Health24.com | How to tell if your dog is faking a cough

Have you ever wondered if your dog’s sudden illness could all be a ploy for attention? Take a cough for example – your dog’s nasty cough only seems to get worse the more you comfort and soothe them.

Of course, you are seriously concerned about the well-being of your beloved pet, yet something does not seem to be quite right.

Besides coughing they don’t seem to show any other symptoms of ill health; they are eating healthily and still want to play and go for walks.

You’ve also noticed that they only seem to cough when you’re in their presence, but are just fine when you’re in another room. Then, when you enter again, they start wheezing and coughing. 

Why do dogs fake coughs? 

Fake coughing in a dog reflects the close bond between dogs and human beings. It is important to understand that by faking a cough the dog knows it will get extra love and attention from its owner.

For a dog, faking a cough is a learned behaviour. The fake cough develops when they start to associate the cough with love and attention from you, their owner. 

Your attention is a powerful reward for your dog, and it will do anything to get your sympathy – and cuddles.

For example, your dog might develop a genuine cough as a result of an itchy throat. You, the concerned owner will speak lovingly to them. Your dog coughs again and this time you not only use your soothing voice but you stroke their fur. Your intelligent dog will quickly make the link between their cough and your affection. Essentially, the dog is getting affection on cue just by coughing. 

Are they really sick or faking it? 

When dogs cough, they often lower their heads and extend their necks. They do this in order to help open up the airway and make it easier to cough. The dog usually opens their mouth and after each cough, they will make a slight gagging motion with their throat as well. 

This video shows the different coughs dogs experience:

In order to tell if the cough is real or fake, there a few characteristics that you need to be on the lookout for. A forceful and hacking cough or a cough that sounds wet and bubbly are highly unlikely to be fake. With a hacking cough, the dog can usually imitate it. However, a moist cough can be due to fluid in the lungs or mucus, which produces a sound that your dog might not be able to mimic. 

It is important to remember that a cough can be a clue to something more serious, so never ignore a cough just because you think it might be fake. It is vital to get any dog with a cough checked out by your vet. Only once your dog has a clean bill of health can you assume they are faking it all for your attention.

Clues that your dog might be faking a cough after you’ve already taken them to the vet:

  • Forcing a cough out as you pet them
  • Making eye contact while coughing
  • A slow tail wag
  • Constantly coming to you for attention

How to deal with a fake cough:

  • Make sure it is indeed fake by having your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian.
  • Ignore your dog if it has been determined to be a fake cough.
  • Reward them for neutral behaviour so they will stop seeking attention. 

Have a question? Ask our CyberVet 

Image credit: iStock 

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