You wake up one morning and hear your pup coughing and wheezing. Your first instinct may be to panic, but in many cases, wheezing may be the result of treatable conditions such as allergies or a bacterial infection.
Wheezing is a condition that affects the respiratory tract and causes symptoms that include nasal discharge, coughing, whistling, and difficulty breathing. It’s prevalent among certain dog breeds but can occur in all dogs. In this article, we’ll go over the main causes of dog wheezing and show you how you can treat and prevent the condition.
What Are the Common Causes of Dog Wheezing?
Dog wheezing can be caused by a variety of factors. Some dogs wheeze because of underlying health conditions such as heart disease or weight gain. Others experience wheezing when they inhale part of a toy or snag a bone out of the trash. In other cases, wheezing may be caused by a birth defect or an infectious disease. Here, we’ll show you the common causes of dog wheezing.
Dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies due to grass, pollen, and dust mites just like humans. These allergies can cause an allergic reaction where the throat and lungs become inflamed. This can make breathing more difficult, resulting in wheezing or a whistling sound. Dogs who suffer from seasonal allergies may only show symptoms certain times of the year, while others may develop allergic reactions year-round. Severe allergies may result in asthma attacks and other respiratory system issues.
Dogs may have difficulty breathing due to infections from parasites, bacteria, and viruses. They can pick up viral and bacterial infections, such as kennel cough, from other dogs at doggie daycare and at parks. Parasites like heartworm, hookworms, and roundworms can take root in your pet’s lungs and airways. These infections can cause inflammation and irritation that leads to respiratory distress.
Nasal mites are another common reason that dog’s wheeze. These little mites set up shop in your dog’s nasal passages and can cause a condition known as reverse sneezing. This episode is more common in dogs with brachycephalic skulls — flat-faced dogs such as pugs, boxers, bulldogs, and Boston terriers. Reverse sneeze is characterized by rapid nose-breathing and gagging sounds.
The trachea, or windpipe, is a long tube that is responsible for delivering air from the mouth to the lungs. In dogs, this flexible tube is made up of cartilage and membranes that can lose their strength over time. Tracheal collapse is a condition where the cartilage and membranes become soft, thus narrowing the airways and causing wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Most dogs who suffer from collapsing trachea will exhibit snorting and honking — a sound similar to a goose. This condition can range in severity so bring your pup to the veterinarian to get a better handle on the situation. You may be able to make small changes to your pup’s lifestyle — like decreasing excitement levels and managing weight — or your dog may need surgery in more severe cases.
Collapsing trachea can be caused by environmental factors as well as congenital defects. The condition is more prevalent in certain dog breeds, including pugs, Malteses, shih tzus, terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas. These breeds may also suffer from soft palate, another condition that can cause wheezing.
Heart disease and weight issues can cause wheezing in dogs. Some older dogs may suffer from congestive heart failure, which causes a build-up of fluid that can block airways. Overweight dogs may also wheeze because their weight decreases their cardio capacity.
Obstruction From a Foreign Body
Dogs are playful. It’s one of the many reasons we love them. Unfortunately, play is one of the leading causes of breathing problems in dogs. Dogs who chew on sticks, balls, bones, and other toys can accidentally inhale pieces that obstruct their airways. Dogs who get into the garbage are also more likely to suffer from obstructions.
If your floofer is experiencing difficulty breathing due to an obstruction, go to your vet immediately. These problems should not be treated at home because the dog may have swallowed additional debris that can cause further problems in the digestive tract.
How To Ease Dog Wheezing
If your dog experiences wheezing for a short period of time and then returns to normal, there’s probably nothing to worry about. Just monitor your pup and mention it to the veterinarian during your next scheduled appointment.
Chronic wheezing can be a sign of a more significant underlying issue. Continuous wheezing, blue gums, and labored breathing are all signs of a severe wheezing issue. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, seek help from a registered veterinarian (DVM) immediately. For minor breathing problems, you can help make your dog more comfortable and treat some underlying causes at home.
If your dog’s wheezing is caused by seasonal allergies, try to limit contact with known allergens and triggers. Think about walking your dog mid-day rather than early in the morning or in the evening when allergens tend to be more prevalent.
You can also help your furry friend by using pet wipes to remove allergens after each walk or using a gentle shampoo to help wash away irritants during peak allergy season. Air purifiers and humidifiers are also great tools to help clean the air inside your home and lessen the risk of allergic reactions.
For chronic allergies, you can give your dog an antihistamine or allergy relief chews. Try to limit the use of scented products in your home. Dogs are particularly susceptible to cigarette smoke so avoid smoking in your home as much as possible.
Infection and Collapsing Trachea Treatments
Infections need to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. For wheezing and coughing that can’t be explained by allergies or obstructions, a vet can help identify the underlying cause. For bacterial and viral infections, you may receive antibiotics, oral medications, or topical treatments.
A vet will diagnose a collapsing trachea through a physical examination that involves a radiograph and a fluoroscope. Treating a collapsing trachea is mainly about managing symptoms. Use a cough suppressant to reduce swelling and irritation and limit interactions that may cause panic or anxiety for your dog. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
Treating Heart Issues
If your dog is overweight, enacting a weight loss plan may help to reduce stress on the respiratory tract and decrease wheezing. Respiratory disease, heart failure, and other serious health problems should be monitored and treated by a veterinarian.
Dog owners can help their pets by walking them daily and ensuring they eat a well-balanced diet. Supplement their nutrition with multivitamin chews and probiotic ingredients that can help with digestion.
Removing Foreign Obstructions
If you suspect that your dog has eaten something that is blocking his airway, head to the vet immediately. The vet will use an X-ray to help identify the object before removal. Pet owners can help prevent foreign obstructions by monitoring playtime.
Don’t let your dog chew on sticks, which splinter easily, and replace any toys that are broken or frayed to prevent choking. Keep tempting treats, like rawhide, out of reach if they may cause your pet harm when eaten unsupervised. Take bones and meat wrappings to the outdoor trash whenever possible, and use a sturdy trash can that can be placed in a secure cupboard to limit access.
Support Your Pet’s Health and Reduce Wheezing
For the most part, wheezing is a treatable condition in most dogs. Keep your dog’s immune system healthy to stave off infections that can cause wheezing. Avoid triggers that can cause allergic reactions and wheezing by timing your walks when pollen counts are low and using purifiers to keep the air in your home clean.
In some cases, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet to treat wheezing. Head to your local animal hospital if your dog’s wheezing is caused by a foreign object, underlying disease, or infection.
While wheezing can be alleviated relatively quickly, it can be an uncomfortable experience for your dog. Reduce your pet's panic by talking in a calm, soothing voice or giving your dog a calming treat. Give your furry friend lots of love and affection and try to make things as comfortable as possible. After the wheezing subsides, hit the trails or take your dog to their favorite spot for playtime. The exercise will help improve their overall health.