My dog has been coughing and trying to clear her throat since coming back from the groomer. What are some possible causes and how do we treat this?

Original Question: Hi, my dog had a haircut this afternoon and it seems that some soapy water got into her nose. Now she has difficulty breathing and is trying to cough up something in her throat but she can't. What can we do to help clear her airway? Thanks - Nick

My dog has been coughing and trying to clear her throat since coming back from the groomer. What are some possible causes and how do we treat this? Dec 13, 2017

Hi Nick,

Thanks for your question and sorry to hear this happened.

I’m certain that when dogs get groomed, inevitably some water or soap can get into their nose. They can often be excited during a bath which would certainly increase the odds of this happening. In 15 years of practice, I have not heard of a reaction to soap like this. Here are my thoughts.

First, I will make the point that dogs can easily catch an upper airway infection at a groomers or boarding facility. It is that time of year that kennel cough can happen so this has to be a consideration. I would also mention that when clients describe kennel cough to me, they commonly say that it looks like the dog is trying to cough something up. Furthermore, if an irritant were to get in the nose, I would expect a sinus reaction which is much more likely to cause sneezing rather than coughing.

Second, if this is an allergic reaction to some carrying agents in the soap, again I would expect sneezing and not coughing. However, a rougher breathing pattern or wheeze is possible.

I would recommend the following. If your dog is energetic, breathing well, eating, running, playing and acting generally normal, you could monitor this for the next 24 hours. Look for specific symptoms like any discharge from the nostrils, distinguish between coughing and sneezing, and monitor energy levels and breathing. If the symptoms persist, I would recommend you go to your regular veterinarian for a physical examination and consultation. If the symptoms are more serious and the coughing is persistent, breathing is difficult or laboured, energy levels are low, appetite reduced or anything else is present that is concerning, please consider going right to your veterinarian for a physical examination and consultation. Consider blood work, radiographs and a good listen to the chest as the first steps.

I hope this helps!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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