Why is my Great Dane Hacking? Here’s Why

It is incredibly concerning when your Great Dane is hacking or coughing. Hacking can be harmless and in some situations can be an indication of a problem.

It can be a worrisome sight, leaving you wondering why your dog is experiencing this uncomfortable symptom.

We outline the potential causes of Great Dane hacking as well as what to do and when to seek help.

Here's Why Great Dane hacking happens

Common causes of Great Dane hacking include respiratory infections, heart disease, tracheal collapse, cancer, heartworms, allergies, and foreign objects in the throat.  While occasional hacking may not be a cause for immediate concern, persistent hacking or the presence of other symptoms could indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires veterinary attention.

great dane hacking

Great Dane hacking symptoms to look out for

It is important to be aware of the common symptoms and signs that may indicate your Great Dane is experiencing hacking. 

By paying close attention to these indicators, you can promptly address any underlying health issues and ensure your Great Dane receives the necessary care.

Symptoms of Great Dane hacking include:

Coughing: One of the primary symptoms to watch out for is coughing which is simply hacking. 

If you notice your Great Dane frequently hacking or experiencing bouts of persistent hacking, it could be a sign of an underlying  respiratory problem or irritation.

Wheezing: Another symptom to be mindful of is wheezing. If your Great Dane is making high-pitched or raspy sounds while breathing, it could suggest a constriction in their airways. 

Wheezing can be a result of various conditions, including allergies or respiratory infections.

Difficulty Breathing: Difficulty in breathing is a significant concern and should never be ignored. If you observe your Great Dane struggling to catch their breath or showing signs of labored breathing. 

Difficulty breathing can be an indication of a severe respiratory issue or even a life-threatening condition such as heartworm disease.

Sneezing: While occasional sneezing is normal for dogs, frequent or excessive sneezing or with nasal discharge may indicate an underlying respiratory problem or allergies. 

Vomiting: Though not directly related to hacking, vomiting can sometimes accompany respiratory issues. If your Great Dane is hacking and also experiencing vomiting, it could be indicative of a more severe health problem. 

Vomiting can be a sign of gastrointestinal issues or the ingestion of a foreign object, which can lead to hacking as well.

Lethargy: If you notice a sudden decrease in your Great Dane’s energy levels or overall lethargy, it can be a sign that something is amiss. 

While lethargy alone may not necessarily indicate hacking, it is often associated with underlying health issues. 

Common causes of Great Dane hacking

Understanding the possible causes of hacking in Great Danes is important for identifying the underlying issue and seeking appropriate treatment. 

By being aware of these potential culprits, you can take the necessary steps to keep your gentle giant happy and healthy.

The most common causes of Great Dane hacking include:

Respiratory infections 

Respiratory infections of the airways, upper respiratory tract, and lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi, lead to hacking.

Infections such as kennel cough, sore throat, distemper, canine influenza, or pneumonia are common respiratory infections in Great Danes that lead to hacking. 

See Also: Great Dane breathing heavily: Should I be worried?

Heart disease

Heart disease causes rapid breathing and hacking, among other symptoms. It is common in older Great Danes. 

If your Great Dane has been diagnosed with heart disease, they may cough when resting, lying down, or sleeping, when the condition worsens.

Tracheal collapse

Tracheal collapse occurs when a Great Dane’s windpipe collapses and flattens which leaves a small passage for air to flow into the lungs.

The collapse occurs due to tracheal cartilage collapse. The restricted airflow through the trachea causes a Great Dane to have respiratory distress, cough, and gag when eating or drinking.

Tracheal collapse is common in middle-aged or older small-breed dogs but can also occur in large-breed dogs such as the Great Dane.

Related: Great Dane gagging: Causes, symptoms and when to seek help

Environmental allergies 

Allergies can manifest in various ways, and hacking is one of the potential symptoms. Allergic bronchitis is caused by the inhalation of irritants such as dust, pollen, aerosol spays, mildew, dust mites, grain mites, or cigarette smoke.

It is a persistent inflammation of the lower respiratory tract which leads to airway swelling and constriction of airflow into the lungs. 

The inflammation also causes the production of mucus in the bronchial tubes which further narrow the airway. 

Great Danes with bronchitis have a dry hacking cough that worsens during exercise or when overexcited.

Scarring of the airways can also occur and further weaken the bronchi membrane, which leads to wheezing and hacking.

It is important to identify the specific allergen causing the reaction so that appropriate measures can be taken to alleviate your Great Dane’s discomfort.

Ingestion of foreign objects 

Great Danes are known for their curious nature and tendency to explore their surroundings. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to them ingesting foreign objects that can become lodged in their airways. 

When this happens, it can result in hacking as they try to dislodge the object.

Foreign objects that can be ingested include sticks, broken toys, small balls, or bones, which block a dog’s throat.

Other conditions that are less common but cause Great Dane hacking include laryngeal (windpipe) paralysis, canine influenza, distemper, heartworm disease, and lung cancer.

Great Dane hacking at night

A Great Dane hacking at night can be caused by various factors including respiratory infection, heart diseases which can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs, causing coughing, particularly when your dog lies down at night, allergies, collapsed trachea, acid reflux and ingested or inhaled a foreign object. 

When to Seek Veterinary Help

While occasional hacking in your Great Dane may not be cause for immediate concern, there are certain instances when it’s important to seek veterinary help. This includes:

Persistent Hacking

If your Great Dane’s hacking persists for more than a few days or if it becomes more frequent and severe, it is important to seek veterinary help promptly. 

Persistent hacking can indicate underlying health issues such as heartworm disease or gastrointestinal problems. 

These conditions require proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified veterinarian to prevent further complications and promote your Great Dane’s well-being.

Other Symptoms Present

In addition to hacking, if your Great Dane shows other concerning symptoms such as hacking, wheezing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, vomiting, or lethargy, it’s important to consult your veterinarian. 

These symptoms could be indicative of a more serious underlying condition that requires immediate attention. 

By addressing these symptoms promptly, you can ensure that your Great Dane receives the necessary care and treatment to alleviate discomfort and prevent any potential health risks.

Great Dane hacking treatment 

Great Dane hacking treatment is based on the underlying cause. This includes:

Antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed if the cough is due to bacterial or viral respiratory infections to treat the infection.

Allergies can cause coughing in a Great Dane as well. Identifying and managing the allergen can help alleviate symptoms. Your veterinarian might recommend antihistamines or other allergy medications.

If heart problems are causing the cough or hacking, the treatment plan might involve medications to manage the heart condition and reduce fluid buildup in the lungs.

If the cough is due to something stuck in the throat, the veterinarian might need to perform a physical examination or use imaging techniques to locate and remove the object.

Lifestyle Changes: Depending on the cause, the veterinarian might recommend lifestyle changes such as adjusting your dog’s diet, avoiding environmental triggers, or making modifications to your dog’s living conditions.

Preventing Great Dane hacking

Taking proactive steps to prevent hacking in your Great Dane can greatly contribute to their overall health and well-being. Some preventive measures you can implement include:

Regular Veterinary Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for maintaining your Great Dane’s health. Schedule routine visits with your veterinarian to ensure that any potential health issues can be identified and addressed in a timely manner. 

During these check-ups, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination, including listening to your dog’s respiratory system, to detect any signs of hacking or underlying health conditions.

They may also recommend specific preventive measures based on your Great Dane’s individual needs.

Proper allergy management

Allergies can be a common cause of hacking in Great Danes. Implement proper allergy management strategies to minimize the risk of hacking episodes. 

This involves identifying and avoiding allergens that trigger your dog’s symptoms, such as certain foods, pollen, or environmental irritants. 

Your veterinarian can help you develop an appropriate allergy management plan, which may include dietary changes, environmental modifications, or allergy medication.


Vaccinations play a crucial role in safeguarding your Great Dane’s health. Ensure that your dog is up to date on all necessary vaccinations to protect against respiratory infections and other contagious diseases. 

Additionally, discuss with your veterinarian the appropriate preventive medications for your Great Dane, such as those for heartworm disease and parasites. 

Following the recommended vaccination and medication schedule can significantly reduce the risk of hacking and other health issues.

A Healthy Diet and Exercise

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine is important for the overall well-being of your Great Dane. 

Providing your dog with a balanced and nutritious diet will support their immune system and help prevent respiratory and health issues that can lead to hacking.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the ideal diet for your Great Dane’s specific needs.

Regular exercise is also essential for keeping your Great Dane physically and mentally stimulated. 

Engaging in activities that promote cardiovascular health, such as daily walks or play sessions, can help maintain proper respiratory function and reduce the likelihood of hacking.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your Great Dane’s lifestyle, you can minimize the risk of hacking and promote their long-term health and happiness.


It is important to address the issue of hacking in Great Danes promptly and effectively. Understanding the possible causes and being aware of the symptoms and signs to look out for can greatly assist you in taking appropriate action.

If your Great Dane is experiencing mild hacking, such as occasional hacking or sneezing, it may not require immediate veterinary attention. However, if the hacking persists or if there are other concerning symptoms present, seek veterinary help. 

Remember, your veterinarian is the best resource for diagnosing and treating any health issues your Great Dane may be experiencing.

If you need further information on Great Dane care, feel free to check out Our comprehensive guide  on the Great Dane.

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