Ask The Vet
Ask The Vet: Cough & Heart Murmur
Q: My dog, Sophie, has a consistent cough that ends with a gagging motion. She acts like she is trying to cough something up but hasn't, and this has been going on for over a month now. She is 16 years old, and I don't want to spend a fortune at the vet trying to figure this out. Sophie is a terrier mix who weighs about 13 pounds. She was diagnosed with a heart murmur about 5 years ago. She was recently boarded at the vet's office, but the cough began prior to her time at the vet’s. I had also asked the vet to listen for the cough, but the office did not say anything about the cough when I picked Sophie up.
A: I don’t blame you for not wanting to spend a fortune at the vet’s office – who would – . . . but I would advise you to spend something and at least have Sophie looked at by the vet. There are many possibilities, but heart murmurs often become heart disease, and heart disease is often characterized by the type of cough you describe due to fluid & blood that backs up in the lungs when the heart can no longer pump it effectively to the body. Infectious coughs would have resolved by now in most cases, and if it were pneumonia, your dog would probably be sick enough that you would already be at the vet. Most boarding kennels will not accept coughing dogs (because of the ease with which infectious coughs spread from dog to dog), so I am surprised that nothing was found while she was staying with the vet, or that they would not have been following her very closely. Call them to see if they noticed anything.
Your question has been answered by the following veterinarian:
Mark G. Burns, DVM, ACVIM
Board Certified in Veterinary Internal Medicine