Coughing is a reflex action which is initiated by an irritant in the air passages. It is a sudden expelling of air from the lungs, usually accompanied with an explosive noise and with a series of efforts.  It is a sign common to many diseases which occur in the dog and cat.

A cough may be caused by an infection (viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic), an inhaled irritant such as grass seeds and food particles, and pressure from tight collars on the throat, or growths (tumours) of the air passages. Some coughs are due to allergies.

The type of cough often suggests its location and probable cause:

(1)  A high, harsh, dry barking cough is typical of the disease colloquially called ‘kennel cough,’ which is known in scientific circles as a Canine Viral Infectious Tracheo bronchitis.  It is cough without phlegm.

(2)  A moist bubbling cough indicates fluid and phlegm in the lungs.

(3)  A high, weak gagging cough associated with swallowing or licking of the lips is characteristic of tonsillitis and sore throat.

(4)  A deep, tight wheezing cough is heard with chronic and allergic bronchitis.

(5)  A spasm of prolonged coughing, which follows exercise, or which occurs at night, suggests heart disease.

(6)  A cough which occurs after fluid intake may be due to leakage of the liquid into the windpipe from faulty closure of the epiglottis (a thin elastic piece of cartilage which projects behind the tongue, and which is involved in the action of swallowing).

A cute kitten waits at the GSPCA to be adopted. It is a ginger cat, although its colour cannot be shown here.

Coughs are often self-perpetuating. Coughing itself irritates the airways, dries out the mucus lining, and lowers resistance to infection – leading to further coughing.


Only minor coughs of brief duration should be treated without professional assistance. Coughs accompanied by fever, difficult breathing, discharge from the eyes and nose or other signs of a serious illness, require veterinary attention.

It is important to identify and correct any other contributing problem. Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, air fresheners, aerosol insecticides, house dust and perfumes should be eliminated from the atmosphere. Nose, throat, lung and heart disorders should be treated if present.

A variety of children’s cough suppressants is available at drug stores for the treatment of mild coughs. Their purpose is to decrease the frequency and severity of the cough. They do not treat the disease or condition causing it. Therefore, over-use may delay diagnosis and successful treatment. If you decide to use one of these preparations, the dose for puppies is the same as that for infants. Medium-size dogs should be given a child’s dose and large dogs an adult’s dose. Administer according to your vet’s advice (usually every hour to six hours). Cough suppressants should not be given to dogs in whom phlegm is being brought up or swallowed. These coughs are actually functional in clearing away unwanted material from the airways.

The above text relied to some extent on a text written by Drs Carlson and Giffin. It fits neatly into our current theme of ailments of the respiratory system.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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