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Causes for Dog Coughing After Anesthesia/Surgery

Dog Coughing After Anesthesia

Dog coughing after anesthesia: after your dog goes through anesthesia for a surgery, you expect your dog to be feeling better, instead your dog is coughing, which has you concerned. If your dog is the type who has never coughed much before, you are likely putting on your investigative hat and trying to figure out what is going on. Common sense tells you that the cough must have something to do with the surgery, but you're not sure exactly what is causing it. Following are some possible explanations provided by veterinarians.

dog belly

Irritation from Endotracheal Tube

When your dog goes under anesthesia, an endotracheal tube will be inserted and this at times can cause irritation. What exactly is an endotracheal tube? An endotracheal tube is simply a hollow tube that is inserted through the mouth and that goes down the throat, reaching the lungs.

The purpose of the tube is to allow breathing because when a dog undergoes surgery, he will be given several drugs that are meant to make him relax and fall asleep. These medications interfere with the dog's ability to breathe on his own, and therefore the endotracheal tube allows the dog to receive the oxygen he needs.

While the endotracheal tube carries the important function of allowing the dog to breathe, it can sometimes be a source of irritation and inflammation. This can cause a self-limiting cough that can be helped with prescription anti-inflammatory medications from the vet, explains veterinarian Dr. B. Fortunately, this form of coughing tends to resolve on its own within a week.

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"An endotracheal tube that fit too snuggly in Scooter's trachea while he was anesthetized and hooked up to the gas anesthetic machine is the most common cause of a patient's coughing a day after an anesthetic procedure."~Dr. Michael Salkin, veterinarian

A Case of Kennel Cough

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Kennel cough is bacterial infection in dogs that can be easily transmitted from one dog to another. If your dog was vaccinated against kennel cough, he shouldn't get this condition, but no vaccine is 100 percent effective and vaccinated dogs may get a mild form. If your dog was not vaccinated, there are higher chances for your dog to contract it.

Consider that when a dog undergoes anesthesia and surgery, it puts his body under stress, and this is when opportunistic bacteria may set in. Being hospitalized in a vet clinic around many dogs, can sometimes be a cause for kennel cough. Just like people end up getting a cold after visiting a hospital, dogs can get kennel cough after being hospitalized.

The incubation period of kennel cough (the time it takes for your dog to show symptoms) is usually 4 to 10 days. The coughing tends to last anywhere from one week up to three weeks. If you suspect your dog may have kennel cough, consult with your vet. Your vet may prescribe medications to calm the cough and antibiotics if there is an infection.


Soothing the Throat at Home 

As you wait for your veterinarian appointment to investigate the cause of your dog's coughing, you can give your dog some plain honey to sooth the coughing and irritated throat, further suggests Dr. B. Additionally, for the time being, your dog may enjoy more eating some soft foods such as kibble soaked in some warm water rather than dry food.

If the coughing persists or gets worse, it's important to see the vet. Coughing in dogs after surgery can sometimes be a sign of heart disease which was unmasked by the anesthetic procedure, damage to the dog's airway sustained from intubation or aspiration pneumonia taking place during anesthesia, explains veterinarian Doc Sara.  Always best to play it safe and consult with the vet when in doubt.

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