The Coughing Dog


How often do you see an old dog with a cough which just doesn’t seem to respond to antibiotics? It’s not that often, but when you do, there’s a certain sinking feeling when you realise you finally have to take thoracic radiographs and there is a very real chance that a lung mass will be present.

The big problem with these cases, though, is that we take the radiographs too late.

There is a massive difference in prognosis between dogs with a small to medium-sized pulmonary mass and those with a larger tumour or one which has infiltrated the pleura.

This graph is taken from a paper that demonstrated unequivocally the marked difference in outcome achieved when dogs with lung tumours underwent surgery if they were diagnosed before the primary tumour got too large. MST stands for median survival time, i.e. average life expectancy. On the basis of this study, we very rarely operate on cases that are designated anything other than clinical stage 1. Fortunately, we have other medical approaches for those patients. So, the clear message is this:

With a coughing dog, radiograph early!

A speculative course of antibiotics is appropriate. But one course is plenty. If there is only limited improvement after one 7-10 day course, or if there is significant improvement but relapse within 3-4 weeks, radiograph. Do not trial another course of therapy first. Early radiography could mean the difference between a resectable mass and a non-resectable mass

Case Advice or Arranging a Referral

If you are a veterinary professional and would like to discuss a case with one of our team, or require pre-referral advice about a patient, please call 01883 741449Alternatively, to refer a case, please use the online referral form

About The Discipline



Need case advice or have any questions?

If you have any questions or would like advice on a case please call our dedicated vet line on 01883 741449 and ask to speak to one of our Oncology team.
Advice is freely available, even if the case cannot be referred.

Oncology Team

Our Oncology Team offer a caring, multi-disciplinary approach to all medical and surgical conditions.

Gerry Polton

MA VetMB MSc (Onc) DipECVIM (Oncology) MRCVS

Francesca Fabrizio

DVM MVetMed DipACVIM (Oncology) MRCVS

Michael Macfarlane

BVMS(hons) DipECVIM-CA (Oncology) MRCVS

Katherine Smallwood


Sofia Ramos