An occasional cough is not something you normally need worry about. But what if coughing becomes more frequent, or quite violent like your dog is trying to expel its own lungs? There are many causes of coughing and, yes, some of these can be serious. Know what to look for and when to seek help.
What causes a cough?
Common causes for cough include inflammation of the nasal passages, sinuses, tonsils, windpipe, airways and lungs. Heart problems may cause coughing. Infectious causes of cough include bacteria, viruses, and parasites (such as heartworms or lungworms). Tumours or foreign bodies also may cause coughing.
Heartworms and lungworms can easily be avoided by keeping your pet up to date with their preventative health
What are the signs of cough?
A cough is a sign of disease that may originate from many parts of the body. The cough and the timing of the cough may suggest which organ is involved. Night time coughing often indicates heart failure or collapse of the windpipe. A cough that occurs with exercise usually means inflammation or irritation in the airways. Wet coughs indicate fluid build up, while dry coughs generally indicate irritation. Pneumonia is one cause of wet coughing.
How is a cough diagnosed?
Observation of the nature and frequency of the cough is the first step in diagnosis. Coughing must be differentiated from sneezing. A complete oral examination may detect tumors or foreign bodies. Blood tests may lead to a diagnosis of infection by bacteria, viruses, or heartworms. Laboratory analysis of the faeces provides the diagnosis of lungworm infections.
Ultrasound and X-rays are very useful in the diagnosis of heart disease and tumours. Examination and bacterial culture of the coughed-up fluid aids in the diagnosis of bacterial or parasitic infection, cancer, or asthma
How is a cough treated?
The treatment is based on the underlying cause of the cough. Coughs caused by heart failure or associated with bleeding or significant impairment of breathing require immediate emergency treatment.
While awaiting diagnosis, treatment for all coughs includes rest. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. Drugs that open up narrowed airways help asthma and are sometimes used in animals with bronchitis or heart disease. Cough suppressants, expectorants, and corticosteroids are also used for certain conditions.
What is the prognosis (outcome) for animals with a cough?
Prognosis for animals with a cough depends on the underlying cause. Outcome ranges from complete recovery for some cases to significant complications and even death in other cases. Animals with overwhelming congestive heart failure or cancer have guarded prognoses.