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Golden retriever coughing.

Species: Dog
Breed: Golden Retriever
Age: 8-11 years
This weekend I was dog sitting for my dad's three dogs while he was out of town.

Thursday night to this morning (Monday) we were snowed in because of the blizzard that hit the Northeast U.S., so I was literally around these dogs 24/7. Our 10 year old golden retriever, Chet was totally fine on Thursday and Friday nights.

On Saturday night, about 1.5 hours after dinner, Chet was lying on her side and began coughing. It wasn't a particularly dry cough, but I couldn't describe it as wet, either. It was not productive.

The episode lasted about five minutes. I had her get up and walk around the house with me, then I encouraged her to drink a little bit of water, gave her a treat, and she lay back down and the rest of the night was uneventful. She slept on her side throughout the entire evening.

The next night (last night), it happened again and this time was worse. Once again, it was about 1.5-2 hours after her dinner, and again, she was lying on her side. This coughing fit sounded the same as described above, but lasted longer (maybe 10-15 minutes). She wretched a bit at the end of the coughing fit, but nothing came up. Over the next hour, she coughed once or twice a couple more times, but they didn't turn into fits. Her gums looked their normal pink color and had normal capillary refill. When she is not coughing her breathing seems normal.

Also, she eats breakfast and does not experience coughing episodes after that, so I don't think it's necessarily related to eating. She also lies on her side much of the day/night when she is resting.

Her appetite is normal (ravenous...but she is a golden retriever after all!) and her energy levels don't seem depleted. Because she's older she is not as active as she used to be, but she still has energy to play with the other dogs and go for 30-45 minute walks each day. We went on a long walk on Friday afternoon, but spent much of the rest of the weekend indoors because of the weather, with a few short play sessions out in the snow. She didn't cough after any of the excitement.

She saw the vet this afternoon who said her heart sounded fine, and chest x-ray was clear. The vet gave us some antibiotics and a cough suppressant in case there is a respiratory infection, but didn't have any additional insights. She thought kennel cough was unlikely and a tracheal collapse was ruled out. Also, she weighed in at 61 lbs, which the vet said was terrific (no obesity issues).

Any thoughts on what could be going on? Are there any additional questions we should be asking/tests we should be running? Anything we should look out for? I'm very relieved that it's not heart failure, but concerned we don't know what exactly it is, since she is older and I know older dogs are more prone to health issues.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for your very detailed description of what has been happening with Chet.

I'm afraid I don't have much to add to what you already know. If there was a heart condition the vet would have been able to hear a heart murmur or arrhythmia. A virus like kennel cough is certainly possible but the vet usually should be able to elicit a cough when palpating the trachea. Something ominous like a cancer is unlikely given that she is still full of energy and eating well.

I likely would have treated this in one of two ways. The first would be exactly as your vet did and the second would be to say let's just keep an eye on things and see how things go.

It's possible that this was just a flukey thing. If you think about our lives as humans, we will often have unexplained coughing and we dont' get too worried about it. It's also possible that Chet had inhaled something that is now irritating her airways. If it was something serious the symptoms should be much worse than they are.

Depending on where you are living, heartworm could cause a dog to cough, but the vet really should have seen changes on xray and should have heard problems with the heart.

I am guessing that there is nothing serious going on. If things get worse then the next step is probably to repeat the chest xrays to see if anything is developing.

I hope this is the end of it!

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.