Coughing and Gagging in Pets

Dog and cats do not get the common cold. When they cough or gag it is usually a concern, especially if it persists for more than a few hours. There are many causes of a cough or gag and rarely is it caused by “something caught in the throat”. However, on occasion we see a bone or piece of wood, a lego piece, rawhide, or awn lodged either in the throat or between the teeth. Other more common causes include the following: Dental Disease: Infection in the mouth often causes pharyngitis and tonsillitis and usually results in gagging and/or coughing. Requires dental cleaning, possible extractions and antibiotics. Kennel Cough. This is a highly contagious virus that can be picked up in boarding kennels, grooming shops, pet stores and places dog frequent. It is treatable and there is a vaccine to protect your dog against it. Influenza. This also is caused by a virus and is ve ry contagious. Left untreated it can progress to pneumonia. A vaccine also is available. Heart Disease. This occurs more in smaller breed dogs and can cause coughing especially at night when fluid accumulates in the lungs. Lack of energy and heavy breathing after minimal exercise also can occur. It is treatable when diagnosed early. Distemper. Rarely seen anymore in this area. It is a viral highly contagious disease rarely seen in privately owned dogs unless the owner is not diligent in vaccinations. Often found in kennels and shelters. Tracheal collapse. Usually hereditary and seen mostly in toy and very small breeds. Surgical correction is available but very dangerous and costly. Parasites. Heartworm and roundworms are the usual cause in this area. Both can be very serious but avoidable with monthly oral medications and topical medications. Lung Cancer. Primary lung cancer is very rare, metastasis from cancer in another area is the usual cause. Cough is only one of the symptoms. Surgery and/or chemotherapy is the recommended course of therapy. Fungal Disease. Usually in dogs living closely with birds and their droppings. Treatable but not always successfully, especially if not diagnosed in the early stages. Pneumonia: Usually secondary to other infections such as kennel cough or influenza that went untreated for too long. Chronic Bronchitis. Often caused by tobacco smoke, pollens, and dust in the environment. Usually secondary to allergies. Hard to determine cause but treatable.