Through the day most dogs will cough to get something out of their throats and it is usually ignored. If coughing persists, then it is time to look for causes.
A common cause for a dry hacking cough is kennel cough, which is contagious and usually picked up through association with other dogs. A dog with kennel cough should receive veterinary attention and be placed on antibiotics and a cough suppressant.
During treatment and recovery, the dog should be kept indoors and warm as much as possible. Kennel cough, if not cared for properly, can easily turn into pneumonia in cold conditions. Infected dogs should be isolated from other dogs until they have recovered.
Chronic coughing after exercise can also be a sign of heart failure, especially in an older dog. It may also indicate a heartworm infection. If this occurs regularly, consult your veterinarian.
Most changes in the breathing pattern of a healthy dog, such as rapid inhalations or panting, are caused by exercise, stress and heat. If a dog is having problems breathing and it is also accommodated by coughing or gagging, it may be a sign that an air passage is blocked.
Check for an object lodged in your dog's throat. If you can not remove it yourself, use the Heimlich maneuver. Place your dog on his side and using both hands palms down, apply quick thrusts to the abdomen, just below the dog's last rib.
If your dog will not lie down, grasp either side of the end of the rib cage and squeeze in short thrusts. Make a sharp enough movement to cause the air in the lungs to force the object out. If the cause can not be found or removed, then professional help is needed.
Shallow breathing can be a result of an injury to the ribs or a lung problem. A wheezing noise that can be heard as a dog breathes is an indication of a serious problem. If other symptoms include a fever and lethargy, the problem may be associated with a lung disease.
The symptoms may indicate treatment for an infection. An x-ray can confirm the presence of a growth or infection in the lungs.