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Quiz Result: My Senior Dog Has a Dry Cough But is Otherwise Acting Normal

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If your dog has developed a dry cough, as a pet parent, you are understandably concerned, even if your dog appears to be otherwise fine or acting normal. A dry cough is not a disease condition but is a symptom of some type of dysfunction of the dog’s respiratory tract.

A dry dog’s cough can be caused by many issues but is typically the result of an infectious process, inflammatory conditions, cardiac disease, or structural issues (collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis). In older dogs, a dry cough can also, unfortunately, be a sign of lung cancer.

Most Likely Causes for a Dry Cough in an Otherwise Healthy Dog

Evaluating the type of cough, as well as the dog’s overall health, can give us a clue as to what is the most likely cause. The most common causes of a dry cough in an old dog who is otherwise acting normal are:

1. Mild Upper Respiratory Infections

Infectious respiratory diseases, including viruses and bacterial causes such as “kennel cough”, are extremely common. Many healthy dogs will develop a dry, “honking” cough with these illnesses, but will still have good energy and be eating and drinking well. Like kids in day care or school, these respiratory diseases are often diagnosed in dogs that have been around other dogs.

Mild upper respiratory infections may be treated with antibiotics, if bacterial, or medications may be given just to ease clinical signs. Dogs may require anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants, or expectorants.

The cost to treat a mild upper respiratory infection varies widely depending on diagnostics and treatments needed. Typically, this trip to the vet will run anywhere from $75 to $500.

2. Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing trachea is very common in small breed dogs who have small tracheas and less rigid tracheal ring cartilage. Episodes of tracheal collapse may be triggered by excitement, exercise, eating and drinking, or allergens in the air such as pollen and smoke. When the dog inhales deeply, the trachea collapses and causes the dog to cough and gag.

-A collapsing trachea can often be seen on chest x-rays.

-Treating a collapsing trachea involves weight loss, anti-inflammatories, allergy medications, and other medications as necessary. Keeping the dog thin and away from irritants will also help.

3. Allergies/Asthma.

Though not very common in dogs, a dry cough in an otherwise healthy animal may be the result of allergies or asthma.

Your veterinarian will likely take chest x-rays and ask for a thorough history to determine if this is the cause of your dog’s coughing. Being able to explain when your dog coughs will be helpful for your veterinarian.

Treatment consists of allergy medications, anti-inflammatories, and bronchodilators. With an exam, chest x-rays, and medications, the initial visit is likely to cost between $200-$500.


WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]


Unfortunately, a cough is a very non-specific sign in a dog, and it may be caused by many, many things. The above list is in no way comprehensive, and all coughing dogs should be seen by their veterinarian in a timely manner to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Senior Dogs & Dry Coughing Issues

Just as with humans, our geriatric pets often combat different diseases and conditions than their more youthful counterparts.  For a dry cough in an otherwise healthy pet, if they are older, I would be more concerned about heart and lung issues than in a younger pet.

Early intervention is key in these instances, so if your senior dog begins coughing, they need to be seen by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

How To Help a Coughing Dog at Home

If your dog is coughing, they need to be seen by your veterinarian. There are many causes of dog coughs, and the treatments are varied. If left untreated, many conditions will worsen and may become life-threatening. The sooner your dog is seen and treated, the sooner they will be feeling better!

While waiting for your appointment, there are a few things you can do to make your dog more comfortable.

  • Separate your dog from other pets: first, separate them from other pets in the household. Not only do you want to keep any infection from spreading, but you also want to enable the ill pet to rest without the pestering and activity of other pets.
  • Provide a quiet place to rest: provide a warm, quiet place for the sick dog where they are comfortable, and make sure they have access to food and water.
  • Be mindful of heat/cold temperatures: do not leave a coughing dog outside in the heat or the cold and do not allow them to exercise.

You should not administer any over-the-counter medications to your pet, either human or veterinary, without permission from your veterinarian. These medications may be toxic, contraindicated in your specific dog’s situation, or even make the condition worse.

Read more About Senior Dog Coughing & Treatment options.

Author

  • Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is the Director and Owner of Kingsgate Animal Hospital, a a full-service animal hospital providing comprehensive pet healthcare services in Lubbock, TX. She graduated from Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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