Dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths. During their explorations, dogs will come into contact with all sorts of things like pollen, dust, germs, bugs and whatever else lurks in yards and living rooms.
This pioneering spirit enjoyed by dogs is by design. So too are their cough reflexes, which have been devised to expel any contaminants that they drink or breath. A cough is an involuntary act that clears the breathing passage of foreign particles, microbes and irritants.
Why dogs cough after drinking water
Coughing after a long, intense drink of water is an everyday occurrence for dogs and, more often than not, it's nothing to worry about. They've most likely supped a mild irritant from the standing water in their bowls, and it's triggered their cough reflex.
However, if you've noticed your dog coughing with increased frequency, then there are a few things to be concerned about, especially if your dog is either a puppy or a short-muzzled, brachycephalic breed.
Tracheal collapse will cause coughing in dogs
A medical condition known as tracheal collapse can cause dogs to cough after drinking water. While any variety of dog can suffer from this condition, the brachycephalic breeds are more prone to tracheal collapse. In fact, it's most common in Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians, toy poodles and Chihuahuas.
Signs of tracheal collapse begin with honk-like coughing sounds, as air struggles to make its way through a trachea that is collapsing due to the weakening of the tracheal cartilage rings and surrounding muscle. Dogs can suffer from both a complete and partial collapse.
Tracheal collapse is a serious medical complication that can be managed with steroids and cough suppressants. But to cure the condition, surgical replacement of the collapsed cartilage rings with prosthetics is necessary.
Hypoplastic trachea frequently afflicts puppies
If your dog is coughing after drinking water, it can be a sign of a more serious health issue — especially if your dog is a puppy. Hypoplastic trachea is a genetic abnormality where the cartilage rings that provide support to the trachea do not fully develop and constrict the flow of air into the lungs. This effect causes dogs to cough both unexpectedly and after drinking water.
This condition primary affects puppies and symptoms can begin presenting as early as 5-6 months in age. Brachycephalic breeds are most at risk. Be sure to consult a veterinarian if your puppy shows other signs of hypoplastic trachea like low energy, limited ability to exercise and weight gain.
Reverse sneezes can be confused with coughs
Reverse sneezing is technically not a cough, but this common phenomenon is often mistaken for one. It sounds more like a snorting fit as a dog's larynx spasms and pushes air. It's typically caused by rapid eating or drinking. Reverse sneezing is fairly common in dogs, and even when it's done frequently and in succession, it's typically nothing to worry about.
However, brachycephalic breeds like pugs and bulldogs are often more prone to reverse sneezing. It's important to never make assumptions with these short-muzzled breeds, as they can have healthcare challenges other dogs do not. A reverse sneeze from a brachycephalic breed could be a sign of a respiratory condition such as a tracheal collapse or a degenerative condition. Your veterinarian can help with a diagnosis.
Dogs with kennel cough hack after drinking water
Kennel cough is a highly contagious airborne sickness that is passed along through the coughing of infected dogs. As its moniker suggests, kennel cough is often shared inside boarding facilities. But this respiratory illness can be contracted from a community water bowl or at the dog park.
Dogs who suffer from kennel cough will display symptoms like a hacking, honking cough. The cough will sometimes develop into a wretch, as if something were stuck in your dog's throat. Otherwise, your dog behaves normally.
Kennel cough will usually take 2-4 weeks to run its course. Veterinarians may prescribe a cough suppressant to give your dog some relief. Preventative booster shots and Bordetella vaccinations are available, but like most viruses, there is no cure. We have some home remedies to help make your dog feel comfortable during a bout of kennel cough, a tutorial about cleaning up afterwards and a tip sheet for dealing with this unfortunate illness.
For the most part, coughing after drinking water is a fairly innocuous phenomena that is common to most dogs. But if you notice an unexplained increase in coughing that is accompanied by any of the symptoms of tracheal collapse, hypoplastic trachea or kennel cough, then seek the advice of your veterinarian.