Why is My Dog Wheezing?

Has your dog been wheezing a lot lately? Are you concerned about what might be causing this symptom for your pet? Should you rush to the vet if your dog is wheezing, or is it okay to wait and see what happens?

As a dog owner, you’re probably already aware of how concerning certain symptoms can be. Wheezing in dogs is a symptom that may sometimes indicate a serious health problem in your pet. However, in some instances, it is associated with much less serious issues as well. Read through the article below to learn more about some of the most common causes of wheezing in dogs.

dog wheezing

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is the most common cause of wheezing in dogs. A dog with kennel cough is likely to wheeze as well as cough frequently and may have more common coughing fits after eating or high activity levels. Kennel cough also causes a cough that sounds like a goose honk, which is one of the telltale signs of this condition.

Additionally, some dogs with kennel cough experience reverse sneezing. This condition may sound alarming because of the loud and hacking noise it makes, but it is not any more concerning than regular sneezing. Some reverse sneezes may sound like wheezing or struggling to breathe.

Other Respiratory Infection

Kennel cough is not the only type of respiratory illness or infection that may cause wheezing in dogs. Just like humans, dogs may wheeze from a variety of problems including viral and bacterial respiratory infections, colds, and more. Canine parainfluenza is one common but sometimes serious disease that contributes to wheezing symptoms in dogs.

You can significantly reduce your dog’s risk of respiratory infection by having them vaccinated and keep up with the shot schedule as recommended by your veterinarian. If your dog does show signs of respiratory infection, go to the vet for antibiotics and other medication as needed.


Heartworms are very common in dogs who are not on regular monthly heartworm preventative medication. If your dog does not take a monthly heartworm pill and has recently started wheezing, your vet will perform tests to check for the presence of heartworms.

If your dog is diagnosed with heartworms, your vet will help you choose the right course of action. Many dogs live long, full lives with heartworm disease, but must limit their activity levels and stay at a healthy weight. Some dogs may be good candidates for surgical removal of heartworms, but this treatment is still rare.

Other Heart Disease

Other heart diseases aside from just heartworms can contribute to wheezing in dogs. Congestive heart failure, for example, is a common problem among dogs especially in their later years. This heart disease causes wheezing with too much activity and may also lead to coughing fits. Dogs may frequently cough up fluid when they have congestive heart failure.

Other types of heart disease may have similar symptoms, too. If you suspect your dog has heart disease, talk to your vet about getting a formal diagnosis and starting your dog on the proper medication to help deal with the symptoms.

Obstructed Airway

Sometimes, dogs may try to swallow foreign objects that are not food. They may also sometimes try to swallow pieces of food whole, or they may accidentally breathe in small objects when sniffing them. All of these situations can contribute to obstructed airways, which can be potentially life-threatening in some instances.

If your dog has an obstructed airway in their throat or nose, they need to be seen by an emergency vet immediately. If you can see the object and are certain you can safely remove it, do so; otherwise, don’t wait to get your pet to the emergency vet for the help they need.

Some Cancers

Although less common than the other items on this list, some types of cancer may also cause wheezing in dogs. Lung cancers may contribute to wheezing as well as a wide range of other respiratory symptoms in your pet.

If you suspect your dog may have cancer or want to rule out the possibility, talk to your veterinarian for more information. Only a vet can tell you for sure if your dog is suffering from cancer and what to do about it moving forward.

Your Heart + Paw Vet Can Help with Dog Wheezing

With the help of this information, you should have a better idea of what your dog’s wheezing may be caused by. Once you’ve determined whether the problem is a serious one, you can choose when to go to the vet or emergency vet.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s wheezing or they are showing any other serious symptoms along with wheezing, go to the emergency vet right away. Otherwise, contact your Heart + Paw vet at any of our locations for guidance and suggestions. You can book an appointment through our online form!

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Heart + Paw was founded in 2018 by Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. George Melillo, who currently serves the Mid-Atlantic area. Heart + Paw offers a combination of veterinary care, pet grooming, and dog daycare to help be a resource in your pet parenthood journey.

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