated on May 8th, 2023
For some dogs, the hacking and gagging sound of coughing always follows the lapping sound of drinking. While coughing after drinking water may feel like the norm for your dog, you can’t help but wonder if it’s okay or if your pup is suffering in some way. Let’s investigate the reasons why a dog may cough after drinking water and ways that you can help calm this disruptive behavior.
What Does Coughing After Drinking Water Sound Like in Dogs?
Coughs in dogs may take on different sounds depending on what is causing them. Dogs that cough after drinking water may hack or gag as if trying to clear something from their throat. They may retch and actually bring up a little foam or water when they do. The cough may be shallow and fast or contain a couple of deep-in-the-chest coughs.
They may also start to hyperventilate and make a coughing sound similar to a goose honk. Being able to describe the sound and frequency to your veterinarian is an important part of the diagnostic process, so get your listening ears ready whenever your dog takes a drink of water.
4 Top Reasons Causing Dogs to Cough After Drinking Water
Knowing the cause of coughing after drinking is the best way to start treating it so that your dog can rest easy every time they take a sip. Some of those causes may include:
1. Water Entering the Trachea
It’s something we’ve all experienced and can be very common in dogs. After all, some dogs lack finesse and even control when they start to drink water, making it very easy for water to go where it shouldn’t.
In a dog’s throat, there are two main tubes-the trachea, or windpipe, and the esophagus. The trachea takes air to and from the lungs, and the esophagus takes food and water to the stomach. It’s a take-turn kind of system where only one tube can be used at a time. To keep things going in the right direction, the top of the trachea has a little lid called the epiglottis. When a dog is swallowing food or water, the lid closes over the trachea, directing food and water down the esophagus.
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When dogs aren’t swallowing, the epiglottis is open to allow for air movement. When a dog drinks very quickly, sloppily, and gulps a lot of air with it, the epiglottis can get a little out of rhythm and open when it shouldn’t, allowing some water to sneak into the trachea. The respiratory system doesn’t like liquids inside it and so will trigger the coughing reflex to expel the water.
With this cause, dogs may cough intermittently or every time after drinking, depending on how fast they like to lap.
2. Tracheal issues
A dog’s trachea is made up of c-shaped rings of cartilage stacked on top of each other. The cartilaginous ring is completed by a thin sheet of muscle on one side to make a tube. In most dogs, this forms a rigid structure that is always open for air to come and go from the lungs.
However, in some dogs, that muscular side can be sucked in, creating a smaller and misshapen opening for air, known as a collapsed trachea. When the trachea is collapsed, the epiglottis doesn’t completely cover it anymore, allowing some water to leak into the trachea when a dog drinks. Dogs with collapsed tracheas may also cough when they get excited and have difficulty breathing during exercise. Any age and breed can be affected, but small adult or senior dogs generally top the most commonly affected list.
Along with tracheal collapse, a dog may be born with a hypoplastic trachea, or one that isn’t formed properly. The size and shape of the trachea may be different to the point that the epiglottis can’t properly block water and food from coming in, and a dog will cough after drinking water. They may also have difficulty exercising and low energy. Hypoplastic tracheas are most commonly found in brachycephalic, or short-nosed, puppies.
3. Kennel Cough
A highly contagious respiratory disease, like kennel cough, may be another reason that a dog coughs after drinking water. Anything that causes irritation to the throat may make a dog cough after anything, even water, touches it. Dogs with kennel cough may also have a runny nose, decreased appetite, and often have spent some time in a confined space around a lot of other dogs, such as at the groomer, boarding facility, or obedience class.
4. Reverse Sneezing
A reverse sneeze is a sound that a dog may make after drinking water when an irritant or water causes the larynx to spasm. It’s not technically a cough, but is a sound similar enough to one that it can be easily confused. Any dog can reverse sneeze at any time but is more common in brachycephalic breeds.
Should I Be Worried If My Dog Coughs After Drinking Water?
It can be perfectly normal for a dog to cough every once in a while after drinking water. If they aren’t distressed and recover quickly from the issue, it’s likely no big deal. Some dogs are known for making a race out of eating and drinking, and a little water down the wrong pipe is a normal result of that. Some dogs may even vomit if they eat or drink too fast.
However, if coughing after drinking is upsetting a dog, they are having coughing fits at other times, or this is something that just started or is getting worse, it may be time to investigate further.
When Should I See a Vet for my Dog Coughing After Drinking Water?
A few throat-clearing coughs after a refreshing drink may be expected for dogs that seemingly inhale their water. However, if those coughs start to become upsetting to your dog or severe enough that he has trouble catching his breath, it may be time to dig a little deeper.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Also, if coughing after drinking water is something new that your dog has started or is something that has gotten much worse, get them checked out. Of course, if your pup has any other worrisome signs, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice.
Your vet will be able to look at and feel your dog’s mouth and throat. They can listen to their heart and lungs and even take x-rays to determine if there is a tracheal issue, kennel cough, or just an excited drinker. The history of when and how often the coughing happens is also an important piece of the puzzle.
The treatment for coughing after drinking water will depend on the cause. Tracheal issues, including hypoplastic and collapsed tracheas, may be managed with anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants, and exercise restriction. Dogs should wear a harness rather than a collar while walking and try to avoid situations where they get overly excited.
Mild to moderately affected dogs won’t have many lifelong medications or treatments that will increase costs, so you’ll be looking at paying $200-$400 for diagnostic costs, including x-rays. Severely affected dogs may need surgery to place a stent in the trachea to keep it open. This may cost $2,000-$4,000.
Kennel cough will usually go away on its own within a couple of weeks. However, some dogs may appreciate cough suppressants and antibiotics to ward off secondary issues. They should also be separated from other dogs to prevent spreading it, and may want a few days of rest and relaxation. Expect to pay $100-$300 for diagnosis and medications.
How to Help Your Dog Avoid Coughing After Drinking Water
If your dog’s only issue is that they drink too fast, it’s time for some training. Don’t let them drink until they are calm and focused by having them follow a few basic sit or lie-down commands before drinking. Only offer small amounts of water or use a slow drinker water bowl or insert to slow down his drinking.
Again, if coughing after drinking water is something that just started in your dog or is something that is getting worse and causing distress, be sure to see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. You’ll also want to make sure to have your pup vaccinated against kennel cough if they frequent boarding or grooming facilities, dog parks, or obedience classes. Keep them away from other dogs that are coughing or ill as well.
FAQ About Dog Coughing When Drinking Water
Are senior dogs (7-8+ years old) more likely to cough after drinking water?
Coughing after drinking water can happen in any dog breed at any age. Senior dogs aren’t necessarily more likely to cough after drinking than any other age group. That being said, tracheal collapse is more likely to occur in adult to senior-aged dogs. There may be an element of senility that could have a dog losing focus on what he is doing in the middle of drinking water as well, which may bring on some coughing. Coughing at any time in senior dogs is something that should be taken seriously and checked out by a vet, as there are many serious medical issues that may be the cause.
Are certain breeds more likely to cough after drinking water?
Unfortunately, our brachycephalic, or snort-nosed, breeds are more likely to cough after drinking water and have other respiratory issues as well. Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers, to name a few, may all have more issues with reverse sneezing and airway irritation due to their facial and tracheal anatomy. Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas are all more prone to tracheal collapse. Meanwhile, large, goofy breeds, like Labs and Golden Retrievers, may gulp rather than drink their water, leading to coughing after drinking.
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