Dog wheezing has become a major problem among pet parents. The reason being most of them don't know what causes wheezing and how to treat it.
Well, in this post, you will find detailed answers to all of the above questions, plus much more.
Let us begin...
Why dogs wheeze
Dogs have rather sensitive airways. Hence when your dog's air passage gets blocked by an object or inflammation, air won't pass through properly. Thus your canine will produce a wheezing sound, especially when breathing out.
Similar to humans, dogs depend on the proper functioning of their respiratory system to be healthy.
In addition, a canines respiratory tract plays a critical role in some essential body functions.
For instance, dogs can't sweat through their skin. Therefore their breathing system handles temperature regulations.
That's why after a long run or intensive exercise, you will notice your furry friend is breathing a lot, and his tongue is out.
When your dog wheezes once in a while, there is no need to be worried. However, if the wheezing becomes regular or includes other symptoms, it's time to take action.
It's also important to note that some dog breeds have less airflow due to tiny nasal passages and stenotic (narrow) snares.
Hence these dogs are more likely to produce a wheezing sound compared to others.
Some of these dog breeds include
- Shih Tzu
- Boston Terrier
- King Charles Spaniel
How does a wheezing dog sound?
A dog's wheezing sound mostly resembles the sound of a high-pitched whistle since most blockages occur in the upper part of the respiratory tract.
The sound is very different from a sneeze or cough. Additionally, it sounds similar to the wheezing sound humans make.
In some rear instances, a dog wheezing could sound like a snort or a reverse sneeze.
Therefore, you need to pay close attention to differentiate between the two.
A reverse sneeze also called a pharyngeal spasm, sounds similar to a car honking sound, and doctors regard it as a normal and harmless occurrence.
Some small dog breeds like Yorkies or Maltese regularly reverse sneeze.
Causes of wheezing in dogs
Below are some of the common causes of wheezing in dogs:
Chronic canine bronchitis is a condition that primarily affects the airways in the bottom part of a dog's lungs.
Bronchitis causes inflammation of a dog's airways and, consequently, the production of mucus.
The mucus, together with the inflamed trachea, minimizes the amount of air that passes through, which causes your dog to have breathing difficulties.
Dogs with bronchitis start coughing (an attempt to open their airways), but if you don't take action early and the condition worsens, the dogs may start wheezing.
Dust, mould and pollen, all of which are airborne allergens, can cause your mutt to start wheezing.
Allergens act as triggers; when these allergens get inside your dog's respiratory system, they initiate an allergic response which causes swelling of the trachea and hinders regular breathing.
There are some heart diseases which often cause older dogs to start wheezing and sometimes even affect younger dogs.
These diseases include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Heat arrhythmias
- Valvular Degeneration
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- Mitral valve disease
When you and your furry friend do a lot of exercises that your dog isn't used to, he may develop a slight wheeze, which goes away after a few minutes of rest.
Foreign objects might get stuck in your canine's windpipe and block either partially or fully the movement of air. Therefore, your dog will have challenges breathing and might start wheezing.
Young dogs often get foreign objects stuck inside their nasal passages since they chew on anything and everything they come across.
So, it would help if you took immediate action once you observed your pup wheezing.
Objects that often get stuck in a dog's windpipe include
- Bone fragments
- Large food particles
Your dog's trachea (windpipe) is made up of several cartilages. Therefore, when one of these cartilages collapses, there will be a severe or mild blockage of the airway.
Symptoms of a collapsed windpipe include abnormal breathing, honking cough and wheezing.
Veterinary doctors regard kennel cough as one of the major causes of trachea irritation and inflammation in dogs.
The symptoms comprise dry coughs, running nose, breathing challenges and wheezing, which worsens when your dog exercises.
If left untreated, kennel cough might develop into pneumonia.
Studies have shown that overweight dogs tend to have a weaker immunity compared to those with a healthy weight.
The weaker immunity means that these dogs are more likely to suffer from respiratory infections and other diseases.
Similar to humans, dogs also suffer from upper respiratory infections. These infections can block your dog's air passage and make him start wheezing as he tries to breathe.
There are some parasites which enter your dog's body and live in the lungs known as lungworms. These worms lead to inflammation of the respiratory tract, which results in wheezing.
When should you be concerned by your dog's wheeze?
Earlier, we learned that if your pup wheezes once in a while, there is no need to panic.
However, if the wheezing is accompanied by some symptoms, you should take action immediately.
Those symptoms include:
- Gasping for breath
- Increased breathing rate
- Loss of appetite
- Regular and consistent wheezing
What should you do when your dog wheezes?
Here are steps you can take to help your dog when you notice he is wheezing and has trouble breathing.
Dogs are highly intelligent; hence your canine will easily know when you're panicking or stressed. Therefore, you should keep your composure so that the dog also feels comfortable.
Move the mutt to a well-aerated area.
You can also open all the windows to allow the flow of fresh air.
Take away potential triggers from your canines' environment.
Air fresheners, candles and aerosol sprays are some of the triggers that can make your dog start wheezing. Thus, you can help him out by removing these triggers.
Additionally, if you are outside, take your pup inside the house and observe if there are any improvements.
Videotape your pup's symptoms
Veterinarians find it easier to treat a condition when they see or hear the symptoms in a video.
That is because your dog might not be showing similar symptoms when you arrive at the clinic.
Take your dog to the vet
If there are no noticeable improvements, rush your pup to the nearest veterinary clinic.
How to treat wheezing in dogs
Your veterinary doctor will first have to examine your dog to provide a treatment related to the cause of the wheezing.
Depending on the cause, the treatment may involve:
If the wheezing is a result of infections, your vet will recommend antibiotics to cure the condition.
For conditions like chronic bronchitis, vet doctors usually prescribe bronchodilators, medications you can use when your dog is in distress.
The medication works by relaxing airway muscles, so your dog can breathe easier.
In addition, canines with bronchitis will require a daily dose of corticosteroid drugs so to manage the disease.
Your vet can prescribe bronchodilators and corticosteroids as inhalers since they will be easier to administer than syrups or pills.
To aid your pup in breathing easily, your vet might recommend you make changes in your house, like
- Frequently cleaning and vacuuming the carpets to prevent dust accumulation
- Regularly changing the air filters
- Avoiding the use of highly scented soaps and perfumes
- Stop using harsh chemicals and aerosols
- Don't smoke near your canine
Ensure you feed your mutt a well-balanced, healthy diet. A wholesome diet will give your dog a strong immunity that will protect it from respiratory infections.
If necessary, your veterinary doctor may prescribe a low allergen diet with probiotic supplements like Safe Guard to lessen the symptoms.
Safe Guard is a highly effective probiotic that has healthy bacteria which enhance immunity, reduce stress and improve food allergies.
If your dog is overweight, then he will have low exercise tolerance, which will compromise his respiratory system.
Therefore, your vet will recommend:
- Reducing the amount of food you feed your dog
- Changing your dog's diet
- Short but regular exercise sessions
Always pay close attention to your dog's behaviours. In case the wheezing doesn't go away or is accompanied by other symptoms, take your canine to the vet immediately.
The earlier your doctor treats the underlying cause of the wheezing, the better your dog will respond to the treatment.