Why Is My Dog Coughing?

There are many possible reasons why your dog is coughing, one of them being a collapsed trachea. My little doxy, Taz has this. It sounds like she is choking and hyperventilating – like dogs sometimes do when they pull on the leash too hard. It’s quite frightening to witness. I try not to panic, but it’s scary.

Whenever this happens to Taz (usually when she’s scarfing down her food too fast!), I stand by her and gently rub her throat while I talk to her in a soothing voice. Luckily, within about a minute or two, she will catch her breath and be OK.

Why Is My Dog Coughing?Why Is My Dog Coughing?

The very first thing you should do is have your dog seen by a veterinarian immediately.  There are a variety of reasons why your dog may be coughing, and some of them are serious.  In this article, we’ll be focusing on dogs with a collapsed trachea.

What is a Collapsed Trachea?

A collapsed trachea is a common cause of airway obstruction in dogs. The trachea, also known as the windpipe, transports air in and out of the lungs. Sometimes the trachea collapses, making it difficult for the air to flow.

checklist for a new puppyWhat Are the Symptoms of Collapsed Trachea?

A “honking” cough is the most common and recognizable symptom of a collapsed trachea. Other symptoms may include trouble breathing, not wanting to walk/run/exercise, and bluish gums. Symptoms generally are most apparent when your dog is eating, drinking, or gets excited. For Taz, eating too fast is usually when the coughing often starts.

What Are the Causes of a Collapsed Trachea?

Veterinarians are not exactly sure why collapsed trachea occurs in dogs. It’s possible it is a congenital abnormality. It can occur in both male and female dogs, and happens most often in small and toy breeds. Yorkshire terriers have the highest instances of collapsed trachea. Collapsed trachea can occur at any age, but most commonly occurs in middle-aged and senior dogs.

checklist for choosing the right dogHow is Collapsed Trachea Treated?

Veterinarians will usually suspect a collapsed trachea if the dog is coughing. But additional testing is necessary for a positive diagnosis, such as a radiograph or a fluoroscopy – both are similar to x-rays. Treatment usually consists of controlling the inflammation of the trachea and also the cough with the use of cough suppressants, antibiotics and corticosteroids. If your dog is overweight, it is also advised that you help him lose some weight.

Coughing and breathing problems associated with collapsed trachea are more severe in overweight dogs. Losing weight will result in some relief for the dog.  You can read my article (video included), How to Make the Dog Lose Weight. 

Treating Severe Cases of Collapsed Trachea

If your dog suffers from a severe case of collapsed trachea that compromises his quality of life, and if the condition does not respond well to other treatment methods, your vet may recommend surgery to apply prosthetic rings to the outside of the trachea to “hold it open.” My understanding is that this is similar to when a heart patient gets a “stent” to hold an artery open.

Why Does My Dog Keep On Coughing?Can a Collapsed Trachea Be Prevented?

My vet recommended, when Taz first started exhibiting symptoms of a collapsed trachea, that I switch to a chest harness instead of a collar. That’s Taz on the left wearing her red harness which I purchased on Amazon. You can see a variety of dog harnesses here.  Simply put, this reduces the dog’s neck being squished if he’s pulling on the leash/collar while going for walks, for example. I found this made a huge difference.  A harness is way better than a collar for dogs with this condition.

Other preventative efforts include keeping your dog away from irritants such as smoke and dust, and also for the dog to maintain a healthy weight.

You Can See a Variety of Harnesses HERE

When Should I Visit the Vet?

If your dog develops a “honking” cough, you should make an appointment with your vet, especially if your dog is a small or toy breed. But don’t panic – this condition is not as scary as it may sound. With treatment, most dogs don’t experience a reduction in quality of life, or a shorter life expectancy.

I hope this article has been helpful.  If you have information about collapsed trachea you’d like to share, please comment below.  Thank you!  Debra

dogs coughingI Donate to Animal Charities

Thank you for visiting my website.  I donate 10% of all commissions I make on this website to animal charities.  You can see a list of the charities I donate to here.  If you like this website, please share it with your friends – every purchase helps animals!  Debra

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Disclaimer:  I am not a veterinarian.

11 thoughts on “Why Is My Dog Coughing?”

  1. Hi there
    Wow, what a valuable site.. It made me kinda sad reading it though because it reminded me of my dog that I delivered and kept until she died. She had run away from my home one day and I couldn’t find her…. She had gone to the neighbor’s and one of the children was giving her something to drink from a cup. I later found that the child had been painting and he was using that cup of water to make his clean his brush. My poor dog had drunk that poisonous substance. I didn’t know at all that it was fatal until I heard her coughing. I thought “it can’t be possible that she is coughing, dogs don’t cough”. I took her to her vet and she told me she had been poisoned….. They had to put her down. Very tragic but your site has helped me in a way that I could be more aware of what is going on with any future dogs so thanks (:

    1. That story is so very sad, but it sounds like the child didn’t mean to do it – was probably offering the dog a drink out of kindness, not realizing it would hurt the dog. If case you’ve never seen it, read the poem on the page of my website, Grieving Over the Loss of Your Pet. It helps me so much whenever I’m sad about the pets I’ve lost. Thanks so much for the comment!

  2. Wow, some really insightful information. My mother has a Jack Russell and I have noticed she coughs a lot when she gets excited. Just thought it was her age. Didn’t realize it could be something like a collapsed trachea. I am definitely going to relay this info to my mother.

    Thanks for the unexpected help!

  3. My dog has never had this problem, I have had him hack and cough but only because of something he ate, like a little lizard yuck. This is all good information so when my dog gets older I will look out for this I think that keeping him active and thin helps. Thanks for writing about this would have never known about it if I wouldn’t of stop by this page.

    1. Thank you so much for the comments. Lizards? We don’t have many of those where I live but my dog would probably find them quite tasty! 🙂

  4. Interesting read. Never had a dog before but will pass this on to my friends who have dogs. But it was interesting to learn about what a collapsed trachea is the symptoms and treatments.
    I can see why a chest harness would be better than a lead around the neck for a collapsed trachea so as not to restrict airflow even more

  5. We have a chihuahua- when he was young , he would make this funny cough-choke , the vet said it was a backwards sneeze, well now he has collapsed trachea, and I’m finding that funny backwards sneeze was the first indication that this would or could possibly happen – but it’s been a bummer to watch him get worse and worse , and at this point I don’t even know what to do. Some people say it’s just a cough – but I feel he’s suffering- and sometimes just whimpering and trying not to cough,

    1. I’m so sorry about this, Rebecca. I know it’s heartbreaking so see our pets suffer in any way. I strongly suggest having him seen by a vet if you think it’s getting worse. My vet told me that if it becomes life threatening (where they can’t breathe), they can do surgery to insert a splint of sorts – to keep the trachea open so the dog can breath. Depending on your pet’s age and health, this may be an option to provide relief for the dog. In the meantime, use the tips described in this article – use a harness instead of a collar if he’s walked on a leash – but definitely see a vet. Please come back and keep me posted! I’ve just said a little prayer for you and your little sweetie. Much love, Debra

  6. My miniature daschaund just passed away from collapsing trachea but no one ever told me that she would be gone in 7 months. She was 13 years old but she was the love of my life and I was told about surgery but that was something I could not afford but if I knew it would prolong her life I probably would have found a way to get the money. I am grieving so bad for her.

    1. I’m so sorry, Lynn. My mini doxy Taz was about 14 when I lost her. It’s heartbreaking. I’m sure your little girl was loved so much and had a wonderful life with you. We do the best we can for our animals and I’m sure you did the best you could for her. Given her age, the surgery may have been difficult and painful for her. Try not to beat yourself up about things. Just focus on the fact that she had a loving home with you and that’s the most important thing. Know that healing will happen. In the meantime, do what you can to pass the time until you begin to feel better. I’ll share this article with you..it has a video and a beautiful poem – I hope this will help you. HUGS Debra

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