Do Dogs Have Tonsils? 8 Conditions that Can Cause Your Dog to Cough

One of the highlights of my day is going for a walk. I love to exercise, and my humans do too. There aren’t many things better than being outside. Sometimes, I even get to see other dogs. It’s so much fun getting to hang out with more of my kind. On one of these walks not long ago, we ran into a dog that we often get to see. But this time was a little different. Normally, we get to say hi to each other, chase each other around, have a little fun. But that didn’t happen this time because my friend had a cough. I had no idea what a cough was until I heard it. My mom was concerned that I could also catch it, so we had to stay away. It must have been new to her, too. When we got home, she was quick to do some research. She always does what she can to make sure I stay healthy.

It turns out that just like humans, dogs do have tonsils, but it is rare for a dog to get tonsilitis. But there are some other reasons that dogs can get a cough. While some reasons are more serious than others, it’s important for your dog’s health that if the cough is persistent, take your pup to see their vet to make sure it is nothing serious. To break it down a bit, here are some of the things that can cause a dog to cough.

Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is very contagious and easily transmitted from dog to dog. The name can be a little misleading in that your dog doesn’t necessarily have to be in a kennel to catch Kennel Cough, but rather have close exposure to another dog that is infected. It got its name because it’s commonly spread in kennels where many dogs are near each other. I’m lucky not to be exposed like that, but it doesn’t mean I’m not vulnerable to it. Any dog can catch it. The good thing is, in most cases, it is something that a dog will usually get over on their own. The constant coughing and hacking often seem much worse than it is. It is still important that humans keep a close eye on it, though, because it could lead to more serious pneumonia.

The Flu

Dogs can also catch the flu any time of the year

Like humans, dogs can also catch the flu any time of the year. Even though it’s not very common, it can transmit from humans to dogs, and just like humans, older, younger, and dogs with health issues are much more susceptible to complications because of the flu. An otherwise healthy dog, however, can recover from the flu on its own. The good news is that vets now offer a vaccination to help protect your pup.

Sore Throat

However rare tonsilitis can be, a sore throat is quite common in dogs. It is caused by multiple things, like dry air, something caught in the throat, and yes, tonsillitis. The cough is usually different from other coughs. Instead of the intense barking, hacking cough that comes with a virus, a sore throat cough is more of a high pitched, gagging kind of cough coupled with constant swallowing and licking lips.

Foreign Objects

Dogs are curious creatures. I know I am. I can spend hours exploring, sniffing, and eating things, even things that shouldn’t be, which means stuff ends up in my throat that shouldn’t be there. Anything from sticks to blades of grass can get stuck in our throats. There is something called Grass Awn Migration Disease where barbed grasses can get stuck and cause severe irritation. Wild grasses can have sharp edges or tiny spikes that, if eaten, can attach themselves to the inside of a dog’s mouth, or worse, its throat, and can lead to very complicated issues. If it’s something that a dog has possibly gotten into, it must be taken to the vet immediately. If left, it could lead to very serious infections and even death.

Lung Issues

Lung issues in dogs are more common than people think, the more serious of which is pneumonia. Pneumonia can be a result of anything from the flu to kennel cough or even heartworm and ringworm. The cough associated with pneumonia is wet and gargling, and when it gets bad, you will notice that your dog could be having trouble breathing. While there is no sure-fire cure for pneumonia, vets will often prescribe antibiotics to help subdue the infection as well as steroids to open up the airways and relieve the symptoms.


Dog Bronchitis

Another common lung issue in dogs is bronchitis. Different from pneumonia, bronchitis is indicated by a dry, hacking cough and wheezing.  It’s unfortunate, to say the least, but one of the most common causes of bronchitis in dogs is exposure to cigarette smoke.

The deadliest lung issue in dogs is lung cancer, but there are two types to know about, primary and metastatic. Primary lung cancer is more dangerous. It’s mostly malignant, but luckily, it is rare. Metastatic lung cancer is more common. Metastatic means that it started somewhere else and spread to the lungs. If left too long, it is often difficult to treat and often deadly. While any dog can get lung cancer, it is most common in dogs ten years or older.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is a very contagious virus and spread through feces, urine, or other secretions of infected dogs. Because of advancements in vaccinations, distemper is becoming less common and is found more in stray dogs or in areas where dog vaccinations are less frequent.

Heart Disease

Certain dog breeds are prone to developing congestive heart disease, but it can also occur in any older dog. It may seem odd that a cough is associated with heart failure. The cough happens because of the buildup of fluid in the lungs that comes alongside heart failure. The heart may also be enlarged, which could put pressure on the trachea and induce a cough.

Not long ago, I was oblivious to the fact that a dog could get a cough or to the fact that we even have tonsils. But now that I have done this post, I am amazed at not only how common a cough can be but how many different reasons I might get one. Of course, some of these reasons can be more serious than others, but it is important to be aware of them. It’s also important not to ignore any cough, no matter how minor it may be, because it could be a sign of a serious condition. As a dog, we need our owners to be our health advocates, so it’s just as important that they are as aware of this stuff as we are!