Why Is My Dog Coughing And Sneezing

As a devoted pet owner, observing your canine companion coughing and sneezing can be distressing. These symptoms can arise due to various underlying causes, ranging from minor irritations to more serious health issues. Understanding why your dog is experiencing these symptoms is crucial for ensuring their well-being and providing appropriate care.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the possible reasons behind why your dog is coughing and sneezing, explore the potential causes, and outline steps you can take to address the issue effectively.

Why Is My Dog Coughing And Sneezing

Coughing and sneezing are natural reflexes in dogs, just as they are in humans. However, when these symptoms become frequent or persistent, they may indicate an underlying health problem. Dogs cough and sneeze for a variety of reasons, including respiratory infections, allergies, irritants, and more serious conditions such as heart disease or lung tumors.

Understanding the specific cause of your dog’s coughing and sneezing is essential for determining the appropriate course of action. In the following sections, we will explore the potential causes in detail.


Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections, such as kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) or canine influenza, are common culprits behind coughing and sneezing in dogs. These infections are typically caused by viruses or bacteria and can spread easily in environments where dogs are in close proximity, such as kennels, dog parks, or grooming facilities.

Kennel Cough: Kennel cough is characterized by a dry, hacking cough that often sounds like honking. It can be caused by a variety of pathogens, including Bordetella bronchiseptica, parainfluenza virus, and adenovirus. While kennel cough is usually not life-threatening, it can be highly contagious and may require veterinary treatment, particularly in severe cases.

Canine Influenza: Canine influenza, or dog flu, shares symptoms with kennel cough, including coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. It is caused by influenza viruses and can spread rapidly among dogs in close contact. In severe cases, canine influenza can lead to pneumonia, especially in young puppies, elderly dogs, or those with weakened immune systems.


Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies to various environmental triggers, including pollen, dust mites, mold, and certain foods. Allergic reactions in dogs often manifest as coughing, sneezing, itching, and skin irritation.

Seasonal Allergies: Seasonal allergies, also known as atopy, occur when a dog’s immune system reacts to airborne allergens such as pollen or grass. Symptoms may worsen during specific times of the year when allergen levels are high.

Food Allergies: Some dogs may develop allergic reactions to specific ingredients in their diet, such as certain proteins or grains. In addition to coughing and sneezing, food allergies can cause gastrointestinal problems, skin issues, and ear infections.


Exposure to irritants in the environment can trigger coughing and sneezing in dogs, much like they can in humans. Common irritants include smoke, dust, strong odors, and chemical fumes.

Smoke: Inhalation of smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or wildfires can irritate a dog’s respiratory system, leading to coughing and sneezing. Secondhand smoke exposure can be particularly harmful to dogs and may increase the risk of respiratory infections and other health issues.

Dust and Pollutants: Dust, pollen, and air pollutants can irritate a dog’s airways, triggering coughing and sneezing, especially in dogs with sensitivities or respiratory conditions.

Heart Disease

In some cases, coughing in dogs may be a symptom of underlying heart disease, particularly in older dogs or breeds predisposed to cardiac issues. Heart disease can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs, leading to coughing, difficulty breathing, and decreased exercise tolerance.

Congestive Heart Failure: Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, leading to fluid buildup in the lungs and other tissues. Coughing, especially at night or after exertion, is a common symptom of congestive heart failure in dogs.

Respiratory Conditions

Certain respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or collapsing trachea, can cause coughing and sneezing in dogs. These conditions may be acute or chronic and require veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

Bronchitis: Bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Chronic bronchitis can develop in dogs exposed to long-term irritants or those with underlying respiratory conditions.

Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection or inflammation of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Dogs with pneumonia may exhibit symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, and lethargy.

Collapsing Trachea: Collapsing trachea is a common respiratory condition in small and toy breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas. It occurs when the cartilage rings supporting the trachea weaken over time, causing the trachea to collapse during breathing. Coughing, especially when excited or exercising, is a hallmark symptom of collapsing trachea in dogs.

Foreign Objects

Ingestion of foreign objects, such as small toys, bones, or pieces of fabric, can become lodged in a dog’s airway, leading to coughing, gagging, and respiratory distress. This is more common in puppies or curious dogs who may chew or swallow objects they shouldn’t.

Foreign Body Obstruction: A foreign body obstruction in the airway can cause partial or complete blockage, interfering with breathing and triggering coughing or choking. Prompt veterinary intervention is necessary to remove the foreign object and prevent further complications.

What To Do

If your dog is coughing and sneezing, it’s important to take prompt action to identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate care. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Monitor Your Dog’s Symptoms

Keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms, including the frequency and severity of coughing and sneezing, any accompanying symptoms such as fever or nasal discharge, and any changes in behavior or appetite. This information will be valuable for your veterinarian in diagnosing the problem.

2. Contact Your Veterinarian

If your dog’s symptoms persist or worsen, or if you suspect a more serious underlying issue, contact your veterinarian for guidance. Your vet can perform a thorough examination, including diagnostic tests such as bloodwork, x-rays, or cultures, to determine the cause of your dog’s coughing and sneezing.

3. Avoid Exposure To Irritants

Minimize your dog’s exposure to potential irritants in the environment, such as smoke, dust, and strong odors. Keep your home clean and well-ventilated, and avoid using harsh cleaning products or air fresheners that may exacerbate respiratory symptoms.

4. Follow Your Veterinarian’s Recommendations

Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for treatment and management of your dog’s condition. This may include medications such as antibiotics, cough suppressants, or bronchodilators, as well as lifestyle modifications or dietary changes to address underlying allergies or respiratory issues.

5. Provide Supportive Care

Provide your dog with plenty of rest, fresh water, and a comfortable environment to help alleviate their symptoms and promote healing. Keep them away from other dogs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, especially if they have been diagnosed with kennel cough or canine influenza.

6. Monitor For Signs Of Emergency

In severe cases, coughing and sneezing in dogs may indicate a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention. Look out for signs such as difficulty breathing, blue-tinged gums or tongue, fainting, or collapse, and seek veterinary care right away if you notice any of these symptoms.


Coughing and sneezing in dogs can be caused by a wide range of factors, from minor irritations to serious health conditions. By understanding the potential causes of these symptoms and taking appropriate action, you can help ensure the well-being of your canine companion.

If your dog is coughing and sneezing, monitor their symptoms closely, contact your veterinarian for guidance, and follow their recommendations for diagnosis and treatment. With proper care and attention, you can help your dog recover and enjoy a happy, healthy life.

Remember, your veterinarian is your best resource for addressing your dog’s health concerns and providing personalized care tailored to their individual needs. By working together, you can give your furry friend the best possible chance at a full recovery.