Why Does a Dog Have a Hacking Cough?

By Sabrina Holley-Williams

Dogs, like people, can get coughs, and while it could be something minor such as allergies or exposure to irritants in the air, it could also be a sign of something more serious. While an occasional cough may not be cause for concern, you should always check with your vet if one arises. According to Mosby's Medical Dictionary a hacking cough is "a short, weak repeating cough." It is not associated with any moisture or expectoration.

Something Ingested

Dogs may get into things that are bad for them.

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As most dog owners are aware, dogs can get into things that aren't good for them to ingest. A cough could be caused by something stuck in and irritating a dog's throat. He could have gotten a fuzzy from the carpet or a bed, a piece of food could have not gone down all the way or he could have swallowed another foreign object that is either stuck or irritated the throat on the way down.

Kennel Cough

Dogs in a kennel may catch kennel cough.

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A hacking dry cough is the most common symptom of Kennel Cough, also known as tracheobronchitis, bordetellosis or bordetella. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious disease among dogs, most often transmitted at a daycare or boarding facility, dog park or dog show, but coming into contact with any other dog can put your dog at risk. Kennel Cough can be mild and clear up on its own in one to two weeks, but it can also be much more severe and even potentially fatal. If your dog is showing any other signs of illness (nasal drainage, fever, lethargy) take her to the vet. Depending on the severity, she may be prescribed antibiotics. You can also talk to your vet about the bordatella vaccination.


Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes.

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Parasites such as heartworm and roundworm can cause a hacking cough in dogs. Heartworm, which is transmitted through mosquitoes, is of much greater cause for concern and can cause severe debilitation. Parasites can be prevented through regular treatment. See your vet for a prescription and/or annual testing.


Puppies may be at the most risk.

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Canine distemper is one of the diseases most dogs are regularly vaccinated against. Puppies who have not yet been vaccinated, or only recently vaccinated, are most at risk. Distemper is a severe and potentially fatal disease. Other symptoms include a fever and a thick yellow discharge.

Heart Disease

Your vet may be able to diagnose the cough.

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Coughing can also be a sign of congestive heart disease and dilated cardiomyopathy. These diseases are diagnosed by your vet through listening to the heart and ultrasounds.