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3 Reasons Why Your Pet Could Be Coughing

Image of a dog coughing.

Has your furry friend started coughing? Honking, hacking or raspy coughs can be alarming, particularly when they start suddenly. Although temporary throat or respiratory irritations may be to blame, coughing can be a sign of one of these health issues.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease commonly caused by the bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium or a virus. Dogs catch it by interacting with other dogs that have been infected. Pets that participate in training or agility classes, spend time in boarding or daycare facilities, participate in dog shows or are often around large groups of other dogs are most at risk of developing the disease. Dogs contract the bacteria or virus by inhaling it from the air or sniffing contaminated surfaces, such as toys or food dishes.

A dry, honking cough is the most noticeable sign of kennel cough. In most cases, your dog will continue to be energetic, although running and playing may temporarily worsen the cough. If your pet develops a secondary bacterial infection as a result of kennel cough, low fever, runny nose, lethargy and loss of appetite may occur.

The infection is mild in most dogs, but some may develop pneumonia. Puppies and dogs of any age with compromised immune symptoms are more likely to develop pneumonia. In severe cases, kennel cough can cause death.

Recovery from kennel cough usually takes about 10 to 14 days. Your dog's veterinarian may prescribe cough suppressants or antibiotics, depending on the severity of the disease. While your dog recovers, it's important to limit his or her usual activities and avoid using collars, as they can irritate the throat. A bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine can help protect your dog from contracting kennel cough, although the vaccine won't prevent infections caused by viruses.

Canine and Feline Influenza

Several strains of the flu can sicken your cat or dog. The first canine influenza strain emerged in 2004, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Because the illness if fairly recent, many dogs haven't yet been exposed to it and haven't developed an immunity. The Association notes that nearly every dog exposed to canine influenza will develop the viral illness. Canine influenza causes a moist cough, sneezing, fever, loss of appetite, nasal and eye discharge and lethargy. Some dogs will develop the more severe form, which causes a high fever and pneumonia.

The illness usually lasts about 10 days to one month. Limiting your pet's activities during the recovery period can be helpful. Your dog's veterinarian may recommend intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce fever and aches and pains. If your pet develops a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. Canine influenza vaccines are available, but may not be effective against all strains of the influenza virus.

Cats experience many of the symptoms that dogs do when they catch the flu, such as coughing, fever, lethargy and runny nose. Treatment of feline influenza is the same as for dogs. Your cat may need IV fluids if he or she becomes dehydrated and antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. Visit the veterinarian immediately if your cat or dog has the flu and develops a high fever or difficulty breathing.

Feline Asthma

Coughing is just one sign of feline asthma, a disease that affects the small airways in the lungs. When an asthma attack occurs, the airways narrow and fill with mucus, making breathing difficult. Asthma produces several telltale signs in addition to coughing, such as shallow, rapid, mouth breathing and wheezing.

Asthma attacks may be triggered by allergens and irritants, including tree and grass pollens, mold, mildew, smoke, aerosol sprays and dusty cat litter. You may be able to reduce your cat's flare ups by taking a few preventative measures, such as removing mildew from your home, switching to a dust-free litter or using gentle, non-aerosol cleaners.

Corticosteroid medications and bronchodilators used to treat asthma in humans are also helpful in pets, although the dosages are much lower. Your pet may even benefit from nebulizer treatments delivered through a cat-sized mask. If your pet has severe difficulty breathing or his or her nose has turned blue, seek emergency veterinary care.

Are you concerned about your pet's cough? Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Sources:

American Kennel Club: Kennel Cough in Dogs, 1/5/16

http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/kennel-cough-symptoms-treatment-and-prevention/

University of Minnesota: Center for Animal Health and Food Safety: Feline Influenza

https://www.cahfs.umn.edu/sites/cahfs.umn.edu/files/cahfs_website_fs_feline_influenza_may_2016.pdf

Cornell Feline Health Center: Feline Asthma

http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/Health_Information/Asthma.cfm

AKC: Dog Coughing: Causes and Treatment Options, 11/22/16

http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/dog-coughing/

AVMA: Canine Influenza FAQ

https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Control-of-Canine-Influenza-in-Dogs.aspx

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