Why Is My Dog Wheezing – What Could Cause This?

If your dog is suddenly wheezing, you may be searching the internet for any possible cause.

Wheezing in dogs is a result of something causing a partial blockage in their airway, ranging from mild irritation to actual foreign bodies.

So how do you determine the cause behind your dog’s wheezing?

In this article we will discuss the most common causes of wheezing in our furry friends, and help you better understand what to do if they begin to wheeze.

What Does Wheezing Look Like In Dogs?

My Dog Is Wheezing

Before we dive into the details of wheezing in dogs, it’s important to first understand what wheezing looks like in our canine friends.

Actions such as coughing or gagging can often confuse owners into thinking their dog is wheezing, so it’s essential to really understand the action before moving forward.

Wheezing in dogs is characterized by the presence of a whistle or rattle sound when a dog is breathing.

This sound can be heard upon inhalation or exhalation, and is often compared to the sound of a quiet flute each time a dog breathes.

The intensity of the wheeze will vary based on how obstructed the airway is, and the exact cause behind the dog’s respiratory struggles.

Is It A Reverse Sneeze?

Many times when a dog owner brings their pup to the vet for wheezing, they are actually experiencing something called a reverse sneeze.

What A Reverse Sneeze Looks & Sounds Like

Reverse sneezing, or paroxysmal respiration, occurs when a dog pulls air into the nose rapidly, leading to a loud snorting sound that is often repetitive.

Dogs can experience reverse sneezing fits, causing owners to believe their dog is wheezing in effort to catch their breath.

A reverse sneeze is often just a result of irritation within the nasal cavity, often caused by environmental irritants or plant material within the nose.

Reverse sneezing may be startling for some dog owners to witness, but it is not a threat to their health in any way.

To help you better differentiate between wheezing and reverse sneezing, here is another video of a dog during a reverse sneezing episode.

Most Common Causes Of Wheezing In Dogs

Now that you are confident in the fact that your dog is truly wheezing, it’s time to get to the bottom of their sudden respiratory troubles.

While we always suggest seeing your vet for an accurate diagnosis, let’s discuss a few of the most common causes of canine wheezing below.

Canine Allergies

Allergies are one of the most common causes of wheezing in our furry friends. Allergies can cause slight inflammation within a dog’s airway, ranging in severity based on the current allergy your dog is experiencing.

Anytime their airways become inflamed or irritated, this leads to the possibility of wheezing.

Though this is most common in brachycephalic breeds, it can occur in any breed of dog.

A dog that is wheezing due to allergies may also experience nasal discharge, watery eyes, itchy skin, skin redness, sneezing, and even GI symptoms.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to their wheezing, it may be time to discuss the possibility of canine allergies with your vet.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is another common cause of wheezing in dogs, especially in small breeds.

Tracheal collapse is a condition characterized by the weakening of the cartilage within the trachea, causing the trachea to lose its rigidity over time.

The trachea can begin to collapse on itself in severe forms of tracheal collapse, causing a dog to wheeze at times when they breathe.

These episodes can range in severity based on how progressed their condition is, and may be accompanied by other symptoms of respiratory distress.

Inhaled Foreign Bodies

If a dog has a foreign object trapped in any portion of their airway, this can cause them to wheeze with each breath.

Dogs can inhale things they should not if they are eating too quickly, swimming frequently, or even accidentally inhaling plant material.

Each of these actions can lead to inflammation within the airways, along with causing partial obstructions if the items become lodged in the trachea.

If your dog has inhaled something they should not have, you may notice other respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, hacking, dry heaving and difficulty breathing.

If you fear an inhaled foreign body in your canine friend, we suggest contacting your vet immediately.

Respiratory Infections

Since wheezing can occur with inflammation of the airway, this means respiratory infections are a possible culprit.

Respiratory infections of any kind cause irritation within the nasal passages and the trachea, as well as lung involvement if the infection has the chance to persist.

Wheezing with a respiratory infection can be a sign of severe illness, and certainly points to the need for medical intervention.

A dog with a respiratory infection may also experience sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, hacking, coughing up fluid, anorexia, and even fever.

If you think your dog has a respiratory infection, it’s time to reach out to your vet for further guidance.

Cardiac Disease

The last, but most severe cause of wheezing in dogs is cardiac disease.

Late stages of cardiac disease can lead to an increase of pressure or fluid within the heart, causing the excess fluid to accumulate within the lungs.

This can make it challenging for a dog to breathe, often leading to wheezing or increased respiratory effort.

Some other symptoms of cardiac disease in dogs include a chronic cough, labored breathing, increased respirations, distended abdomen, panting and pacing, fatigue, and anorexia.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your canine friend, we suggest contacting your veterinarian immediately.

Is Wheezing A Medical Emergency In Dogs?

Wheezing in our furry friends should always be taken seriously.

Anything that disrupts a dog’s ability to breathe normally warrants an immediate call to your veterinarian, allowing your vet to make the call of whether or not they require urgent care.

It’s always best to be safe when dealing with any form of respiratory distress, wheezing included. So yes, wheezing in dogs can be a medical emergency that warrants at minimum, a call to your veterinarian.

Diagnosing Wheezing In Dogs

If you take your dog to the vet for wheezing, there are a few things you can expect in terms of diagnostics.

First, your vet will likely ask you multiple questions to help them gather a detailed history.

They may ask you when the wheezing began, if there seems to be a pattern of when the wheezing occurs, or if you have noticed any other abnormal behavior in your pup.

This will help them better understand your dog’s situation, and better determine which diagnostics are needed moving forward.

We also recommend recording any wheezing episodes when you notice them, as this can help your vet determine whether or not they are actually wheezing, and how severe the episodes are.

Once your vet has a better idea of the symptoms your dog is experiencing, they will then determine which diagnostics will best help them get to the bottom of their wheezing.

Most vets will recommend diagnostic x-rays to rule out any serious complications of the heart or lungs.

This is the only way to definitively rule out heart or lung disease, as there is just no way to know exactly what is going on in the chest without diagnostic films.

The last potential diagnostic that your vet may recommend is blood work.

While this may not always offer an answer on the cause of your dog’s wheezing, it can help your vet determine your dog’s overall state of health.

Bloodwork may involve testing for any evidence of kidney or liver disease, searching for any sign of infection, and even specific allergy testing in some cases.

Treatment For Wheezing In Dogs

Treating wheezing in dogs will vary based on the cause behind your dog’s symptoms.

While some dogs will improve with the use of daily antihistamines that target their allergies, others will find relief with antibiotics to cure an underlying respiratory infection.

Wheezing in dogs can have many different causes, meaning there will be many different treatment options on the table.

We always suggest following the guidance of your veterinarian, as they are the only ones that fully understand the details of your dog’s case.

Final Thoughts

Wheezing in dogs can occur when our pups experience any form of airway obstruction.

Understanding the potential causes can help you best address their respiratory symptoms, as well as getting to the bottom of their current struggles.

Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can jump into action the next time your pup is wheezing. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *