What is a cough
A cough is a natural sudden protective reflex, where air rapidly gets expelled from the lungs, with the aim of clearing the airways of particles, irritants, fluids, mucus, and organisms.
Everyone can have an occasional cough, but if your pet has a significant or prolonged cough, this could be a symptom of a wide range of problems and should be checked by a vet.
Coughing can be caused by many different underlying problems, roughly divided into problems originating from airways, lungs and/or heart. Some causes can be easy to treat, but others can be more serious or even life-threatening.
What can cause a cough
Causes of coughing in dogs can include an upper respiratory tract infection (caused by various viral and bacterial organisms, also known as “kennel cough”), chronic bronchitis, heart problems, collapsing trachea (windpipe), laryngeal paralysis, and even foreign bodies and cancer.
Causes of coughing in cats can include asthma and allergic bronchitis, infections (not only viral and bacterial but also fungal or parasitic infections), pneumonia, and even heartworm, cancer or heart problems.
How to treat a cough
In the initial consult, we will start the diagnostic process by asking a lot of questions. These may include when the cough started, if it occurs more during the day or at night, when excited or when resting, if your pet has problems breathing between coughing, if he or she can still do the normal walks (for dogs), if the cough is moist or dry, where your pet has been lately, and information regarding vaccination and parasite treatments.
Then we will do a thorough physical examination to further determine the cause of the cough.
In cases where the pet is not struggling to breathe, is otherwise well and the problem is not chronic, we may not immediately proceed with further tests. In this instance, we could treat your pet as an outpatient with home care and supportive medication. In other cases, or if the initial treatment hasn’t resolved the problem, we would like to do further testing, to help us diagnose the underlying cause, tailor the treatment and monitor the response to treatment. These tests could include x-rays, blood and urine tests, faecal tests, tracheal washes, blood pressure measurements, etc. Patients may need to be admitted to hospital, and some may need more intensive treatments or even referral to a specialist.
There are many reasons why our pets can cough, and the indicated treatment for one coughing patient could make another coughing patient worse. If you have any concerns regarding your pet’s cough, please do not hesitate to contact Cronulla Vet Clinic with any questions.