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What Causes Coughing in Dogs and Cats?

What causes coughing blogCoughing is associated with many different diseases in dogs and cats. Any cough that is severe, lasts for more than a day or two, and/or is associated with low energy levels, inability to exercise, difficulty breathing, or other potentially dangerous symptoms should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

The first thing that a veterinarian does when presented with a coughing dog or cat is try to determine whether or not the most likely source of the problem is the respiratory tract or the heart. This can usually be accomplished through some combination of a physical exam (including listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope and feeling the pet’s pulses) and a chest x-ray. Sometimes, however, the results do not point definitively in one direction or another. For example, abnormal lung sounds called crackles and certain patterns that are visible on x-rays can be caused by either heart disease or respiratory conditions. In these cases, a B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood test can be helpful. Other tests (e.g., an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), or bronchoalveolar lavage) may be needed to definitively determine the exact type of heart or airway disease that a pet has.

Once a definitive diagnosis has been reached, the doctor will come up with a treatment plan specific to the pet’s needs. Pet Medications are available that can help correct irregular heart rhythms, increase the amount of blood pumped through the body by the heart, and remove and prevent fluid build-up that occurs as a result of congestive heart failure. A diet that is low in salt and high in certain types of amino acids and other nutrients is also important for some pets with heart disease. If respiratory disease is the diagnosis, veterinarians may prescribe bronchodilators, immunosuppressive drugs, antibiotics, and/or other medications and procedures.

Some causes of coughing in pets (e.g., infections) can be easily cured when they are caught early and treated appropriately. Other diseases (e.g., congestive heart failure or asthma) may not be able to be cured but can still be effectively managed so that pets enjoy a good quality of life for many years after diagnosis. A veterinarian familiar with the particulars of a pet’s case is the best source of information about what treatments are most likely to be successful.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Maureen December 17, 2013, 4:09 am

    What about when cats sneeze for more than a day. Do they need to see a vet or is there some kind of treatment I can give.

    • VetDepot December 17, 2013, 9:47 am

      Hi Maureen. A number of things can cause sneezing in cats including excitement, allergens, respiratory infections, and conjunctivitis. We advise that you discuss any questions or concerns with a veterinarian.

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