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Chronic dog coughing for one year, sudden onset

by Susan Boucek
(Naples, FL, USA)

My dog developed a dry cough about one year ago for no reason whatsoever. He had not been in a kennel, he had not been sick, he has been on his heart worm meds, he has a clean bill of health from our vet, he is frisky and perky but he has many periods throughout the day and night when he will cough incessantly.

He has been diagnosed with a "narrow" trachea. He does not have a collapsed trachea.

He does not cough when he sleeps and he does not cough when he is worn out, like after a big night of coughing all night and keeping us all up worried. He coughs less when he is relaxed but even then, it seems if he starts to think about himself, a coughing spasm will start.

We tried acupuncture and it did not work. Various herbal medications have not worked and the meds the vet gave us have not had worked.

Our vet suggested that this could be psychological. He is an only dog and now that our children are gone, he is the king of the household. He is smart and bossy, though he is small. He is 12 years old. We got him from the pound when he was two.

His coughing fits truly rule our lives and I think he knows it. When he is not coughing, we tip toe around careful not to disturb him. I think he has our number and am wondering if you have an opinion on this and if you have some suggestions we could try to see if there are behavior modification tricks we could try that would put an end to this sudden onset condition.

Thank you,


Comments for Chronic dog coughing for one year, sudden onset

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Feb 21, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Chronic dog coughing for one year, sudden onset
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Susan,
For your 12 year old male, small breed dog, can you check back to see if the cough started after he received a vaccination?

Have you had a blood panel plus heartworm test, fecal, and a chest x-ray done to show he has a 'clean' bill of health? Sometimes a single (Negative) heartworm test may not be reliable when there is an unexplained cough. And repeating the test may show he is Positive. ESPECIALLY since you are living in Florida!

As a University of Florida graduate, that was drilled into us in Vet school, about repeating a test when the results did not fit the patient! Hopefully, though, it is NOT heartworm disease.

You wrote,
"Many periods throughout the day and night when he will cough incessantly." This does NOT sound psychological. Also, I am not sure what you mean when you wrote, "it seems if he starts to think about himself, a coughing spasm will start."

What is he doing exactly to make you think that he is 'thinking about himself'? You also wrote that "the coughing fits rule our lives"--is he turning blue? Passing out from lack of oxygen? Does he make a loud, honking sound, similar to a duck or goose? This is where a videotape or recording of his coughing attack might help lead to a diagnosis.

If he has difficulty breathing, or knows that there are some things that will trigger this cough, he may have a behavior change in his interaction with you to try to prevent the cough from occurring.

You wrote,
"When he is not coughing we tip toe around careful not to disturb him." Because if you approach him, pet him or otherwise 'disturb' him, is he startled? defensive? Starts to bark and that leads to a cough?

You mention he is 'king of the household'. 'He is smart and bossy'. Does he try to bite you?

Is he on a dry food diet? Perhaps changing to a canned or raw diet, would improve his hydration and provide more moisture to his lungs and trachea. See our page on 10 Best Dog Food Options. Although, a veterinarian skilled in dog acupuncture probably already discussed his diet with you. And if acupuncture from that particular veterinarian was not successful, I would suggest seeking the help of another holistic veterinarian, perhaps knowledgeable in homeopathy. There are numerous homeopathic remedies specific for a dry cough. And also specific for cough or illness triggered by either a recent vaccination or from past vaccinations... a condition called vaccinosis.

Continued in PART TWO

Feb 21, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Chronic dog coughing for one year, sudden onset PART TWO
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Susan,
Here is the rest of my response.

If diet alone does not help, then there are also numerous supplements that I will recommend to 'strengthen' the trachea and respiratory system. Using glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplements, Mega C Powder (a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement high in Vitamin C that will act as an anti-inflammatory and boost the immune system), Omega 3 fish oil for dogs, and Pneumotrophin by Standard Process, a glandular supplement to help the lungs, are just a few.

Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

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DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Related Pages:
- Dog Cough Diagnoses & Treatments,
- Ask a Vet Online Library - Dog Coughing Problems Section

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