A dog drinking water out of a bowl.
A dog drinking water out of a bowl. Photography ©K_Thalhofer | Thinkstock.

Why Does My Dog Cough After Drinking Water?

If your dog coughs after drinking water, let's examine three potential health issues that could be at play and what to do about each.
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Few sights are as hypnotic as watching a dog’s tongue curl as he laps water from his favorite dish. But what if your dog coughs after drinking water?

Naturally, like any of us, sometimes our dogs drink too fast or they are temporarily distracted, and a few drops go down the wrong way. You’ve started noticing a disturbing trend, though. It seems that every time your dog pauses for a bit of liquid refreshment, the action is followed immediately by the sounds of coughing and gagging. If a dog coughs after drinking water consistently, there may be more to it than rapid or reckless swallowing can explain away.

Related: How Much Water Should a Dog Drink a Day?

At least three medical issues might be the reason a dog coughs after drinking water, all of them involving the trachea:

  1. Kennel cough
  2. Hypoplastic trachea
  3. Collapsed trachea

Each of these conditions can affect any dog, but there are notable differences and distinctions that we can draw between them to determine what course of action a veterinarian may take to alleviate a dog’s suffering. Age, breed, size and associated symptoms are all significant factors.

Dog drinking water.
If your dog coughs after drinking water, trachea issues might be at play. Photography by Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock.

First, where is the trachea? What does it do?

The trachea, or windpipe, is a tube composed of cartilage, muscle and tissue, located between the throat and the lungs. Through it, air passes from the nose or mouth into and out of the lungs. It shares its entry point into the body with the esophagus. A small flap called the epiglottis closes when food or water enters, leading it toward the digestive tract, and opens for breathing. When the trachea’s structural integrity is compromised, so too is its functionality.

Whether the trouble is irritation and swelling during respiratory illnesses, a fault present from a young age due to genetic abnormalities, or one which develops with advancing age, a weak trachea prevents dogs from getting the oxygen they need. Since dogs sweat very little, panting provides not only fresh air but also heat relief, making the trachea critically important during the warmer parts of the year or during intense exercise.

Now, let’s further examine those three reasons a dog coughs after drinking water.

1. Kennel cough in dogs

Also known as infectious canine tracheobronchitis, kennel cough in dogs is the least serious reason why a dog coughs after drinking water. Kennel cough is basically the common cold for canines. Like any communicable disease, it spreads most efficiently in places where there are a number of dogs in close quarters. From the dog park to the groomer, and from boarding facilities to veterinarians’ offices, kennel cough can affect any breed of dog at any age.

The major symptom of this mild respiratory infection is a cough that sounds like a goose honking. The more the dog coughs, the more irritated and inflamed the trachea becomes. In a multi-pet household, a dog with kennel cough should be isolated from other dogs and their bowls cleaned and disinfected. Kennel cough tends to pass within a couple of weeks, and any coughing with it.

2. Hypoplastic trachea

If a dog coughs after drinking water, especially if that dog is a young puppy, it could signal a more serious health issue. A hypoplastic trachea is a genetic abnormality. “Hypoplastic” means “underdeveloped,” and usually refers to the rings of cartilage that give the trachea its shape. The effect of this inherited condition is that the windpipe does not develop to its full size or width. This disorder primarily affects puppies from short-muzzled breeds, technically referred to as “brachycephalic.”

Breeds most at risk for hypoplastic trachea include the Boston Terrier, English Bulldog and Pug. Symptoms depend on the extent to which the puppy’s airway is narrowed by the condition. These dogs are already known, as they age, to snore, snort or breathe more heavily; with a hypoplastic trachea, symptoms like these can begin showing up as early as five or six months of age. Additional symptoms to watch out for in flat-faced puppies include low energy, along with rapid weight gain due to limited ability to exercise.

On its own, a mild case, where the trachea’s diameter is not substantially affected, may pass completely unnoticed and undiagnosed. In some dogs, the narrow trachea can be a symptom of brachycephalic airway syndrome, in which the abbreviated length of the dog’s skull causes other cranial abnormalities, such as smaller nostrils, which further restrict a dog’s oxygen intake.

3. Tracheal collapse in dogs

Where evidence of an underdeveloped trachea tends to arise quite early in life, symptoms of a collapsing trachea have a much later onset and tend to affect a different subset of dogs. This is a degenerative condition in which the trachea loses structural integrity over time. Imagine slowly flattening a roll of toilet paper and you have a decent image of what happens to the dog’s windpipe. As the airway narrows, it becomes progressively more difficult for the dog to take in sufficient air.

Symptoms of a collapsing trachea tend to appear in middle age or seniority, which for these long-lived small dog breeds may be anywhere from the ages of 4-6 years or later. Similar to kennel cough and hypoplastic tracheas, the hallmark of this disorder is that honking cough, accompanied by a gagging noise. For small dogs who have been energetic and perky throughout life, a loss of energy or getting tired after very little exertion may be more alarming signs of a weakening trachea.

Anything with the word “collapse” or “collapsing” in it sounds dire, but in many cases, this is a very slowly developing health issue. It is most frequently seen in Yorkshire Terriers, but it is common across a range of small and toy dog breeds. Along with Yorkies, tracheal collapse can also affect Chihuahuas, Lhasa Apsos, Pomeranians, Toy Poodles and Pugs.

Management of tracheal abnormalities in dogs

So, if your dog coughs after drinking water, don’t panic. Kennel cough tends to last only a couple of weeks. If the dog is a short-muzzled puppy or an older small or toy breed, it is worth consulting a veterinarian about the possibility of a hypoplastic or collapsed trachea. Depending on how narrow the puppy’s windpipe is and the rate at which it is collapsing, afflicted dogs may be able to live out their normal lives with very few alterations.

Excess weight or obesity puts additional strain on oxygen intake, so it is crucial to reduce that strain by not overfeeding at-risk dogs. Dogs with leashes attached to their collars, especially ones who tug on their leashes, may benefit from switching to a harness to limit unintentional wear and tear on their neck and throat. In cases where tracheal collapse is severe, management can be more costly and may involve either medication to manage symptoms or surgery to reinforce the trachea.

Thumbnail: Photography ©K_Thalhofer | Thinkstock.

Read Next: What Type of Water Alternatives Can Dogs Have?

 

63 thoughts on “Why Does My Dog Cough After Drinking Water?”

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  16. I am willing to invest in a drinking fountain style water dish and if that doesn’t work I’ll probably try a rodent style bottle licker. I swear her tongue splashes water down her wind pipe. The same thing might happen to me if I tried to drink water like my dog?!

  17. Hi
    I have a small rat terrier she’s about nine years old maybe 10. She’s a little overweight by about 10 pounds also. I used to take it for walks without a leash she’s a good listener and if I tell her no she will stop and come back to me. The three weeks I’ve been walking her with the leash he had a little cough before I start walking there with the leash but it did not concern me. Nordstrom’s now it seems after each walk when we get home she drinks water and dogs to cough and she called a few times then she’ll gag this happens for a few minutes every time she drinks the water. If I feed her the coughing stops. It seems that it becomes more every time we walk. But during the day if she drinks her water she doesn’t have that problem especially if she has food in her stomach. Any advice on this I love my dog it’s making me very nervous she’ young rat terrier. I saved her 10 years ago when someone threw her out there moving van on the highway. I need your advice
    Sincerely Gigi’s dad

  18. I have a 10 yr old chihuahua and only in the last 2 months she has developed this type of coughing after drinking and early in the morning. She is on her second bout of antibiotics but she is still coughing after drinking and mornings.

    I was wondering if there is any natural remedy which may help.

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for reaching out! Sorry to hear your pup is going through this. If you’re looking for natural remedies, we suggest getting in touch with a homeopathic vet. These articles might help, too:
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/is-your-dog-coughing-a-lot-what-to-do-next
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-health-small-dogs-chronic-coughing
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/home-remedies-for-kennel-cough

  19. Great article. Thank you for making me aware of other things that could be happening to my dog other than her just getting water go down the wrong way.

  20. Linda S Ortero

    We own Codey an 11 year old male Yorkie/Maltese mix dog. He is full of energy but recently began honking and coughing after drinking water. He also does something similar when he gets very excited. Usually when I come home or we get company he does the same thing. So I’m thinking it may not be just from drinking. He has always had a harness for the reason small dogs can have trouble going for walks with just a collar. We wanted to protect his throat. Big problem is he has gained a few extra pounds gradually over the past five years. He is so cute and adorable regardless but my hubby feeds him way to much. He is very healthy otherwise. Do you think an 7-8 pounds doggie who now weighs about 11-12 pounds this might be causing his problem? Thank you

    1. Dogster Admin

      Hi Linda,
      We suggest asking your vet to get the best gauge on if your dog is overweight. These articles might provide some insight, too:
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/what-and-how-to-feed-your-overweight-dog
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/pet-obesity-awareness-day-fat-dog-health-overweight-weight-loss-warning-signs
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-health-7-tips-canine-obesity

  21. My 14 year old cavalier has heart murmur. She is on vetmedin 2.5mg twice daily and fortekor 5mg once daily (she is on neurontin as well for tremors) also she is on urex 10mg twice daily. Her coughing has increased in frequency and severity lately (especially when drinking) and the vet nurse says it is probably time to increase her urex. On researching urex it does not appear to have any connection to coughing. Due to excessive medication costs I would like to avoid another unnecessary trip to the vet.

    1. Please be careful giving your dog meds. A lot of meds cause more harm. The body can heal itself many times. Always get a second or even 3rd opinion & Dog meds are the same as humans. I hope your baby gets well soon. God Bless You.

  22. I rescued an 8 year old miniature dachshund, when I got her home I noticed after she’d drink she would cough. I took her to the vet they put her on antibiotics just to make sure it wasn’t kennel cough, but that didn’t cure it. I’ve kind of put up with it over the last 3 years because it didn’t seem to deter her from drinking and it didn’t happen all the time, just most of the time. I have noticed that she likes to prop up her head when she sleeps at night. I don’t know if this is part of this same issue but she does make sure her head is propped up or straight out when she sleeps. The other day I took her to have her teeth cleaned without anesthesia and the girl who did her teeth told me that she started to cough – she thought it might be kennel cough, because she tested for the collapsed trachea and she didn’t respond negatively. Any thoughts on what it could possibly be? She has a long snout – maybe a pallet issue or a very narrow airway?

  23. I have a five-year-old golden retriever. whenever he drinks water. he coughs and spits. Vet tells me it is genetic. Not able to find the right opinion to absolve him from this discomfort.
    Any suggestion for natural treatment or otherwise?

    1. Hi Rohit —
      Thanks for reaching out. We suggest talking with your vet re: natural options. Hope your dog feels better!

    2. that its genetic is not a solution. Maybe go for a second opinion. If a dog coughs after drinking water, especially if that dog is a young puppy, it could signal a more serious health issue. A hypoplastic trachea is a genetic abnormality. “Hypoplastic” means “underdeveloped,” and usually refers to the rings of cartilage that give the trachea its shape. The effect of this inherited condition is that the windpipe does not develop to its full size or width.

    3. Solution that worked for my dog :
      My 12 year old was choking and gaging whenever he drank water. Then I LIFTED HIS WATER BOWL ABOUT 4 INCHES ABOVE THE FLOOR. It works. It now sits in raised water bowl platform. His choking sounds diminished 95 %. Just incredible..

        1. Possible laryngeal paralysis. The flaps of the larynx can be stuck in an open position, allowing food and/or water to enter the windpipe The flaps can also be “stuck” in the closed position or half open, half closed. This can be very serious because the dog can’t move as much air when it pants, which is how it cools itself. It can collapse from over-heating, especially in the summer, at which point it IS a real emergency! Do a google search for more symptoms-i’m not a vet. My dog had it. I noticed he always choked when drinking, he panted all the time, his cold wet nose became warm and dry. It wasn’t diagnosed until his breathing was noisy. It made a raspy sound when inhaling or exhaling, can’t remember which. (The noise is from the throat, not the lungs.) Good luck!

  24. Pingback: Why Does My Dog Cough After Drinking Water? | My Pet Needs That

  25. My brittany swims with a ball and I’m sure water gets in. Besides ear issues (dry, dry, dry) she hacks a lot during swim season. Nothing that is consistent though. Anything to worry about?

  26. I have a large Alaskan Malamute 140lbs he is 11 years old he drinks a lot is fine during the day but at night he has a hacking gagging cough that brings up a thick semi foam clear liquid I mean a ton of it. Then during the day he is fine but drinks more than usual , has me stumped ???

    1. Hi there,
      Sorry to hear your dog isn’t feeling well. We suggest bringing this up to your vet.
      These articles might provide some insight as well:
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/is-your-dog-coughing-a-lot-what-to-do-next
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/why-is-my-dog-vomiting-white-foam

    2. Darrragh Nolan

      My labrador coughed up foam too. She had kennel cough. Bring him to a vet to get a vaccination and some tablets for you dog and in 2 weeks he should be better.

  27. Just adopted a little terrier mix from Spain was in kill shelter he only coughs after drinking at no other time ….
    My other dogs show no sign of it so don’t think it is kennel cough although maybe….
    He has been here two months and not unwell in any other way at all…
    Think he may of been chained or harmed as when he first came was petrified of collar harness lead etc but so laid back in every other way . …any ideas please??

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Jane!

      Thanks for reaching out. We suggest bringing your dog to the vet to inquire about his cough. We hope your dog feels better!

      1. My fog started coughing an throwing up after drinking her water.last about 30 mins.what could be wron

    2. If a dog coughs after drinking water, especially if that dog is a young puppy, it could signal a more serious health issue. A hypoplastic trachea is a genetic abnormality. “Hypoplastic” means “underdeveloped,” and usually refers to the rings of cartilage that give the trachea its shape. The effect of this inherited condition is that the windpipe does not develop to its full size or width.

  28. I read most of this article because of a concern I have for my “Pom-Chon”, or Bichon/Pomeranian. But she started coughing after drinking abnormally high amounts of water after she was attacked by a Pit Bull and almost killed. She also will cough or “choke” when she pulls on the leash too hard when we’re walking. She never did this before the attack so I was wondering if the attack may have done damage to her trachea? She can’t “talk” either, so instead, when she gets excited she “squeaks” like she’s crying and she sounds horrible, like she’s being tortured when she’s actually happy! What does this mean?

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Sorry to hear that your dog is experiencing this! We suggest taking her to the vet ASAP.

  29. Barbara Perser

    My 3.9 lb Chihuahua chokes/aspirated when she drinks. Her upper jaw is much longer than her bottom jaw. I found thickener to put in her water and it does the trick! No more choking! I did check with my vet first! It’s called ThickIt. People who have trouble swallowing use it too!

    1. I think the Thick It is a great idea for my Chihuahua, Pekingese and Dachshund mix. She’s almost 8 y/o, next month, and has been choking/aspirating after drinking for a little while now. I’m going to try it out.

      1. Kimberly Williams

        Sorry to get off the subject but i have a 9 year old pomapoo and would like to compare notes about our dogs just to get some feedback if possible

    2. Thank u for that suggestion my little poodle drank milk n water n choked he has this weird cough to clear his throat. He never did this before but I notice he plays too hard n drinks fast then chokes I’ll try the thickener

    3. Thank u for that suggestion my little chihuahua drank milk n water n choked he has this weird cough to clear his throat. He never did this before but I notice he plays too hard n drinks fast then chokes I’ll try the thickener

    4. hi my name is Virgil and I have a small Chihuahua when she drinks water she makes a snorting sound I don’t know much about her past I found her running down the road one day about 2 years ago also when she is laying down she makes kind of a snort sound. If this sounds like your dog please let me know thank you so very much

    5. hi my name is Virgil and I have a small Chihuahua when she drinks water she makes a snorting sound I don’t know much about her past I found her running down the road one day about 2 years ago also when she is laying down she makes kind of a snort sound. If this sounds like your dog please let me know thank you so very much

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