Seeing your dog in distress and hearing him coughing is certainly one of the most difficult and heartbreaking moments that a pet owner can experience. Especially when you see your beloved pup coughing up blood, this would add a whole new level of concern and anxiety. However, before you panic about this serious problem, make sure that you have learned about the different situations where this would happen as well as what to do to guarantee the health of your dog. Keep reading this post to understand all of the underlying causes so that you would know when to seek the help of a vet.
Why does your dog cough up blood?
In general, the act of coughing in dogs, also known as tussis, often serves as a mechanism of protection to prevent foreign materials as well as secretions from building up in their respiratory tract.But in some cases, this can be also seen as the early warning symptoms of several diseases in the respiratory and cardiovascular system.
This involuntary and automatic reflex is probably one of the most powerful behaviors in their body, which also plays an essential role in keeping the airways and pharynx free of accumulated foreign materials and secretions. Therefore, it is a usual response to any abnormality, obstruction, or invasion in the airways and can be found in dogs of all breeds and ages.
Coughing up blood or hemoptysis, on the other hand, is an abnormal reflex and might require a special investigation as well as a treatment because the underlying cause could be serious. It is necessary to differentiate between coughing up blood, vomiting blood, and bleeding from the gums, throat, or mouth.
In general, there are several causes for this problem in dogs:
Respiratory problems such as bronchitis, severe fungal or bacterial pneumonia are probably one of the most common causes of coughing up blood in dogs. Other possibilities would be pulmonary hypertension (high level of blood pressure in lungs), or respiratory foreign bodies (foxtail, grass awn).
Sometimes, coughing up blood in dogs could be associated with an issue in their upper digestive tract. More specifically, they would have digested a foreign object that damaged the digestive tract or the problem would happen as the result of irritation in the stomach or esophagus of your dog.
A pet with stomach ulcer might also develop bleeding in his digestive tract. However, you will probably notice him vomiting blood (hematemesis) instead of coughing up blood. One important things to know is that dogs might sometimes swallow the blood coming from the respiratory tract instead of coughing up. This would make you confusing as to the source.
Sign of cancer
Just like humans, coughing up blood in dogs could be a sign of cancer. Even though they do not smoke, they could be the victim of second-hand smoke. Also, the impact of pollution could play an essential role as dogs living in urban areas are often prone to lung cancer than those living in rural areas.
Lung cancers, in turn, might cause dogs to coughing up blood, along with weight loss, appetite loss, lethargy, exercise intolerance, trouble breathing, rapid breathing, or wheezing.
If you are suspicious of bleeding effect in your dog, it is necessary to investigate a bleeding disorder. In general, this condition interferes with the capability of your dog’s blood to clot. It could be caused by some autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune thrombocytopenia and immune hemolytic anemia. In most cases, congenital bleeding issues might occur such as hemophilia B or A as well as Von Willebrand diease (common in a couple of dog breeds: poodles, Doberman, and golden retrievers).
If the ingestion of mouse or rat poison is the possibility, it is necessary to know that those products are made with toxins which would cause blood clotting issues. If you suspect this cause, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
A condition mainly caused by ticks – Erlichia – can also result in bleeding disorder. As a result, the affected pet might cough up blood because of a low count of platelet.
In general, coughing up blood in dogs might be an isolated act happening only one time, a sudden event, or maybe the results of other troubles such as pale gums (yellow, gray, or white), lethargy, trouble breathing, petechiae (pin-point bleeding), bloody diarrhea, and bruising on abdomen.
In these cases, you need to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately, especially when the coughing persists or he has trouble breathing and increase in the respiratory rate. Generally, the normal respiratory rate should be no more than 40 breaths each minute at rest. You can measure this rate by considering that each respiration has 1 breath out and in.
What should you do when your dog coughs up blood?
Do not wait for everything to solve on their own
When you have noticed that what your dog coughs up is definitely blood, it is important to take him to the closest vet immediately. Remember that any bleeding in his intestinal tract could result in a life-threatening consequence. The loss rate of blood is also a factor to determine how serious the health condition would be. In general, severe loss of blood from vomiting or diarrhea can lead to serious problems as well as damage other parts in the body of your dog.
Find out the reason why your dog is coughing up blood
This will help you understand the seriousness of the issue. Dogs usually cough in many ways and cough up many different things, from undigested dog treats to partially digested objects. Therefore, you should pay attention to the look of the blood and notice other signs as well, including diarrhea.
What would the vet do?
First, you need to give your vet a through history of recent activities, onset of the symptoms and health condition of your dog so he can set up the initial diagnosis. Coughing and sneezing can usually be confused with each other, so the vet will examine your pooch's cough to see whether that is really a sneeze or a cough.
The sounds could be the same, so it often requires a closer attention. Some obvious differences in the outside might indicate the mouth opening during the reflex, sign of a cough, whereas with a sneeze, the mouth is closed.
The frequency and pattern of a cough in dogs generally play a very important role in finding out the underlying causes of the problem. A vet will often ask the owner about the characteristics, frequency, pattern, timing, and duration of the cough, so it could be useful to both the doctor and you if you often make notes of the symptoms before seeing your vet.
Your vet will also need to check if the cough is productive or not, so the cough may need to be initiated artificially by the doctor. In a productive cough, mucous, fluid, and secretions might be excluded from the airway, while with a non-productive or dry cough no such things come out during coughing. As coughing is often associated with a couple of common diseases, an intensive workup is important to establish the diagnosis.
After the initial physical and history check have been completed, your vet will need to take a complete urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and blood count to be examined in his lab. In general, based on the number of white blood cells, a test of blood biochemistry might suggest any abnormally elevated enzymes in your dog’s liver or other elements that are associated to the underlying causes, while a blood count might indicate the presence of allergies or infections.
If your pooch is also experiencing a nose bleed, tests associated with blood clotting would be done to determine if this mechanism is still normally working. Other diagnostic methods that would be applied include X-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and CT (computed tomography), all of these could be extremely helpful in finding out the underlying cause of coughing up blood in your dog.
For a more detailed and closer view of your dog’s respiratory tract, the vet might also use a bronchoscope, tracheoscope, or laryngoscope to get a direct visualization in different parts of his upper tract. A fecal testing might also be taken to make sure if there are any respiratory parasites or heartworm in his body, which can result in coughing. Lastly, the vet can take a fluid sample from the respiratory system to evaluate further as several types of parasite will stay on the walls of his respiratory tract.
The main purpose of a treatment is to resolve the underlying cause as well as the cough itself. In general, the resolution for the cause would eventually lead to a cure.
In cases of serious problem, your dog might need to be sent to the hospital for intensive treatment and care. If he has trouble breathing normally, oxygen could be provided, and broad spectrum antibiotics would be also taken to prevent the most common sorts of infection that lead to coughing.
Sometimes, medications for a suppressing cough might be prescribed for your dog, but that would be determined only by your vet after the diagnosis confirmation. This is mainly because cough suppressants are not usually helpful medically, particularly for several diseases such as respiratory infections.
Keep in your mind that in most situations the cough is not actually the problem, it is the underlying cause that needs to be resolved. Suppressing the cough will not tackle the issue but, in fact, may just hide the conditions and make it worsen.
Management and living
It often requires a through diagnostic workup to diagnose the underlying cause of a cough. Therefore, you need to follow the instructions for treatment given by your vet. If he prescribes antibiotics for your dog, it is important that you strictly follow through the whole course of this medicine. A lot of owners often forget to continue the administration of drug when the symptoms have progressed, which makes the infection return, even worse than before.
You also need to keep in touch with your vet throughout the period of treatment, relay information about the response of your dog to the prescription to see if it is worsening or improving. Always take care with every drug that you are giving to your pooch, as any drugs, including cough suppressant, could be dangerous if used in a wrong amount. It is essential to note that overuse of medication is considered as one of the main causes of death in pets.
Seeing our beloved dog feeling ill would be really upsetting and frustrating, particularly when we are not sure of the underlying cause. By following the advice in this post, you can understand why your dog could cough up blood and how to prevent this problem from happening in the future. Once understand, you will be ready help your pooch live a happier and longer life.