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Why Is My Dog Wheezing?

Dogs make various sounds to communicate and express themselves, such as barking, whining, whimpering, and yawning. However, wheezing is not common and can be alarming for dog owners. Like humans, wheezing indicates that something is affecting your dog’s breathing and needs attention. This article explains the causes and treatment options for dog wheezing.

Understanding Dog Wheezing: An Introduction

Dog Wheezing

When a dog has trouble breathing and whistles, it may be caused by a blockage or inflammation in the airway. This can be due to various medical conditions or an object stuck in the windpipe. If the wheezing lasts for a short time, there is probably no need to worry. At this point, you likely wonder, “Why is my dog wheezing?”

You can look for home remedies for dog wheezing to help ease your pup’s discomfort if your dog experiences consistent wheezing or other symptoms. But, taking them to the vet is essential, as this may signal a serious health concern.

It can be concerning if your dog is making noises that sound similar to human wheezing. The sound is different from coughing or sneezing and is high-pitched. Dogs may try to find a resting place if they are in distress and struggling to breathe properly.

Importance of Recognizing and Addressing Wheezing in Dogs

Recognizing wheezing in dogs is vital for their health and well-being. Wheezing can indicate an allergic reaction, heartworm disease, or other respiratory conditions. Dog asthma is another possible cause of wheezing, which can be dangerous if not treated properly. But you should understand that large breed dogs are less likely to have the disease than smaller dogs.

An exam by your veterinarian will help diagnose the underlying cause of the wheezing. If left untreated, your dog’s condition may worsen and cause more serious lung and airway problems.

Causes of Dog Wheezing: Exploring the Factors

As a pet owner, it’s important to know that there are different reasons why your dog may be coughing and wheezing. It could be due to a minor issue that can be quickly resolved through a visit to the vet. But it could also be a sign of a more serious health problem that requires urgent medical attention. Here are some possible causes of your dog’s coughing and wheezing, along with the appropriate actions to take.

Allergies and Environmental Irritants as Potential Causes

Coughing and wheezing are common symptoms caused by dog allergies. Dogs can have allergic reactions to various things, including pollen, mold, dust mites, and cigarette smoke. When allergies trigger asthma, a dog may wheeze because of restricted airways. In addition to coughing and wheezing, dogs with allergies may exhibit hives, diarrhea, itchy ears, hair loss, and inflamed skin that appears red.

Different approaches are available to treat dogs’ allergies depending on the allergen. Some treatment methods include avoidance of the allergen to prevent reactions or changing your dog’s diet if they have a food allergy. Additionally, you can administer allergy relief medication. It is best to consult your vet to determine the most appropriate method for your dog’s allergies.

Respiratory Infections and Illnesses Leading to Wheezing

Respiratory Infections

Dogs with bronchitis may have coughing and wheezing issues, particularly those with chronic bronchitis. This disease affects a dog’s lower lungs. It can cause persistent coughing and wheezing due to inflammation of the bronchi lining. Additionally, bronchitis can be made worse by suboptimal air quality and environmental stressors such as cigarette smoke and mold.

To treat your dog’s bronchitis, the vet may recommend corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and coughing. You can also improve your dog’s breathing at home by avoiding smoking and scented sprays and ensuring good airflow.

Structural Abnormalities or Obstructions in the Airways

When dogs eat too quickly, it can cause food to block their airway, leading to coughing and wheezing. If your dog exhibits coughing and wheezing right after eating, first examine their throat to see if there’s anything stuck. Your dog may have also ingested a toy fragment while chewing, which can lodge in its airway.

If you think your dog is choking, use your fingers to remove any object from their airway. If this is not successful, attempt the Heimlich maneuver. If these methods don’t work or your dog is in critical condition, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Caring for your pet dog’s wheezing problems should be your top priority to avoid potential health risks.

Underlying Health Conditions Contributing to Wheezing

When dogs have heart disease, they might start wheezing after a while. Wheezing is not among the initial or final signs of heart disease; it typically occurs in the middle stages of the disease for most dogs. If your dog has heart disease, your veterinarian can advise you on the best action for your pet and you.

Dogs can also develop a condition called tracheal collapse, where the cartilage in their windpipe weakens, leading to obstructed airways and symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. This condition is most commonly found in small dog breeds and is more prevalent in overweight dogs, although the cause is unknown. Your veterinarian may recommend a weight loss program to manage your dog’s symptoms and relieve discomfort caused by tracheal irritation.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Dog Wheezing

If your dog is coughing and wheezing, it’s essential to take note of other symptoms, they may be displaying. Common signs of respiratory issues include lethargy, difficulty breathing, decreased appetite, and increased mucus production. Depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s wheezing, you may also observe changes in their behavior, such as a reluctance to move around or exercise.

Getting the Right Diagnosis and Treatment for Dog Wheezing

It’s important to consult with your veterinarian if your pup is wheezing and coughing. Your vet will be able to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem and provide an appropriate treatment plan for your dog. Depending on your dog’s age, breed, and overall health, the treatment plan may include antibiotics, steroids, or a combination of both.

Your vet can also provide medication to reduce inflammation in the airways and relax bronchial muscles. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove an obstruction from the windpipe.

Signs of Respiratory Distress or Discomfort in Dogs

If your dog’s coughing and wheezing are accompanied by discomfort, such as labored breathing and difficulty moving around, it could indicate a more serious underlying condition. It’s essential to take your pup to the vet if they exhibit these symptoms to properly diagnose and treat the issue.

It’s essential to be mindful of your dog’s health and behavior, especially if they are wheezing. If you suspect something is wrong with your pup, immediately take them to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Understanding why your dog may be wheezing can help you provide them with the care they need.

Common Triggers of Dog Wheezing

Many things can trigger dog wheezing. Here are some of the most common triggers:

Exposure to Airborne Allergens

dog lying in bed

Airborne allergens such as pollen, mold spores, and dust mites can irritate your dog’s airway and cause wheezing. These allergies can be seasonal, but dogs with asthma may be sensitive throughout the year. In winter, household allergens like dust mites can worsen due to furnace use, while in spring and summer, pollen and mold spores may be more prevalent.

Inhalation of Irritants

Exposure to various substances like household cleaning products, perfumes, scented candles, incense, smoke, hairspray, and aerosol deodorants can irritate a dog’s airways and cause wheezing. This wheezing is temporary and only occurs when the dog comes in contact with the irritant. Although not usually serious, it can cause discomfort to your dog if they are sensitive to these products or certain scents.

Respiratory Infections Caused by Viruses or Bacteria

Dogs can contract kennel cough from other dogs, characterized by a persistent cough lasting several days. The disease is caused by a combination of viruses and bacteria. Each dog’s symptoms and treatment requirements may vary.

The pathogens that cause kennel cough can damage the lining of different parts of the respiratory tract, leading to inflammation and infection. The respiratory system includes the nose, throat, voice box, windpipe, lungs, and bronchial tubes. As air moves through the lungs, it travels through increasingly smaller tubes called bronchioles.

Exercise-Induced Wheezing or Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB)

EIB is a condition in which the bronchioles of the lungs narrow due to exercise, resulting in coughing and wheezing. EIB can also be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest tightness, fatigue, and limited physical activity. To prevent this type of wheezing, it’s important to gradually increase the intensity of your dog’s exercise and to keep the environment in which they exercise cool, clean, and well-ventilated.

Presence of Foreign Objects or Mucus in the airways

If you hear your dog wheezing, they might have something stuck in their breathing tubes. This could be blocking some of the airflow and causing the wheezing sound. This is not the same as a choke, where the airway is completely blocked.

Dogs with a foreign object stuck in their airways may cough or clear their throat frequently to remove the object. This is more common in younger dogs or those with a habit of chewing on objects like bones, balls, toys, or items around the house. Sometimes, dogs that play in wooded areas may also accidentally inhale small sticks or plant materials into their nose or throat.If a dog is making wheezing sounds while breathing and has something stuck in its throat, it should be treated as an emergency even if it seems to be breathing fine otherwise. This is because the object could shift, leading to complete obstruction or causing serious complications such as lung infections or a life-threatening condition known as pneumothorax, characterized by punctured lungs.

Is Dog Wheezing a Serious Concern?

Although wheezing in dogs should not be ignored, it is usually not life-threatening. If your dog is behaving normally, eating well, and drinking plenty of water, you may not need to rush to the vet. Simply check your dog’s condition to see if it worsens. Book an appointment with your regular veterinarian for further evaluation.

If your dog is wheezing and experiencing a persistent hacking cough, difficulty breathing, weakness or collapse, and hives, or if you notice blue gums, it is crucial to take your dog to the emergency veterinarian right away. These symptoms could indicate life-threatening conditions.

When to Seek Veterinary Care for Dog Wheezing

It could be an emergency if your dog is wheezing and shows any of the following symptoms. You should take your dog to a vet right away for treatment.

  • Coughing and Wheezing – Your dog is experiencing coughing and wheezing, which could be a sign of upper respiratory infection, kennel cough, lower airway disease, or a foreign object trapped in the trachea.
  • Gasping for Breath – Your dog seems to be experiencing trouble breathing and making gasping sounds. This could indicate a serious medical emergency, such as a heart condition or an allergic reaction.
  • Does Not Stop Wheezing – If your dog is wheezing frequently and shows no sign of relief, it is recommended to take them to the vet to check for any potential underlying reasons.
  • No Appetite – Your dog is experiencing wheezing and loss of appetite, which could be a symptom of infection or a severe condition.
  • Blue Gums of Tongue – If your dog is wheezing and has blue gums or tongues, it is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen to their lungs. Please seek medical attention for your dog immediately.
  • Gagging Sounds – Your dog is experiencing both wheezing and gagging. This might indicate that something is obstructing their windpipe.
  • Accelerated Breathing – Your dog is breathing rapidly and making a high-pitched whistling sound, which may indicate the presence of various health issues, including heart disease or chronic bronchitis.

When wheezing may indicate an emergency requiring immediate veterinary care, it’s essential to keep an eye on your pup and notice any changes in its behavior. If anything looks out of the ordinary or you are concerned about your pet’s health, take them to the vet for a check-up. Many respiratory issues can be managed successfully with early detection and appropriate treatment.

Diagnosing Dog Wheezing: Veterinary Examination and Tests

To help your dog, the veterinarian will ask for specific details, like when the wheezing started and other events leading up to it. You should also know your dog’s medication, vaccination history, and travel history. This information will assist the veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis.

Physical Exam and Lab Testing

A physical exam will be conducted to identify the reason behind your dog’s wheezing, and laboratory testing might be necessary. Laboratory testing can comprise bloodwork, x-ray, and other testing as deemed necessary. Your vet may also prescribe medication for your pup to relieve the symptoms.

Once the underlying cause of the wheezing has been determined, your veterinarian can provide you with a treatment plan tailor-made for your pup. The type of treatment will depend on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms.

Caring for Your Dog’s Wheezing

After consulting with your veterinarian, you should follow the instructions to provide your dog with the best care. Suppose your pup is experiencing wheezing due to an infection. In that case, it may need antibiotics or other medication as your vet prescribes. You may also need to make dietary changes and feed them special food if they have allergies or digestive issues.

Environmental Changes

In some cases, your vet may recommend environmental changes to reduce the triggers of wheezing for your pup; for instance, if your dog is sensitive to airborne allergens, keeping the home clean and dust-free can make a difference in their symptoms. Providing them with plenty of exercise and attention is essential, as this can help with their physical and mental well-being.

Treatment Options for Dog Wheezing: Managing the Condition

The treatment for wheezing depends on the cause. Your veterinarian may sedate them and remove the object using medical tools if your dog has a foreign object causing the wheezing. If the wheezing is due to an infection, the treatment will focus on getting rid of the infection.


If your dog has an infection, antibiotics will be used for treatment. If the wheezing is due to chronic bronchitis, the vet will prescribe a bronchodilator as a rescue medication when your dog is in distress. These medications help relax the muscles in the airways, allowing your dog to breathe easily.

If your dog has bronchitis, your vet may prescribe a daily corticosteroid medication and bronchodilators. These medications can be given as inhalers for easier administration. You can ask your vet about using a device to help your dog inhale the medication and manage the condition effectively.

Dietary Modifications

It is vital to provide your dog with a nutritious and well-balanced diet to maintain their immune system. Your veterinarian may suggest a low-allergen diet for your dog if they require it to manage their symptoms.

An obese or overweight dog may struggle with exercise and breathing. At this point, the vet may suggest the following:

  • Playing with your dog
  • Giving your dog a weight loss food recommended by the vet
  • Take your dog on shorter walks but more often
  • Feed your dog smaller amounts of food.

Environmental Modification

If your dog has difficulty breathing, your vet may suggest making some changes at home. These could include: avoiding aerosols and harsh chemicals, cleaning regularly to prevent dust build-up, changing air filters often, avoiding heavily scented products, and not smoking near your dog. Also, avoid putting your dog on white blankets with its tongue out.

Surgery to Remove Foreign Bodies

During a sedated airway exam, removing foreign objects from the airway may be possible. However, a bronchoscopy or surgery may be necessary if this is not possible. Surgery is rarely needed, but removing an object from the airway may be necessary if your dog cannot expel it on its own.

Medications Commonly Prescribed for Wheezing in Dogs

Your veterinarian will discuss the appropriate medications for your dog’s condition if the wheezing is caused by allergic asthma or bronchitis. Also, your vet may suggest ways to reduce allergens at home, like using HEPA filters, vacuuming, etc. In case of wheezing due to heart disease, your vet can prescribe medications to strengthen the heart. If the cause of wheezing is a collapsing trachea, your vet can prescribe cough medicine and control the environment where the dog stays to prevent overheating.

  • Asthma Inhalers – If your dog is experiencing breathing difficulties due to asthma, your vet may recommend using asthma inhalers such as Albuterol sulfate. This medication can help relax the airway muscles and improve your dog’s breathing. However, it’s essential to always consult with your vet before giving your dog any medication. Keep in mind that many medications that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs.
  • Bronchodilators – Salbutamol, also known as albuterol sulfate, is a medication that helps to improve breathing by relaxing the muscles of the airways. It also helps to relieve the cough that comes with asthma. While cats can benefit from this medication, dogs are not usually affected by actual airway constriction.

Importance of Following the Veterinarian’s Prescribed Treatment Plan

Following the veterinarian-prescribed treatment plan for your dog’s wheezing is essential. This is because this condition could be caused by serious illnesses that may require medication and lifestyle changes. Regularly monitor your pup’s condition and seek medical advice if you notice any change in their behavior or health status. Remember, early detection and treatment of these conditions can help your pup to live a long and healthy life.

Lifestyle modifications can also help to reduce the risk of wheezing in your pup. Make sure to provide them with regular exercise and a healthy diet and minimize their exposure to smoke or other airborne irritants that may cause wheezing.

Natural Remedies and Home Care for Dog Wheezing

Taking dog wheezing seriously is essential, as it can lead to serious health issues. Although it can be caused by everyday allergens and may only last a few minutes, it can also be dangerous and potentially life-threatening in some cases.

Complementary Therapies

Experienced practitioners often consider complementary/alternative therapies as safe. However, consuming nutraceuticals or herbs may pose a risk as they are not FDA-approved, and there is a possibility of overdosing or causing a harmful drug interaction.

Natural Remedies

Contrary to common misconception, bronchodilators and antibiotics available without prescription are not the only treatments for canine wheezing. You can use natural remedies to support your furry friend when they are wheezing and even prevent this condition from occurring. Try out these all-natural home remedies during the next episode of your pet’s wheezing.

Elecampane Tea

The organic compound alantolactone is found in elecampane and has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on constricted airways caused by respiratory inflammation. This compound can also help improve airway function in individuals exposed to cigarette smoke.

To help ease your dog’s wheezing at home, use elecampane by steeping a teaspoon of the dried root herb in a cup of hot water for at least ten (10) minutes. After the mixture has completely cooled down, you can give your dog one teaspoon of the tea twice a day or add a couple of teaspoons to their water.


Eating foods high in quercetin, such as dark cherries, unpeeled apples, and blueberries, may help stabilize respiratory rates. Studies also suggest that quercetin may help normalize respiratory rates in animals frequently exposed to cigarette smoke. If your dog is wheezing, you can try incorporating quercetin-rich foods into its regular diet as a home remedy.

Licorice Root

Licorice root can prevent allergic responses in the respiratory system by inhibiting the accumulation of 11-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. You can use licorice root as a home remedy for dog wheezing by steeping a teaspoon of it in a cup of hot water for at least 15 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool down completely before using it.

To give your dog licorice root tea, you can administer two (2) teaspoons directly twice a day or add the same amount to their water. To make the tea more palatable, you can sweeten it with a bit of honey due to its slightly bitter taste.Echinacea

Echinacea contains a significant amount of arabinogalactan, a starch-like chemical. This compound has been found to have therapeutic effects in treating upper respiratory tract infections and inflammations. Arabinogalactan has also been observed to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with health issues such as otitis media and pharyngotonsillitis, frequently caused by infections and inflammations in the upper respiratory tract.

You can use echinacea as a home remedy to help with your dog’s wheezing. Steep a teaspoon of dried echinacea flowers in a cup of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Stir it gently to make sure all the bits are soaked. Once cooled, give your dog 2 teaspoons of the tea twice daily or add it to their water.

Preventing Dog Wheezing: Tips for Maintaining Respiratory Health

The best way to keep your pup healthy is by preventing or managing any potential health issues. Here are some tips that you can use to maintain your pup’s respiratory health and avoid wheezing:

Provide Regular Exercise for Your Dog

Exercise helps build strength in the lungs, which could help reduce the risk of wheezing. Regular exercise can also help reduce stress, which could cause wheezing.

Keep Your Pup Away from Smoke and Polluted Areas

Smoke, dust, and other pollutants present in the air can irritate the airways and lead to wheezing. Try to keep your pup away from such areas as much as possible.

Give Your Pup a Nutritious Diet

A balanced diet helps keep your dog’s immune system strong and can prevent many respiratory issues.

Keep an Eye on any Changes in Behavior

If you notice any sudden change in your dog’s behavior, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of conditions can help reduce the risk of wheezing.

Vaccinate Your Pup

Regular vaccinations can help boost your pup’s immune system, protecting them from potential diseases that may lead to wheezing.

These tips will help you keep your furry friend healthy and happy while reducing the risk of developing respiratory issues such as wheezing. Remember, prevention is always better than cure!

Wheezing in dogs can be a sign of various medical conditions, and it’s important to take it seriously. While medications are available for treating wheezing, many pet owners also opt for natural remedies. With early detection and treatment of the underlying causes of wheezing—whether through medication or natural remedies—you will ensure your dog lives a happy and healthy life!

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Is wheezing in dogs a sign of a respiratory infection?

Wheezing can be a sign of an underlying respiratory infection. If your dog has been exposed to a virus or bacteria that causes respiratory issues, it may start wheezing as its airways become constricted.

2) Can allergies cause wheezing in dogs?

Yes, allergies can cause wheezing in dogs. Allergens can trigger wheezing due to inflammation of the airways. Your vet may recommend an allergy test to determine if your pup has any allergies that could be causing the wheezing.

3) Are there any breed-specific factors that contribute to dog wheezing?

Some dog breeds are predisposed to certain respiratory conditions or infections that can cause wheezing. For example, pugs may be more susceptible to tracheal collapse due to their flat snouts and narrower tracheas.

4) Can heart conditions lead to wheezing in dogs?

Yes, heart conditions can cause wheezing in dogs. If your pup has an underlying heart condition such as congestive heart failure or valvular disease, it may lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs due to inefficient pumping of the blood.

5) What should I do if my dog is wheezing after exercising?

If your pup is wheezing after exercising, it could indicate an underlying health issue. You should immediately stop the exercise and seek medical advice from your vet to investigate the cause of the wheezing.

6) Can dental issues be a cause of wheezing in dogs?

Dental issues can cause wheezing in dogs. Poor oral hygiene and periodontal diseases can lead to an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth or respiratory tract, triggering wheezing. Therefore, keeping your pup’s teeth clean at all times is essential.

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