Lancashire Heeler Health - Coughing
Why does my dog cough?
Apart from an infectious bout of Kennel Cough which can be treated with antibiotics and is not usually harmful, there are two other respiratory conditions that can cause some dogs to exhibit symptoms of coughing. Smaller breeds tend to be most affected and it is helpful to recognise which of these two conditions are causing the problem, as they can appear very similar.
The first and less serious is commonly known as 'Reverse Sneezing' which can be caused by a spasm of the throat and soft palate if they become irritated. The dog seems like he is trying to clear his throat, reaching forward and trying to swallow, trying to get air into his lungs, often making a sort of honking noise. This can be caused by various things such as pulling on the lead, swallowing food or water or getting something stuck in the throat, excitement, allergic reaction to pollen or other triggers.
Although this may look distressing it is not serious and will not normally harm the dog, usually stopping without any veterinary intervention. If you wish to help stop it, if you hold your hand over the dogs nostrils and gently massage the throat this will make him swallow and will clear the throat stopping the spasm. Some dogs may suffer from this all their lives, and if this is a common occurence, a harness rather than a collar may also help.
Another respiratory condition that has similar symptoms is far more serious. This is called Tracheal Collapse, and is common in breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, usually when they are getting older or are overweight. The trachea (windpipe) narrows and may even collapse, preventing air getting to the lungs. This can cause the dog to cough, again making a honking noise, with laboured breathing and wheezing, usually on exercise. The pigment of the gums and skin may turn blue, and the dog may even faint due to lack of oxygen.
Prevention is better than cure and reducing a dog's weight can help prevent this condition. Teaching your dog not to pull on the lead will help, and use a harness rather than a collar if he is showing signs of injury to his airway. Avoid exposure to fumes or smoke, or exercising in extremely hot or cold weather. Your vet will be able to diagnose if this is a clinical condition and recommend whether treatment or even surgery is indicated in extreme cases.
Some breeds such as Yorkies, Poms and Poodles are believed to be genetically affected, but other factors may play a part, such as damage to the nervous system or tracheal cartilage and even nutrition may be a cause. Some dogs may also cough due to a heart problem, but your vet will be able to diagnose this.
Please see a vet if you feel your dog is exhibiting these symptoms.