Coughing is a reflex action when there is something bothering the upper airway, either the windpipe or main airway passages in the lungs.
The purpose of a cough is to push out whatever is bothering the airway.
There are a lot of things that can induce coughing, but here are the most common ones that we see in our area:
— An infection. This can be from the lungs (pneumonia) or in the windpipe itself, for example ‘kennel cough,’ which is a combination of bacteria and virus in the windpipe.
— An allergic reaction. Our pets can have asthma, too, or other allergic reactions that end up leading to irritation of the airways.
Just like us, they had a hard time with the smoke in the area recently, and we saw more coughing pets as a result.
— Heartworm disease. This nasty parasite sets up shop in the outflow tract of the heart to the lungs, and can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs leading to a cough.
— Something in the airway. This can be small particles, a foxtail or more dramatic items such as the fishhook that I pulled out of the windpipe of a dog a month ago (really).
— Heart failure. When the heart is no longer able to pump all the blood around the body, fluid builds up in the lungs, which leads to coughing.
As you can see, there are lot of reasons for a cough — most of the time it requires X-rays to diagnose the problem.
While some can be easily treated and are not a real problem, some can be life-threatening issues. If there is a cough that is frequent and persistent, have your pet examined by your veterinarian.
Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital’s Mace Dekker, DVM, will answer questions regarding pets each month in the Vet Tips. Have a question? Submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org, Attention: Dr. Dekker.