Everyone coughs from time to time, and just like with people, when a dog gets sick, a cough can be a common symptom. However, in older dogs, coughing or gagging may be a sign of something more serious. Let’s get into what can cause coughing in older dogs, how to treat it at home, and when to call your veterinarian.
There are many reasons why your older dog may be coughing or gagging, such as the natural weakening of the immune system or the body that comes with age. To help you determine if a cough is a serious concern, here are some of the common causes of coughing in older dogs.
As your dog gets older, their immune system may not be able to fight off infections like it did when they were younger. Some common infections in dogs that can cause a cough may include:
If you think your dog has an upper respiratory condition and their condition doesn’t improve after a day or two, it’s advised that you call your veterinarian. Also, if your dog seems especially prone to infections, you may want to talk with your vet about scheduling your dog’s vaccine boosters.
Some types of heart disease, such as mitral valve disease and heartworm disease, can cause fluid to build up in the lungs. This can lead to coughing and make breathing difficult, especially at night.
Common cancers like lung cancer and lymphoma can also affect your dog’s lungs. Ragged breathing and coughing can be early warning signs something is wrong. If your dog has a cancer diagnosis, your vet may recommend treatment with radiation or chemotherapy.
The larynx is the box of cartilage and muscle in the throat that closes when your dog is eating or drinking. it also opens wider to let them breathe easier. With laryngeal paralysis, the nerves controlling the laryngeal muscles can weaken over time, causing the muscles to relax. This can cause the cartilage to collapse inward, making it harder for your dog to breathe.1
While some breeds, like Labrador retrievers, can be susceptible to this condition when they’re younger, it can tend to affect older, larger dogs. Some of the initial symptoms can include shortness of breath, noisy breathing, and/or coughing.1
The trachea or windpipe is the tube connecting the mouth and nose to the lungs. The tube is supported by rings of cartilage which help it stay open so air can pass through more easily. With tracheal collapse, the cartilage loses rigidity and flattens, making it harder for your dog to breathe.2
An early sign of tracheal collapse may be a barking “gooselike” cough. While small breed dogs like shih tzus and Chihuahuas tend to be more susceptible to tracheal collapse, it can affect all dogs, especially as they get older.2
Like humans, dogs of all ages can develop seasonal allergies. In some cases, dogs can also suffer from asthma, which is an allergic reaction that can cause inflammation of your dog’s airway. This could lead to constriction and spasming of the smaller airways in the lungs.3
Asthma attacks can happen unexpectedly, making them hard to diagnose. So if you suspect your dog is having an asthma attack, it can be best to get them to the vet right away.3