What do you do if your old dog is coughing and gagging? Here’s what you should know about a coughing/gagging dog. Dog owners are responsible for paying attention to their dog’s needs and knowing when something is out of the ordinary. Especially if you’ve been with a dog for a considerable time, you’ll be more apt to identify strange behaviors worth looking into.
When it comes to older dogs tend to have many more health issues and concerns than young and lively dogs. This is a regular part of life that we can all expect. As dogs age, they change and develop more concerns that deserve our attention. Sometimes, these conditions can come on suddenly. Others may develop more slowly over time.
Either way, it’s important to recognize those concerning symptoms and find a way to address the issue before it spirals into a much bigger deal. Typically as your dog ages, you may be more in tune with their behavior and get even more worried about their overall health. Some of those concerning behaviors include coughing and gagging.
Coughing and gagging are responses that can be brought on by many different things, from just eating food to dealing with a much more serious medical condition. Especially for an older dog, you must notice when your dog starts experiencing these symptoms of coughing and gagging.
Whether old or young, your dog deserves your love and support. To help you provide the best care for your dog throughout its life, here we share some important things to know if your older dog is experiencing coughing and gagging. While it may be no reason to worry, it could also point to a much more serious medical condition you’ll want to check out as soon as possible.
Before you scroll down to a more in-depth answer to this guide, “What to Do If My Old Dog is Coughing and Gagging,” you can check out these other dog-related articles covered by our team at We Love Doodles: What Should I Do If My Dog is Panting, Shaking, and Clingy and What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Fish Bones?
What Makes an Old Dog Cough and Gag?
Just like humans can experience a cough for various reasons, an older dog can also start coughing and gagging for many different reasons. Some of these reasons are not caused much concern. Others may point to a much more serious condition that your older dog has developed and that you’ll want to investigate as soon as possible.
- Drinking water or eating food: One natural reason a dog can cough or gag is if they consume food or drink water and it goes down the wrong way. Perhaps you’ve had the same feeling of something going down the wrong pipe. If your dog coughs and gags only on very rare instances and happens after they eat or drink, it could be just a natural reaction to something not going down right.
- Your dog is getting rid of dust or other particles: If your dog enters a dusty room or is exposed to other dust and particles, it may cough and gag out of response to the particles they don’t want to breathe in. This, again, may not be a major reason for concern as it is a natural reaction to something in their airwaves that they don’t want there.
- Heart Cough: Coughing and gagging can also be signs of more serious medical conditions you’ll need to treat and address. A common reason for older dogs to cough and gag is heart cough. As a symptom of heart disease, it stems from the heart’s inability to function properly in pumping blood to the lungs and building up fluid.
- Kennel Cough: This is a common illness similar to the common cold. It is contagious and can often be brought on through a stay at a place with lots of other dogs. Symptoms include an airwaves infection, making it difficult to breathe. Especially for older dogs, be on the lookout for other symptoms or worsening conditions as they heal from the illness.
- Laryngeal Paralysis: If you notice that your dog is both gagging and coughing frequently, it may be experiencing laryngeal paralysis. This occurs when your dog can’t control the muscles in its larynx. Although they are still able to breathe, their breathing is restricted by their airways and lungs.
- Asthma: Just as humans can experience this condition, dogs can also suffer from asthma. In dogs, they may be triggered by certain particles in the air or other symptoms similar to allergies. It may be due to a change of environment or other irritants in the air.
- Lung Problems: Things like bronchitis or pneumonia can also affect dogs. They can be brought on by things outside or just the general passing of illnesses.
Related: Are Cough Drops Bad For Dogs?
What is the Difference Between Coughing and Gagging?
While coughing and gagging often go together as symptoms of a minor or serious condition, these responses differ in some ways. Knowing the difference can help you better describe to your veterinarian what is going on and what kind of solution you’ll need to move forward with.
Coughs are generally described as short, sharp exhalations of air. It can either be dry or can have some mucus or saliva brought up with it. On the other hand, gagging also has some components of vomiting.
They may try to or feel the need to vomit but will be unsuccessful in bringing anything more substantial up. Unlike vomiting, gagging may only produce saliva and mucus, not the actual contents of the stomach. Coughing and gagging often go together as the condition worsens for whatever reason.
What Do You Do If Your Old Dog is Coughing and Gagging?
In knowing your next steps in dealing with your dog’s coughing or gagging habits, there are a few things to consider. First, determine whether their coughing and gagging are only very rare occurrences and happen after they eat or drink. This may be a natural response to their body reacting to food not going down well or water going down the wrong pipe.
There may not be anything to be concerned about. However, if the coughing and gagging happen much more frequently, it is worth conversing with your veterinarian. When you describe their symptoms of coughing and gagging, as well as any other symptoms that have arisen, the veterinarian may be able to clue you in on what may be happening with your elderly dog.
Especially when you notice other symptoms like a lack of appetite, a fever, or a worsening or prolonged cough, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. Be ready to report what your dog has been experiencing, for how long, and any other symptoms that may be associated. With conditions like kennel cough, the symptoms should go away independently.
With proper diet and rest, they may be able to easily overcome the temporary illness, even as an older dog. When treating the symptoms of an illness, you may be able to give your dog some over-the-counter throat medication that is safe for dogs. However, other conditions may require much more intensive care and treatment.
For situations like laryngeal paralysis or heart cough, your veterinarian will share a more thorough and intense approach to alleviating the dangerous symptoms. While you can use medication to soothe your dog’s cough, these conditions may not just go away on their own.
Instead, you’ll need to identify treatment options and lifestyle changes to better support your dog’s overall health, including their ability to move air throughout their body. With a proper examination, your veterinarian can identify the problem and work toward a solution.
The treatment and next steps are dependent on what is causing the issue in the first place. They may range from things like antibiotics or other prescription medication. These treatments will help alleviate the symptoms and treat the underlying cause of what is making your older dog cough and gag in the first place.
Related: Can Dogs Take Mucinex?
Care For Your Coughing Older Dog
No matter the reason for their coughing and gagging, it’s important to be intentional about monitoring their health and ensuring their symptoms do not worsen. Be sure to show them lots of love and care as they recover from whatever is spurring their gagging and coughing.
With intentional care and treatment, your older dog can work to overcome their ailment. While it may take longer, and your dog may not fully recover from their condition, you can do your part to meet its needs and support its overall health in whatever way possible.
It may become even more important to watch their overall health and wellness consistently, particularly with older dogs. As conditions can spiral quickly and lead to even more complications, it’s important to address whatever is ailing your dog as soon as possible.
Don’t wait for their reaction to go away on its own if it is prolonged and consistent. Act quickly when you notice a cough or gagging habit that seems out of the ordinary, and connect with your veterinarian about finding steps to take to help improve their health.
If you find this guide, “What to Do If My Old Dog is Coughing and Gagging,” helpful, you can check out these other dog-related guides from our team:
- How Much Robitussin Can You Give Your Dog?
- Why is My Puppy Gagging So Much?
- Are Pine Cones Bad For Dogs?
You can learn more about kennel cough in dogs by watching “Kennel Cough in Dogs” down below:
Andy is a full-time animal rescuer and owner of a toy doodle. When he’s not saving dogs, Andy is one of our core writers and editors. He has been writing about dogs for over a decade. Andy joined our team because he believes that words are powerful tools that can change a dog’s life for the better.
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