Wheezing In Dogs: Causes And Treatment

black pug with red and white scarf

Key points

  • While wheezing in dogs is usually harmless, in some cases, it might indicate that your pet has a life-threatening disease;
  • The most common causes of wheezing are allergies, tracheal and bronchial collapse, heart disease, kennel cough, infections, and inhaled blockage;
  • If wheezing is accompanied by gasping for breath, gagging, coughing, blue gums or tongue, an accelerated rate of breathing, or loss of appetite, bring your dog to the vet right away;
  • Before you can cure wheezing in dogs, you need to treat the underlying condition;

Wheezing in dogs refers to the blockage of the normal flow of air in and out of the airway. This can happen either in the windpipe or large bronchi. Wheezing is characterized by a whistling sound (stridor) a dog will make when it breathes. The most common triggers for wheezing are allergies, mucus, asthma, foreign objects, or infection. If bouts of wheezing last only for a short period of time, they are likely harmless and do not require any treatment. However, if your dog wheezes on a regular basis and when it happens, the pet seems to panic due to the lack of air, you should consult your vet.

Why is My Dog Wheezing? 6 Possible Reasons

There are many possible reasons for wheezing in dogs. However, here are the most common causes:


Pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, and dust parasites can cause allergies both in humans and dogs. Additionally, allergic asthma can make canines wheeze by constricting their airways.

Some dogs suffering from seasonal allergies wheeze only during specific seasons. And dogs with flat faces or short snouts are more likely to wheeze because of allergies than other breeds.

person blowing white dandelion flower

Tracheal and bronchial collapse

The dogs’ windpipe contains C-shaped cartilage covered by a flexible membrane. This membrane is likely to get loose or floppy over time in toy breeds such as Maltese, Pugs, Lhasa Apsos, and other small, short-nosed breeds. This can lead to the collapse of the trachea as the dog inhales. As a result, the airway becomes narrow, and the dog develops breathing problems. The condition also can be worsened by vigorous physical activity.

In addition, chronic bronchitis, a disease that affects the lower airways in a dog’s lungs, can make the bronchi less flexible, resulting in continuous wheezing and coughing. As the condition gets worse, the pet will have difficulty breathing and may begin to wheeze while exhaling.

Heart disease

Canines suffering from heart diseases such as cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and mitral valve disease might also wheeze. Since these illnesses are often associated with lethargy and exercise intolerance, they can lead to breathing difficulties in dogs, resulting in wheezing. In addition, less energetic older dogs that experience persistent cough are more likely to wheeze due to heart failure.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough is an easily transmitted upper respiratory infection that leads to irritation in the airways. Although a persistent dry cough is the most common symptom, breathing difficulties such as wheezing can also develop or worsen with exercise or excitement.


Infectious diseases similar to a human cold or flu can also be the reason for wheezing in dogs.

Parasites transmitted from one dog to another usually cause secondary conditions by irritating respiratory tissue. Therefore, heartworms, hookworms, or roundworms can also cause your dog to wheeze. If heartworm infestation is causing your dog to wheeze, it’s unlikely that the pet can be fully healed of the condition. However, you can successfully manage the symptoms, helping the dog breathe more easily.

One of the most infectious canine parasites is the nasal mite. This parasite can frequently be the cause of wheezing and reverse sneezing in dogs. However, if your pet is infected with nasal mites, you are unlikely to figure it out on your own, as mites can live in your dog for years, with wheezing being the only indicator of the infestation. Additionally, your dog might start making wheezing sounds due to bacterial or viral diseases.

Foreign object

brown french bulldog puppy on green grass field during daytime

If your dog keeps wheezing due to a foreign object being lodged in its throat, you should call the vet immediately. Dogs that like chewing on small toys, sticks, grass, bones, or balls might swallow these objects, leading to airway obstruction. The lack of oxygen might be life-threatening for your dog. If your dog can still breathe with a foreign object in its throat, it will be coughing and wheezing. Since this issue often requires surgical intervention, you should bring your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Is Dog Wheezing Dangerous?

Wheezing does not necessarily mean that your pet is sick. However, you should seek professional assistance right away if the following symptoms accompany wheezing:

  • Gasping for breath
  • Gagging
  • Coughing
  • Blue gums or tongue
  • An accelerated rate of breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Prolonged wheezing

What Should I Do If My Dog is Wheezing?

If your dog has suddenly started wheezing, you need to help it relax and breathe easier. First of all, remain calm. Your dog won’t be able to calm itself down if it sees that you are in a panic. It might be a good idea to move your dog to a well-ventilated area. If possible, you should remove strongly scented products and other potential triggers from your dog’s environment. Consider taking a video of your dog’s symptoms and then showing it to the vet to provide the specialist with as many details as possible.

How to Treat Wheezing in Dogs?

Diagnose the condition

If you notice that your pet is showing symptoms of breathing difficulties such as wheezing, it is always better to take it to the vet. The sooner the specialist can pinpoint the underlying condition, the better. Even lifelong conditions such as chronic bronchitis can be managed successfully with the proper treatment.

person holding syringe near container

To help your veterinarian determine the underlying reason for your dog’s wheezing, you will have to provide it with information about the things that happened before the pet started displaying the symptoms, your dog’s travel history, all the medication the pet is on, including heartworm prevention drugs, and your dog’s vaccine history. The vet might also need to conduct a physical exam and order laboratory testing (bloodwork, x-ray, etc.).


Generally, the vet will choose proper treatment based on the cause of wheezing. Therefore, if the disease is caused by a bacterial infection, the vet will prescribe antibiotics. Foreign bodies lodged in your dog’s throat will often need to be removed surgically.

white and blue round medication pill

If wheezing is caused by allergies, increasing the frequency of vacuuming and installing HEPA air filters in your home might help to reduce the concentration of allergens in your home to a minimum. You will also need to give your dog medications such as corticosteroids and bronchodilators to keep the pet’s allergic asthma or bronchitis under control. They will keep symptoms at bay and allow your dog to breathe easier by relaxing the muscles in the airways.

Heart diseases that lead to wheezing are usually treated with drugs that make it easier for the pet’s heart to pump blood. And if your pet is suffering from a collapsed trachea, the vet will prescribe cough medication to treat it. You will also need to ensure that your pet has a calm and cool place to rest.

Adjust your dog’s diet

Your dog’s diet is crucial in helping clear up wheezing. Complete and well-balanced nutrition will help boost the pet’s immune system. Your vet may also prescribe a low-allergen diet to help control symptoms.

vegetable salad in white ceramic bowl

Obese dogs have a lower exercise tolerance and, therefore, their respiratory systems might be weakened. If your pet is overweight, you will need to feed it a specially formulated weight loss diet and reduce the amount of food the dog consumes.

Consider switching your dog to insect-based pet food manufactured by Petcan. Our kibble is rich in essential nutrients, which will help keep the pet’s immune system healthy. It is also sustainable and good for the planet.

How to Prevent Wheezing in Dogs?

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent all causes of wheezing in dogs. However, vaccination and parasite prevention can help reduce your pet’s risk of getting a worm infestation, kennel cough, and highly infectious viruses such as distemper.

You should be especially cautious about heartworm infection since it might be lethal to your dog. In addition, when a dog is infected with heartworms, it will develop wheezing very late in the illness. So if your vet prescribes heartworm prevention medicine for your dog, do not forget to give it to the pet regularly.


Why is my dog wheezing all of a sudden?

Allergies, tracheal and bronchial collapse, heart disease, kennel cough, infections, and foreign objects lodged in the throat are among the most common causes of wheezing. If your dog is wheezing when breathing and it gets worse over time, consult your vet.

Why is my dog making weird breathing noises?

These noises might result from your dog reverse sneezing. Nasal mites sometimes cause this condition. Although it can sound scary, reverse sneezing on its own is not dangerous.

Is it bad if my dog wheezes?

It depends on the underlying cause. It’s best to bring your dog to your vet, who can determine the cause of wheezing.