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What could cause a dog to cough up white foam?

Resolved Question:

My dog has been coughing (hacking) up white foam (sometimes clear). I can hear him now trying to cough again, but he's trying to sleep. He otherwise is eating and drinking and playing. Could it be kennel cough? He is a male neutered 5-year-old LhasaPoo.

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  The1Caretaker replied 4 years ago.

You are absolutely right: A dry, hacking cough that sounds like something might be stuck in the dog’s throat is one of the symptoms of Kennel Cough. Sometimes this cough is so hard that the dog will bring up white phlegm; also, coming in from outdoors (changes in environmental temps) may trigger a coughing outburst.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica has an incubation period of 2 to 14 days. It’s often caught while dogs are boarded in kennels (hence the name) or even in dog obedience classes, dog parks, vet waiting rooms, etc..

Bordetella B. is an airborne infection that’s transferred when dogs sneeze or cough and project droplets into the air in the vicinity of another animal.

Direct contact between animals or sharing food/water bowls and in some cases when a dog comes upon an area that an infected dog recently visited may transfer the infection. This bacteria, in normal situations, isn’t especially difficult to treat. There is usually a secondary infection (or more) that needs to be addressed in order to eliminate the problem, so a vet check is warranted. The treatment is an antibiotic medication that may be given with a cough suppressant (a med that is prescribed)

Over the counter cough suppressants are not known to actually work in dogs or humans

Other causes for dog coughing are environmental, like cigarette smoke exposure, dust, temperature extremes (too hot, too cold) and even stress. It could be tracheal disease or just allergies.

Heartworm may cause coughing, shortness of breath and other signs of distress.

Cough that produces retching, phlegm or froth may be indicative of alveolar disease or pulmonary edema. Since you mention 'foam' (of any color) I would have him checked out to be sure. It probably isn't anything this serious, but if it were my companion, I'd want to take every precaution, right?

Even though the cough suppressants aren’t known to really work, some people still recommend Robitussin DM .5 to 1 mg per pound. There are eye dropper/measuring delivery systems available for baby care in most pharmacy aisles of stores. They’re great to have on hand for pets.

Setting up a vaporizer (without medications in it) in the room with the dog may also prove helpful. Offering a heat source such as a heating pad set on low, beneath their bedding may make them more comfortable too; however, I prefer to avoid electric sources an animal may gnaw on.

We use rice socks. Fill any clean sock ¾ of the way with uncooked rice and knot the end closed. Microwave this for 1 to 1 ½ minutes, shake it out to distribute the heat and make sure it’s not too hot - tuck it in the dog’s bedding - it stays warm and holds body heat for hours. It’s very important to remember that these are just temporary, possible relief’s - in no way a cure. These will not make the animal ‘better’.

For more dog-cough information:

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