Why Is My Dog Wheezing? 7 Potential Causes

Why is my dog wheezing?

So you hear your dog wheezing?

This is about the time many dog owners frantically rush their dogs to the vet.

But, there’s no need to panic…

While there are many causes of wheezing in dogs, most are not serious. Below you’ll learn all of these causes, how to help them, and how to prevent them.

What Is Dog Wheezing?

Wheezing can be described as a high pitch whistling or rattling sound that occurs during inhalation or exhalation.

A dog’s airways are meant to expand and contract to allow proper air flow into the lungs. However, when the airway contracts too much it creates a narrow space for the air to pass through, resulting in a wheezing sound.

What Causes Wheezing In Dogs?

1. Allergies

Perhaps the most common cause of wheezing in dogs. Your dog will also likely show signs of itchy skin, sneezing, or coughing. This is generally caused by environmental irritants such as pollen, dust, smoke, or chemicals.

Some dogs may also develop an allergic reaction to insect stings or bites. If they begin wheezing after an insect sting or bite take them to a veterinarian immediately.

2. Asthma

Asthma can affect dogs the same way as humans, although it is more rare for canines. It can also be provoked by airborne allergens. Asthma can cause wheezing and is often accompanied with coughing and sneezing.

3. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a contagious respiratory disease that is contracted through the air or contact with an infected surface. It is commonly spread where many dogs congregate such as dog parks and of course kennels.

The most common symptom is a dry cough that sounds like a goose honking. This is usually accompanied with wheezing, a runny nose, sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, and a low fever.

It usually goes away after a couple weeks but a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or cough medicine for more severe cases.

4. Bronchitis

This is inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs that’s caused by a virus or infection. Major symptoms are wheezing and coughing that typically get worse with physical exercise or stress.

Older dogs with weaker immune systems tend to be more susceptible to bronchitis.

5. Heartworms

Heartworms are a parasite that are spread by mosquitoes that carry the heartworm larvae. The larvae migrate to the heart and mature inside a dogs body.

There are often no symptoms until the heartworms mature and can eventually become fatal. Some of the first symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and lethargy.

Heartworm preventative medications are available and highly recommended for all canines.

6. Heart problems

When the heart isn’t functioning properly it can cause fluid to build up in the lungs. This fluid build up causes wheezing and coughing, particularly after exercise.

Heart problems are more common in older and overweight dogs. This can be a very serious condition. If you suspect this may be the cause of your dog wheezing you should have them examined by a veterinarian.

7. Reverse sneezing

Unlike a regular sneeze where air is pushed out of the nose, a reverse sneeze is where air is pulled in through the nose. This can be recognized by a loud rough snorting sound that can be confused for wheezing. Dogs tend to stand with their head extended and make a series of convulsing motions.

This occurs more commonly in smaller breeds. I had an older Jack Russell that would have this happen when he got excited.These episodes are harmless and usually last only a few seconds to a couple minutes.

If this begins happening more frequently or for longer durations you should consider taking your dog to a vet to rule out more serious conditions.  

What To Do If My Dog Is Wheezing?

If the wheezing only lasts for a short time and your dog is behaving and breathing normally then taking them to a veterinarian is likely not necessary.

However, be sure to keep an eye on them in case the wheezing comes back.

Important: If your dog is at all having difficulty breathing along with the wheezing then you should take them to a vet immediately. Breathing difficulties can develop into worse conditions fast.

If you think the wheezing is from an obstruction in their throat do not try to remove it yourself if possible. There is a chance you may force it further down the throat causing it to completely obstruct the airway. Take your dog to a vet immediately where they can safely remove the object.

Most common causes of wheezing such as allergies, asthma, or bronchitis can be treated with medications or antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian.

How Do I Prevent Dog Wheezing?

Avoid pollen and other allergens

If you think pollen is causing your dog’s allergies and it’s the time of year when there is a lot of pollen try to keep your dog inside as much as possible. You should also try to keep the windows closed.

Bathing your dog to remove pollen and allergens from their coat is also recommended.

You may also want to have your vet do an allergy test so you can adjust your dog’s environment or food to prevent their allergies.

Boost their immune system

Dogs with weak immune systems are more likely to develop infections that cause wheezing such as bronchitis.

You can boost your dog’s immune system in the following ways:

  • Make sure they are not overweight and get adequate exercise.
  • Feed your dog a healthy diet with minimal starches and no grains.
  • Consider giving your dog a probiotic. Ask your vet about the correct probiotic strains.
  • Give your dog plenty of love. This sounds cheesy but it can’t hurt.

Use a humidifier and/or air purifier

This helps create an environment with clean moist air that’s easy on your dog’s lungs.

Avoid Smoking Around Your Dog

Dogs have sensitive lungs when it comes to smoke. Smoking around them can cause health problems and stress.

Avoid air fresheners and scented products

Dog’s are far more sensitive to smells than we are. Things like air fresheners, candles, detergents, incense, and essential oils may smell amazing but they can be hard on your dog’s airway and result in wheezing.

Clean air vents and ducts

This helps keep the amount of dust in the air down and is good for both you and your pooch.

Vaccinations and Medications

It’s recommended you give your dog heartworm medication. It’s also a good idea to have them vaccinated for common viruses.

Conclusion: Why is My Dog Wheezing?

If you hear your dog wheezing, there is no need to panic.

The good news is that the most common causes of wheezing such as allergies are not serious conditions and are preventable.

Although, be sure to keep a close eye for any signs of difficulty breathing or changes in behavior.

If your dog is at all having difficulty breathing, the wheezing goes on for an extended period of time, or their behavior changes you should take them to a vet immediately.


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