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Coughing and Sneezing in Dogs

Coughing – Sneezing

There are many causes of coughing and sneezing. Rhinitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, allergies, foreign bodies, tumors, collapsing trachea, congestive heart failure, and infections (viral, bacterial and fungal) are the most common.

A reverse sneeze is another event that is commonly misinterpreted as a cough by pet owners. Although nasopharyngeal irritation is the usual cause, some of the same conditions that cause sneezing and coughing may be responsible. A reverse sneeze is associated with both an audible inspiratory and expiratory component without the forceful expiratory event that characterizes both the sneeze and the cough.

The patterns and characteristics of coughing/sneezing may be suggestive of the underlying cause. Coughing mainly at night is suggestive of congestive heart failure or heartworm disease. Coughing brought about by exercise or excitement is many times the result of an upper respiratory infection or tracheal collapse due to the irritation of the airways. A harsh, prolonged cough is more suggestive of major airway involvement such as allergies or pneumonia.

Diagnosis may only require a physical examination and auscultation of the lungs and airways, but a wide variety of conditions can be responsible for the cough, and a fairly extensive workup may be required (heartworm testing to rule out heartworm disease, x-rays are particularly beneficial in evaluating patients with nasal, sinus, tracheal and lower respiratory tract disorders, ultrasound is of use in patients with primary cardiac disease, blood test may indicate infection or other metabolic disorders, transtracheal wash with cytology and culture may be useful to diagnose a pathogen, and endoscopy may be used for evaluation of suspected foreign body, tumor, or other disorders) to define and treat the underlying cause in order to properly treat this condition.

Depending on the diagnosis, exercise restriction is often recommended when it aggravates the cough. Treatment often includes broad-spectrum antibiotics, bronchodilators, expectorants, cough suppressants, diuretics, and even surgery.

If your pet is coughing or sneezing…

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