Reasons for coughing and sneezing in pets can vary and some are life-threatening

Well, hello Dallas Voice readers! The weather is finally changing, and it is cooling down a bit. I hope all of you are doing well, and, as usual, welcome to my Woof column. The topic for this edition is coughing and sneezing in our dogs and cats.

Over the years, I have met many parents who have had issues knowing when coughing or sneezing is something to be concerned about and also with differentiating between coughing and sneezing in their fur babies. For the latter, I always recommend that parents record a video of what they are seeing at home and then take that video with them to their appointment with their vet so their vet can more accurately identify the issue since, many times, dogs and cats will not cough or sneeze when they are at the hospital.

It is important to mention that it can be completely normal for dogs and cats to sneeze or cough here and there, just ike us humans. The problem is when the frequency increases and/or when we see that they are not feeling well. These respiratory issues can be caused by quite a few different things. While some of them may not be concerning at all, some can actually be life threatening. We also sometimes see what is called reverse sneezing, which is typically not alarming and can be common. But sometimes it does need to be addressed, especially if you are concerned.

Reverse sneezing can be caused by allergies to something in the environment and, rarely, by an actual particle or object stuck in the nasal passages.

Collapsing trachea is another condition that can lead to coughing and can be severe, as some dogs may not be able to stop coughing without medical management. If a dog has severe collapsing trachea, it can be life threatening.

Both reverse sneezing and collapsing trachea tend to be seen more with smaller dogs, but they can also be seen with bigger dogs. Excessive barking for long periods of time can also lead to coughing.

Other more serious conditions include trauma to the nose or windpipe and foreign objects lodged in the nasal cavity or the windpipe. Infections of the nasal cavity, airways or lungs with a virus, bacteria or fungus can lead to sneezing or coughing with both dogs and cats. Some of these can certainly advance and become very serious conditions that can also prove to be life-threatening, like pneumonias.

There are parasites that can lead to excessive coughing, like heartworm, which is common in Texas and is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito.

Nasal mites, another parasite, can lead to sneezing. Cats can also suffer from asthma, which leads to coughing. Heart disease (including congestive heart failure) can lead to coughing, and this can certainly be life threatening. Sadly, there are also certain types of tumors and cancers that can involve the respiratory airways and organs. Needless to say, some of these are considered very serious conditions and require immediate medical attention.

In order to diagnose what may be happening with your baby, your doctor will likely recommend at least a test or two. That being said, remember to bring that video to your appointment, as there are a few occasions that this video (along with a full history) may be enough to determine what is happening.

When it comes to testing, based on what is going on with your baby, your doctor may recommend something as simple as a heartworm test and/or general blood work. However, radiographs will often be one of the first steps in seeking answers. Your doctor may recommend collection of samples from the airways for analysis and sometimes even cultures to find out what type of organism may be present in your baby’s respiratory tract.

In more advanced or complicated cases, your doctor may recommend advanced imaging, like an MRI or a CT scan.

Treatment of coughing or sneezing will certainly vary, based on the cause. Some of these conditions cannot be cured but can only be managed long term. Unfortunately, there are times that even the best medical management may not be enough, and quality of life may be affected, based on what may be happening with your baby. It is always important to monitor your baby closely and to have open communication with your doctor, as sometimes minor changes may be significant enough that they need to be addressed differently.

As usual, thank you so very much for reading my column, and I hope October brings great things to all of us. Remember to be kind to one another, too. We all need more positive influences around us! Abrazos, mi gente!

Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110, in Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit