Why is your dog making weird noises? Could it be he’s gagging on something or just coughing?
There are many reasons why dogs gag or cough. It could be anything from a common cold to something much more serious.
As pet owners, we understand how alarming it must be to hear your pooch suffer like that. So, we’ve prepared a handy guide to help you.
Why Does My Dog Sound Like He Has a Hairball?
Below are some reasons why your dog may sound like it has something lodged in its throat.
1. Collapsing Trachea
The trachea, or windpipe, is a flexible tube from the throat to the lungs. It’s composed of C-shaped cartilage rings that retain its tube shape. This shape allows air to flow along freely. Covering the rings is a thin tissue membrane.
Tracheal collapse occurs when the cartilage rings or the tissue membrane loses its strength, causing the tube to flatten when your dog inhales. With a collapsed windpipe, your dog will have difficulty breathing.
Usually, this progressive respiratory condition occurs in middle-aged to senior dogs, but it can occur in younger dogs as well. Small dog breeds are the ones most affected, such as:
- Lhasa Apsos
- Shih Tzus
- Toy Poodles
- Yorkshire Terriers
The most common symptom is a constant, dry, and harsh cough, or as it’s often called the “goose honk” cough. Other symptoms include:
- Coughing when you pick up your dog or apply pressure to its neck
- Cyanotic episodes or your dog turning blueish
- Gagging, retching, or vomiting accompanying the coughing
Unfortunately, the cause of the tracheal collapse is unknown. Although some medical experts believe it’s hereditary.
Depending on the severity, the cure may be medical, surgical, or both. In mild and moderate cases, the vet will prescribe some of these:
- Cough Suppressants
In more severe cases, surgery will be needed. A board-certified surgeon will put prostheses around the trachea to prevent it from collapsing.
Thankfully, most dogs can also be treated with preventive care. This includes keeping them healthy at an ideal weight and making sure they’re not over-excited all the time.
You should also use a harness instead of a collar during walks. Finally, avoid airway irritants like tobacco and other pollutants as much as possible.
2. The Highly Contagious Kennel Cough
The highly-infectious “kennel cough” disease got its nickname because it was often found among dogs housed together in kennels, shelters, or daycares. It’s also known as tracheobronchitis, bordetella, or canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC).
Affected dogs will show symptoms like:
- “Goose honk” cough or a strong, forceful cough
- Loss of Appetite
- Low Fever
- Runny Nose
The disease’s most common culprit is the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Usually, dogs with this bacteria are susceptible to other infections as well. These can be the canine reovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine influenza virus, canine herpes virus, canine distemper virus, or canine adenovirus.
Even before showing symptoms, most dogs are already contagious. That’s why the disease can spread rapidly. They can get it through close contact like nuzzling or licking, breathing in a sneeze, or coughing droplets from other dogs.
It’s also likely to spread when exposed to infected items like bedding, water bowls, toys, or even people’s hands. The more time dogs spend with each other, the higher the chance of an infection.
In mild cases, kennel cough usually disappears in about 1–3 weeks. For older dogs or those with some other medical conditions, it can take six weeks. Severe cases can lead to pneumonia.
There’s no specific drug for the disease, yet vets prescribe antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines to ease the symptoms. Other dogs may also require intensive supportive care. Keeping affected dogs in a warm environment, ensuring they’re rested, and using a harness instead of a leash are all ways to help minimize their coughing.
The most effective way to prevent kennel cough is to vaccinate your dog. The vaccine can be taken orally, injected, or administered as a nasal mist.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that the disease is caused by several factors. So, vaccination won’t guarantee full protection. Therefore, it’s necessary to be careful when introducing your pet to a large group of dogs that could possibly infect him with the disease.
3. Heart Disease
Your dog’s persistent cough could be a sign of heart disease. A weak heart muscle puts pressure on the respiratory system. This can progress slowly, taking a long time to spot. If the heart can’t pump blood to the body anymore, it may lead to congestive heart failure.
The coughing happens more frequently during exercise or after, or sometime before bedtime. Other symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing or exercising
- Increased breaths per minute or respiratory rate
- Easily Tired
- Pacing Before Going to Bed
If the disease becomes more severe, more symptoms can develop:
- Ascites or fluid buildup in the belly
- Bluish gums or tongue
- Weight loss
Heart disease is congenital. Though, what your dog eats, along with how much exercise it gets, also plays a role. Moreover, infection, injury, and old age can worsen the disease.
For treatment, vets usually recommend:
- Limited exercise for weight management
- Low-salt diet
- Medications for the heart
- Medications for fluid buildup in the lungs
Sometimes, surgery can help correct a heart valve that’s torn or to insert a pacemaker.
Even if heart disease is genetic, there are plenty of ways to keep your dog’s heart healthy. This includes a nutritious diet, regular exercise, weight management, parasite prevention, and annual veterinary exams.
It’s always distressing to hear your dog gag, cough, or make weird noises without knowing why. You want to help them, but, at the same time, you don’t know how.
Keep in mind that prevention is always better than cure. Remember to keep your dog healthy at all times, with enough activity and exercise.
Some of these diseases are congenital. Yet, there are several ways that you, as a pet owner, can do to ensure your dog stays happy and healthy for years to come.