Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Is Coughing an Emergency?

82.35% survey participants checked coughing as not being an emergency.



Finally, here is one where I can agree with what the readers seem to believe.

While I do see a vet if my dog is coughing persistently, most of the time it doesn't need immediate medical attention. Though, me being me, depending on the situation I might see a vet the same day or early the next. Particularly if a cough seems bothersome to my dog.

Such as with Jasmine who one day started coughing after a serious barking session with a neighbor's dog. At first, we thought all that barking irritated her throat. But she kept coughing throughout the day. When we got to the vet, they found out her lymph nodes were also enlarged. That was a scary thing. Particularly since the vet was rather blunt in saying that it's either an infection or lymphoma. Just like that. It was decided to do a therapeutic trial with an antibiotic and, fortunately, the cough resolved quickly and all was well. I still remember how weak my knees got at the word lymphoma, though.

What are the potential causes of your dog's coughing?


The most common cause, everybody is familiar with, is kennel cough. If your dog was recently boarded, or spent time in places with a lot of dogs, kennel cough is a top suspect.

Other respiratory infections can be to blame. Your dog might be suffering from an inflammatory or an immune condition. Trauma or foreign bodies can certainly be behind a cough as well. Some of these are more serious than others.

Some of the more serious causes include heart disease, tracheal collapse, fluid accumulation or cancer. Because there is no good way to tell which is which I don't hesitate seeing a vet sooner rather than later.

When is coughing a true emergency?


If your dog coughs for more than 6 hours, has a hard time breathing, coughs to the point of vomiting, is coughing up blood, or is lethargic, inappetant, or depressed, see your vet immediately.


Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Coughing

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?
Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?
Are Pale Gums an Emergency?
Is an Unresponsive Dog an Emergency?



Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

28 comments

  1. I once ran my dog to the vet because he was coughing. Turned out he had some fluff from a toy in his mouth. It was an expensive throat clearing.

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    1. Ah, such things can happen. Glad it wasn't anything serious.

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  2. Unless my cat was coughing up a hairball, I treated coughing as an emergency. Unfortunately, the last time I encountered this was instinctually how I knew my cat's illness was far gone and it was time to let her go to Rainbow Bridge. I'd definitely recommend any pet parent seek a vets attention. Better to be safe than sorry.

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    1. When there is an existing illness, such as heart issues, cancer or others, coughing can indeed be very serious. Sorry about your loss.

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  3. Apparently dogs can also cough from getting foxtails. It's foxtail season here so I've been keeping an eye out.

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    1. Ah, yes, if the awn gets into the throat etc, it certainly could cause cough. Scary stuff those foxtails.

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  4. Rufus had a rough Labor Day last Fall when after a day spent eating sour apples in the back yard, he spent another 12 hours vomiting them up. Pepcid AC helped that and some rice was a welcome dinner. But he had a dry cough since his throat had been irritated. We had an obedience class the next day where his fear prompted his barking. The secretary heard his cough and looked alarmed, saying it sounded like kennel cough. I tried to explaining that yes, it was a dry cough, he was fine and that his throat was irritated. In any case, I'd sent them his vaccination history so they knew he didn't have kennel cough. The woman insisted, saying "well he could have kennel cough. Vaccinations don't prevent everything." Argh. Yes, technically he could, but he does not. Coughs can be caused by more than a virus. You'd think someone who was a professional in the industry would know that. It was more than a little condescending on her part, and frankly her insistence that she was right made her look really unprofessional. We have not returned. Mostly because we got kicked out for the barking.

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    1. Well, I imagine she was concerned about other dogs getting infected. It is her job to protect the dogs in the class. But yes, there are many things that can cause cough, many of them not contagious.

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  5. I agree that I generally don't consider it an emergency. In our house, it's usually one of those things that we'll keep an eye on and see if we can figure out a cause. If it's persistent or bothersome though, off to the vet. Thankfully, that's never been an issue, yet. Great info!

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    1. Glad you never had a serious issue. Yes, it's a matter of severity and duration, as well as other signs.

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  6. The closest thing to coughing I've seen in my cats is when Lexy has a hairball that she can't quite get up. If it persisted then I would make an appointment with the vet.

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  7. If the cough was persistent, constant and not improving after a few days, it would mean a trip to the vet for us.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, such things are matter of severity and duration.

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  8. If Layla starts coughing or anything that I think is not normal I email the vet office immediately and they normally reply very quickly - I say rather be safe than sorry

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    1. Always better safe than sorry; I'm happy to hear you have such a responsive vet.

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  9. Gonzo periodically has allergies and will cough, but nothing serious. We have been lucky.

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    1. Glad you never had anything serious going on with cough.

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  10. I would have thought coughing would be an emergency because you rarely hear dogs cough. I would think there was something caught in the throat and would probably rush to the vet.

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    1. Sometimes it happens ... one or two coughs clearing something from the throat not likely a cause for alarm. Continuous or severe coughing, clearly, would be.

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  11. I think you do a great job at distinguishing between when to take the dog to the vet and when it is an emergency. So far I feel like I've done pretty well on the survey, and it is giving me more confidence to trust my instincts.

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    1. I'm sure you did wonderfully. Yes, one ought to trust their instincts, with exception of people who just shrug off pretty much anything.

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  12. Watching dogs cough can be scary but its a natural way for them to try to clear their throat! You made a wonderful list of when coughing can turn into an emergency.

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    1. A little bit of cough every now and then likely doesn't mean much. That time, Jasmine just kept coughing the whole day, that's why we didn't wait.

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  13. I think for me it's "how long" has the cough been going on? With a wee Chihuahua of 3.5 pounds, and thus that delicate trachea I have learned to not panic with the 'reverse sneeze" sound. But he does go to dog daycare so I listen to see if it's something else. Even if his titer test says his kennel cough vaccine is still very much present ... it's the one I would monitor for.

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    1. Ah, reverse sneeze is a different issue all together. Benign unless severe or ongoing. With cough it's also about severity and duration. That time with Jasmine it was only a half a day before we went to a vet, because it was quite pronounced.

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  14. That must have been so scary to hear that word "Lymphoma"! My knees would have gone weak too. I'd probably burst out in tears as well. I'm so glad Jasmine was ok, what a terrible scare!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. I was totally scary; I couldn't believe the way the vet just threw it out there. Fortunately it was just an infection after all.

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  15. I agree - coughing is not necessarily an emergency condition. My kitty, Dexter, has had a bacterial infection that causes him to cough for a while. It is common in young cats that were exposed to upper respiratory ailments as kittens. It is not an emergency, but it is a real pain to get rid of.

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