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Why is my Older Small Dog Coughing?

photo 2009 Dan Bennett | more info (via: Wylio)My 13 y/o doxie coughs a lot. Sometimes he seems as if he's coughing something up, but...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  May 21st 2011

Golden Retriever/ Dachshund Mix ...NOTphoto 2009 Dan Bennett | more info (via: Wylio)
My 13 y/o doxie coughs a lot. Sometimes he seems as if he’s coughing something up, but nothing comes up. Is this common? He’ll do this if he’s playing, he’ll stop and cough. What could be the cause?

Forest Hills

There are many different causes of coughing in 13-year-old Dachshunds. Some of them are major problems; others aren’t so serious.

Based upon your description, I’m most suspicious of collapsing trachea. Tracheal collapse occurs when the firm rings that support the windpipe become weak with age. It is common in older, small dogs, and it leads to a chronic tickle in the throat. Dogs with collapsing trachea usually feel fine when they rest, but activity can trigger coughing. Most dogs with collapsing trachea don’t require any treatment, although severely affected individuals may need medications or, very rarely, surgery. Extreme collapsing trachea can be fatal, but that is extremely rare.

Older, smaller dogs also are prone to heart conditions that can lead to coughing. Specifically, a heart valve may begin to leak. This can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs, exercise intolerance, and coughing. Heart disease in dogs, like its human counterpart, is serious.

Other potential causes of coughing include infections of the airways (including kennel cough) or lungs, inflammation of the airways or lungs, or, rarely, tumors in the lungs.

I recommend that a vet assess your dog. A thorough physical exam is the first step in determining whether your dog’s coughing needs to be treated.

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