Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Coughing in Pets

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If your pet is experiencing respiratory distress, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

If your pet is experiencing aggressive coughing without distress, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet see your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within the next 12 hours. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

If your pet is experiencing a non-productive cough but breathing fine otherwise, this is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.


It’s that time of year where it seems like everyone is coughing – pets included! While dogs and cats don’t get the same respiratory illnesses as people, there are many reasons why your companion might cough – or even develop difficulty breathing. It’s important for pet parents to know when it’s okay to monitor a pet’s cough at home versus when it’s time to contact your family veterinarian versus when it’s time to head to the animal ER.

Common reasons why dogs develop a cough include, but are not limited to: 

  • Kennel Cough (an infection that is caused by a complex of bacteria and viruses – not just bacteria as some believe)
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart Disease
  • Collapsing Trachea (when the windpipe narrows and becomes irritated)
  • Inhaled foreign bodies or foreign bodies down the esophagus 

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Productive Coughing 

Productive coughs are coughs that bring up mucus or phlegm, and are often due to infection such as Kennel Cough or pneumonia. Pets also often have a fever and lack of appetite with these cases, as well as acting lethargic.

  • If your dog is not eating for more than one day, is lethargic, or experiencing labored (deep/heavy and fast) breathing or distress – they should be seen by immediately at your local animal emergency hospital.  
  • If your dog is eating, but a little less like themselves and having intermittent coughing, a visit to your family veterinarian should be scheduled urgently. 

Non-Productive Coughing  

  • Heart Disease
    • In heart disease cases, our emergency veterinarians often see intermittent non-productive coughing due to enlargement of the heart.
      • If your dog has a history of heart disease or a heart murmur and their cough is increasing in frequency, they should be evaluated by your family veterinarian.
      • If they are unable to stop coughing or are in distress, they should be taken to the animal ER.  
  • Tracheal Collapse  
    • With tracheal collapse, you may see non-productive coughing that can increase with excitement, exercise, or airway irritants such as smoke, air fresheners or aerosols, candles, incense, and diffusers. This is often a honking cough that will stop when the dog settles. In some instances, this can progress to a dog being unable to calm down or take a deep breath. Seek emergency veterinary care!  

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Coughing in Cats 

Respiratory disease can become life-threatening quickly, so is not something that should be messed around with. As with other common ailments, if you are concerned, please contact your primary care veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital.  

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Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota is open 24/7 and our triage line will help you determine the next best steps. 

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