Why Is My Dog Wheezing?
Wheezing in dogs occurs when something impairs or blocks the flow of air in the windpipe, causing stridor (a whistling sound). This can be caused by swelling and inflammation in the airways, something getting stuck in the windpipe, or a number of medical issues.1
A few seconds of wheezing is likely nothing to be concerned about, but if your dog is consistently wheezing or the wheezing is accompanied by other symptoms, it could indicate a serious health issue that warrants a visit to the vet.
What Does A Wheezing Dog Sound Like?
If your dog is making wheezing noises, it can certainly be alarming. The sound is different than a cough or sneeze, and sounds very similar to a wheezing sound a human would make. A wheezing dog will make a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing, usually on an exhale.
If your dog is in distress, they may try to find a spot to lay down to try to get their breathing under control.
Causes Of Dog Wheezing
Canine chronic bronchitis is a condition that affects the lower airways in a dog’s lungs. In bronchitis, inflammation causes the airways to swell and release mucous, ultimately causing the airways to narrow. The main symptom of bronchitis is coughing (an attempt to clear the airways), however, as the condition worsens, dogs will have difficulty breathing and may begin to wheeze when exhaling.
A collapsed trachea is a chronic condition in dogs that affects the windpipe (trachea). Weak cartilage in the supportive rings around the trachea collapse, leading to mild to severe obstruction of a dog’s airway. Symptoms of this condition including a honking cough and abnormal breathing sounds, including wheezing.
Airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust can cause a dog to wheeze. When these allergens enter the dog’s airways, an allergic response may cause the airway to swell, making breathing difficult.2
Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection that causes irritation in the airways. The most common symptom is a persistent dry cough, but breathing difficulties such as wheezing can also develop or worsen with exercise.
Upper respiratory tract infections are similar to a cold or flu in humans and can cause wheezing in dogs. The symptoms of these infections usually include coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing (including wheezing), and low exercise tolerance.3
Various heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and mitral valve disease can cause wheezing in older dogs and occasionally younger dogs. These diseases can cause dogs to have difficulty breathing due to lethargy and exercise intolerance, which may cause wheezing.4
Foreign bodies stuck in your dog’s windpipe can cause wheezing due to partial obstruction of the airway. These objects could include bone fragments, large pieces of food, toys, sticks, or other objects your dog might find around the house or yard. This is especially a problem in younger dogs who like to chew on just about anything, so if you notice your puppy wheezing, take action right away.
When You Should Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Wheezing
If your dog’s wheezing is accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms, it may be indicative of an emergency. Take them to the vet immediately for treatment.
1. Your dog is wheezing and gasping for breath
If your dog is having difficulty taking a breath, it could be a sign of a life-threatening medical emergency such as an allergic reaction or a serious heart condition.
2. Your dog is wheezing and gagging
If your dog is gagging or retching in addition to wheezing, it could be a sign that something is stuck in the windpipe.
3. Your dog is coughing and wheezing
A wheeze accompanied by a cough could indicate an upper respiratory infection, kennel cough, lower airway disease, or a foreign body stuck in the trachea.
4. Your dog is wheezing and showing blue gums or tongue
If your dog is having trouble breathing and is showing blue-ish gums or tongue, they aren’t getting enough oxygen to their lungs and require medical attention immediately.
5. Your dog is wheezing with an accelerated rate of breathing
Wheezing accompanied by a fast rate of breathing could indicate a range of diseases and conditions, such as chronic bronchitis or heart disease.
6. Your dog is wheezing and has no appetite
If your dog is having trouble breathing and isn’t eating food, it can be a sign of infection or another serious condition.
7. Your dog keeps wheezing
If your dog is consistently wheezing with no improvement in symptoms, it warrants a visit to the vet to see if there is an underlying cause.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Wheezing
If your dog is wheezing and showing signs of distress, it is important to take steps to help keep them calm and breathe easier.
1. Remain calm
Dogs are very intuitive animals and can sense when you’re stressed and panicked. Remain calm and keep your pet comfortable.
2. Move your dog to a well-ventilated area
If possible, move your dog to an area of your home that has good airflow.
3. Remove triggers from your dog’s environment
Remove triggers from around your dog, including strongly scented products (such as candles, air fresheners, or aerosol sprays). If your dog is outside, bring them inside to see if symptoms improve.
4. Take a video of your dog’s symptoms
It is often easier for veterinarians to see and hear the symptoms your dog is showing at home by watching a video, as your dog might not be showing the symptoms when you arrive at the clinic.
5. Take your dog to the vet
If your dog keeps wheezing or shows other symptoms, take them to the vet immediately.
Treatment For A Wheezing Dog
Since there are many causes of wheezing in dogs, the underlying condition must first be diagnosed so the appropriate treatment plan can be made. An examination will reveal the right course of treatment for your pet.
For infections, treatment will likely include antibiotics. If the wheezing is caused by chronic bronchitis, your vet will likely prescribe a bronchodilator as a rescue medication to use when your dog is in distress. These medications work to relax the muscles in the airways to allow your dog to breathe easier.
A dog with bronchitis will also require a daily corticosteroid medication to manage the condition and help keep symptoms at bay. Both corticosteroids and bronchodilators can be prescribed as inhalers and are much easier to administer to your pet than a pill or syrup. Speak with your vet about using inhaled medication in conjunction with the AeroDawg canine aerosol chamber to keep your dog happy and healthy.
To help your dog breathe easier, your vet might recommend that you make some changes around the house. This may include:
- Avoiding the use of aerosols and harsh chemicals
- Vacuuming and cleaning frequently to avoid dust build-up
- Changing your air filters on a regular basis
- Avoiding the use of heavily scented products
- Not smoking around your dog
Make sure you feed your dog a healthy, well-balanced diet. A complete diet will help give your dog the nutrition they need to keep their immune system healthy. If necessary, your vet may recommend feeding your dog a low-allergen diet to help control symptoms.
If your dog is overweight or obese, they can have a lower tolerance for exercise and their respiratory system can be compromised. Your vet may recommend:
- Taking your dog on shorter but more frequent walks
- Feeding your dog a specially formulated food for weight loss
- Playing with your dog
- Feeding your dog a smaller amount of food
Keep Your Dog Healthy And Safe
If your dog is showing signs of breathing difficulties such as wheezing, always err on the side of caution and take them to the vet. The sooner an underlying condition is caught, the better. Even with lifelong conditions such as chronic bronchitis, symptoms can be controlled with the right treatment.
Learn how the AreoDawg* Chamber can help your dog breathe easier.