Difference Between Coughing & Choking in Dogs

A collar that's too tight can also make your dog cough.
A collar that's too tight can also make your dog cough. (Image: Regional review of the hunting dogs, (town Vladimir). image by firsov from Fotolia.com)

Being able to determine whether your dog is choking or coughing is essential to his well-being and can potentially save his life. If you're not aware of the causes, signs and symptoms associated with coughing and choking in dogs, it may be challenging to tell the two apart. To provide your dog with the correct treatment and care, learn about the differences between choking and coughing in dogs.

Physical Signs of Choking and Coughing in Dogs

If your dog is choking, you may notice that he's in distress. He may be pacing or circling, while forcefully coughing, gagging and pawing himself at the mouth. It may be difficult or impossible for your pet companion to breathe and he may lose consciousness. If your dog makes a hacking, bubbling or goose-honk sound, he may be coughing. Depending on what's causing the cough, he may also have difficulty breathing, spit up blood, or have discharge from his nose and eyes.

Causes of Choking and Coughing in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs can choke if there's a foreign object stuck in their throat. A small ball or splinter may be to blame. Coughing in dogs can be triggered by various conditions, such as respiratory infections, chronic bronchitis, heart failure and a collapsing trachea. Inhaling irritants, such as cigarette smoke and strong cleaner fumes, can also make your pet companion cough.

Treatment for Choking in Dogs

If your dog is choking, your focus must be on removing the object and stabilizing his breathing. Possible ways to dislodge the object can include manual removal of the visible object, upward thrusts to the outside of your dog's throat or performing the Heimlich maneuver. Once the item is removed, cardiopulmonary resuscitation may be needed to stabilize your dog's breathing. Your veterinarian can also provide treatment. He may sedate your dog to remove the object, or he can perform a tracheotomy so your dog can breathe while he surgically removes the obstruction.

Treatment for Coughing in Dogs

If your dog's coughing is triggered by irritants, such as cigarette smoke, perfumes or cleaner fumes, eliminate these from his environment. A humidifier can add moisture to the air and may help treat a dry cough. If your dog's cough persists, or if he has eye and nose discharge and spits up bloody, have your veterinarian examine him. Depending on the diagnosis, he may prescribe cough suppressants, antibiotics, bronchodilator drugs, mild sedatives and dietary changes.

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