Updated June 13, 2023
That dog's wheezing sound might result from seasonal allergies or obstruction of the dog’s airways. Either way, it is hard to tell without a proper diagnosis by a veterinary doctor. An allergic reaction might be easier to manage than a more acute cause, like heart disease.
Dog wheezing is caused by an obstruction of normal flow in a dog’s airway, resulting in a high-pitched whistling sound. Minimizing it requires managing allergic reactions, bacterial infections, a foreign body, or an underlying disease affecting the dog’s lungs. In addition, causes like collapsing trachea are more common in some species than others.
The whistling sound from a dog’s wheezing should not bother you unless there are noticeable breathing difficulties. That calls for thorough observation, which is the first step in identifying if the cause is poor air quality or something more serious. We will discuss the common causes of dog wheezing and tips to minimize it, including treatment options.
The Typical Causes of Dog Wheezing
The common symptoms of dog wheezing include coughing, whistling, nasal discharge (a runny nose), and breathing problems. These are easily recognizable and detectable. It is hard not to notice a dog coughing and wheezing.
There isn’t a cause for alarm if the dog’s wheezing occurs for a short time. The foreign object blocking the respiratory tract can be cleared, eliminating respiratory distress. However, a visit to the emergency vet is necessary if the condition persists or occurs intermittently.
Visiting the vet as soon as possible ensures early detection of any underlying illness and treatment plan preparation. With that in mind, the following are the typical causes you should look for when your dog begins wheezing:
This is often the first culprit but is also not easily recognizable. That is because they may be season-bound, occurring during specific periods of the year. First-time pet owners may be unable to tell without allergic testing at the vet.
Food allergy may also cause coughing and wheezing in dogs. This is easily identifiable, provided you notice the coughing and wheezing whenever a particular food is served.
Seasonal allergies from pollen, grass, mold, and dust mites can block the respiratory tract. While they often occur during specific periods, some dog breeds may experience them all year.
Foreign Object Obstruction
Your dog could pick up a foreign object while enjoying the summer outdoors in the dog park. The obstruction in the nasal passages could come from inhalation or consumption.
Visit the vet immediately if your four-legged friend is experiencing difficulty breathing due to a foreign body obstruction. Let’s state clearly that this condition should not be treated at home, unlike allergies. Nonetheless, remain calm until you arrive at the vet.
Canine nasal mites commonly cause reverse sneezing and wheezing in dogs. They are highly contagious through direct nose-to-nose transmission. However, they can remain in the dog’s nasal passages without any signs of wheezing.
The only time they may cause wheezing is during excited periods. Bacterial and viral infections are less forgiving when they cause coughing and wheezing.
Heartworms are another cause of acute coughing and wheezing. Heartworms must be appropriately treated immediately.
Collapsed Trachea and Bronchitis
A collapsing trachea during breathing is common in small-breed dogs. It occurs during inhalation because of weak cartilage surrounded by a loose or floppy membrane. Also, it can cause exercise intolerance since it directly affects the dog’s windpipe.
Chronic bronchitis is worse than a collapsed trachea. It scars the airways, resulting in less flexible bronchi. That causes constant wheezing and labored breathing.
Wheezing due to congestive heart failure is less common in younger dogs. It is caused by heart disease and has other symptoms, including persistent dog coughing.
Tips to Minimize Your Dog’s Wheezing
The key to minimizing the effects is knowing the underlying cause. We have mentioned several causes of dog wheezing, some of which are manageable at home.
For example, allergy relief snacks can reduce the symptoms when your dog is wheezing due to allergies. A vet visit is undeniable in other cases of more acute breathing problems. You will get an appropriate treatment plan depending on the underlying cause.
Here are some tips to minimize the symptoms if your dog is wheezing and coughing:
Provide a Healthy Diet and Supplements
Your greatest ally is a strong immune system. For example, nasal mites may be present but only cause breathing challenges when the immune system weakens.
A good diet and supplements help keep your pet's immune system strong and maintain overall health. Include multivitamins in their diet ensure they receive all the essential vitamins and minerals. However, supplements do not replace treatment, and will not eliminate an underlying condition.
Go for Allergy Testing
Allergy testing helps in identifying the causes of dog wheezing tied to allergies. It could be seasonal, food, or skin allergies. Consequently, you can remove the cause of the allergy or your dog from the environment.
For seasonal allergies, you will know how to prepare your dog against such seasons. Allergy testing is not something you can do on your own. You need to visit the vet for a diagnosis and prescribed solutions.
Use Allergy Aids
Pet wipes are essential allergen removal tools that help remove them after outdoor walks. You can also use a gentle shampoo to remove irritants during the allergy season. In addition, your vet may recommend other allergen removal tools.
Use an Air Purifier
Keep the air inside your house clean with air purifiers and humidifiers. That will reduce irritations that can cause your dog to wheeze or cough.
Ensure your dog stays away from smoke. That could mean keeping it indoors if the locality is polluted with smoke.
Watch Your Dog’s Weight
Weight can affect how a dog breathes. Overweight dogs tend to have exercise intolerance, which leads to coughing. Hence, your vet may recommend a weight loss program to treat the dog’s symptoms.
Weight loss can also help manage a collapsed trachea. Avoid intensive exercises if your dog has trouble breathing after them. Instead, adopt light routines that keep the blood pumping.
Administer Prescribed Cough Medication
A dog coughing could be the result of a minor irritant. In that case, your dog should return to normal when the irritant is removed.
Persistent coughing requires medication. It might be separate from wheezing and not give your dog difficulty breathing. Visit the vet and get a prescription to address the illness.
We advise prompt treatment when you notice a persistent cough. That is because infections like kennel cough can degenerate into pneumonia.
Watch out for asthma and obtain appropriate medication if your dog has it.
Reduce the Use of Air Fresheners and Fragrances
Scented products like air fresheners and fragrances can cause nasal irritation in dogs. Use them in limited quantities and focus more on air purification if necessary.
Avoid Cold Foods and Weather
Cold foods and weather can cause your dog to wheeze or cough. It is essential to cover it appropriately if you must go out on cold days. Swimming shouldn’t be on the agenda on such days, as your dog can easily catch the flu.
You can use steam to clean your dog’s airways on cold days. Also, ensure adequate feeding during this period. Hydration should be on point by keeping the water bowls adequately filled.
Clothing might be needed to warm them up as they rest. That is essential if you are far from the fire pit.
Remove Objects That Can Cause Obstructions
Ingested and inhaled objects can cause obstructions. While you will need the vet’s help sometimes, avoiding the situation is best.
Ensure your puppy does not chew on sticks that can splinter quickly. That will leave pieces that can easily block the airways. Also, replace toys that break or fray easily to prevent choking.
Treats that may be harmful if left unsupervised should be kept out of your dog’s reach. An example is rawhide.
Bones and meat wrappings should be removed quickly and placed in the trash. Make sure your dog cannot access the trash.
Visit the Vet Regularly
Our final tip is to visit the vet regularly. You shouldn’t wait until your furry friend experiences severe challenges before you head over to the clinic. Also, avoid self-medicating your dog unless you have some medical training.
Regular vet visits can help identify the causes of dog wheezing early. We know that early detection prevents complications later.
Be Caring and Soothing
A dog's wheeze and cough can be disturbing, especially if you are trying to get some sleep. Nevertheless, you must realize it is an uncomfortable experience for your furry friend. Instead of panicking or getting angry, use a soothing voice to calm your dog.
You can also give it a calming soft chew before the vet's visit. Ensure the environment is as comfortable as possible, and that love and affection are in plentiful supply.