My Dog Coughs and Chokes: What Could Be the Reason?

A cough in a dog does not automatically mean that the four-legged friend is sick, as it is with humans. Nevertheless, the cough can of course also indicate an illness, especially if the faithful companion has to cough involuntarily. Pettime explains all the causes and how best to respond below.

Different Coughs in the Dog

Not all dogs that cough are sick. There are different forms and causes of coughing. The cough may indicate chronic bronchitis or serious illness.

Dry cough in the dog

A dry cough is very uncomfortable, everyone who has struggled with it at some point knows that. It can even be painful for dogs. Dry cough is hard and rough, the mucus does not come off. If the dry cough comes in attacks, it can be accompanied by gagging.

Wet cough in the dog

With a wet cough, mucus also loosens, which makes it less uncomfortable for the four-legged friend. Dogs then make a rattling and gurgling noise. Even with a wet cough, choking can be involved, in severe cases, the four-legged friends even have to vomit mucus or fluids. A wet cough can indicate a disease such as pneumonia or a heart condition such as left heart failure.

Backward coughing in the dog

Coughing in a sick dog doesn’t always sound like it does in humans. In many cases, it is reminiscent of a combination of choking and reverse sneezing. It resembles a forceful inhalation of air through your nose into your upper airways, which acts like a fit. In some dogs, it also resembles shortness of breath or sneezing.

What are the Causes of a Cough?

Dogs can cough consciously and unconsciously. Reasons can be diseases of the respiratory tract, heart disease, allergies, lungworms, foreign bodies, a tracheal collapse, and feeding.

Kennel cough

If the respiratory tract is acutely or chronically ill, dogs often cough. As in humans, bacteria or viruses can be responsible for this. Dogs can catch a cold (bacterial infection) in their humans or in fellow dogs. A veterinarian should clarify the cause in order to prescribe appropriate therapy. In this way, a possible, serious form of respiratory disease can also be excluded. This is the so-called kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis).

Most dogs received a vaccination today, but kennel cough can still occur. The vaccination does not cover all pathogens. Kennel’s cough affects the airways. It is a persistent disease that can drag on for weeks. In most cases, it occurs in groups of dogs that live together in a small space.

Hence the name. Kennel’s cough manifests itself as a barking cough, fever, nasal discharge, vomiting of phlegm, and fatigue. If left untreated, kennel cough can develop into pneumonia. Puppies in particular are at risk. They still have a weak immune system, so kennel cough can be fatal in some circumstances.

Diseases of the heart

Heart disease can also cause coughs in dogs. If the heart muscle is enlarged, coughing can occur. This is a so-called dilated cardiomyopathy. Coughing up the heart is usually accompanied by the build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Dogs cough mainly at night, the cough sounds like a gurgling. If a dog has these symptoms, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately, as this can endanger the dog’s life. Sick animals can die a second cardiac death. Older dogs in particular have an increased risk of this. The cough is accompanied by water retention, weakness, shortness of breath, and, in some cases, unconsciousness.


If a dog only coughs now and then and mostly indoors, it can be an allergy to dry indoor air or a polluted environment. A humidifier can help with dry room air. A veterinarian should decide whether therapy is necessary for the allergy. Asthma can result from allergic reactions, so it definitely makes sense to take the dog to the vet. If the dog already has asthma, it should definitely be treated. However, he does not receive any permanent medication for this.


Lungworms are very rare in Central Europe, but they can still be a cough trigger in dogs. The worms colonize the bronchi directly, which leads to a compression of the lung tissue. The worm infestation can be detected by a special fecal examination or an endoscopy.

Foreign body

Not only pieces of food can get into the dog’s windpipe. If the dog plays with parts of plants or wooden sticks in the garden or when walking, this can also happen. Usually, the dog can remove the foreign body with a strong cough. But if it is too deep, it may not work. If the dog coughs blood, this can be an indication. In addition, there is loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, and fever. A veterinarian must be visited here to remove the foreign body.

Tracheal collapse

A dry, attack-like cough that occurs when you are excited or particularly happy is typical of tracheal collapse. Smaller breed dogs such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers are more commonly affected. Tracheal collapse is a progressive disease that can be fatal in the worst case.


Many dogs act like vacuum cleaners and devour their food in seconds. In doing so, they can choke, whereby a chunk of food gets into the windpipe. The dog will try to get the foreign body out by coughing. If the dog does not get the airway clear, there is a risk of suffocation. Very strong coughing or choking can lead to a stomach twist. Anti-loop bowls can help here. Large pieces of food that the dog has to chew on before swallowing them can also help.

When Does the Dog Have to Go to the Vet?

If a dog only coughs once because he wants to get rid of a foreign body, he does not have to be presented to a veterinarian directly. However, if there is a suspicion that it will not get rid of the foreign body or if symptoms occur, the dog should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Likewise, a dog should see the vet if it is not a one-off cough or as soon as other symptoms appear.

Especially if it is known that the dog has heart disease, the symptoms should be taken very seriously, as this can be life-threatening. If the person has had a cold and the dog begins to cough, he should also see the vet, as he could have been infected.

Dog Coughs: If in Doubt, Go to the Vet

Almost every owner knows their dog well enough to tell whether it is a harmless brief cough or whether a veterinarian needs to be consulted. As with humans, coughing is not to be trifled with.

The following applies here: It is better to visit the vet once more in order to be able to rule out diseases in advance that a cough can lead to. A more harmless cough can also develop into a serious illness.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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