It’s normal for your dog to make a lot of weird sounds. Wheezing, however, is not one of those normal sounds. If your dog is wheezing, you should be concerned. While there are a lot of different causes for wheezing, all of them indicate some sort of trouble for your canine companion. It could be a pretty minor sort of trouble, but it could also be something serious, too. You should know what things make dogs wheeze, so you know how to help your wheezing canine friend.
Did you know that dogs can have allergies just like people can? It’s pretty common and is one potential, even likely, the reason for the wheezing. Your dog can have an allergic reaction to many allergens, like cigarette smoke and dust mites, or they may experience seasonal allergies.
If your dog’s allergies are severe enough, the tissues in their airway can swell up, constricting the airway, and causing them to make a wheezing sound when they breathe. This is known as allergic asthma.
Wheezing can also be a sign that your dog is sick. Dogs who are around other dogs a lot are particularly prone to getting sick. There is a whole host of bacteria and viruses dogs can get that cause wheezing. Some of these illnesses are pretty mild, but others can be serious and cause significant respiratory distress.
Chronic bronchitis can be a particular problem in this regard. Dogs who suffer from chronic bronchitis end up with scarring in their airways, making them less flexible and can cause chronic wheezing. Other illnesses that can cause wheezing and other respiratory problems are kennel cough or a canine asthma attack.
Parasites can also be responsible. Nasal mites are a pretty common doggy parasite, and dogs transmit them to each other pretty easily. They can cause wheezing sometimes, especially when the dog gets excited. Roundworms, hookworms, and heartworm disease can also cause it, though these are less common causes.
Unfortunately, wheezing can sometimes also be a symptom of heart disease. There are many causes of heart disease, including thyroid problems, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, heartworm disease, congestive heart failure, and tumors. It can even be caused by fluid filling the sac around the heart, making it difficult for it to beat.
Sometimes, heart disease is accompanied by a chronic buildup of fluid in the lungs, making the dogs struggle to breathe, which in turn causes wheezing. It will usually be accompanied by persistent coughing.
Heart disease is most frequently found in older dogs. It can, though, occasionally affect younger ones too. It is not curable, though your vet can offer treatments that help with the symptoms.
The problem could also be that your dog somehow got some kind of foreign object lodged in its airway. Dogs who chew on toys, dolls, or bones are particularly vulnerable to this problem. They can break off small pieces and accidentally inhale them, getting them stuck somewhere that blocks off some of the airflow. This results in wheezing. This is a very serious problem that requires immediate medical attention.
A dog’s windpipe is cartilage in the shape of the letter C, enclosed by a flexible membrane. In some dogs, that membrane can come loose or stretch over time, causing it to collapse into the windpipe, which, you guessed it, makes them wheeze.
This most often happens when the dog gets excited or is exercising. Play is a particular trigger. Small, short-nosed dogs are particularly prone to these respiratory problems because of the length of the nasal passage.
When You Should Be Concerned
You should be concerned whenever you hear your dog wheeze, but sometimes you should be more concerned than at other times. If the wheezing does not seem to impair your canine friend, and if it only lasts a few seconds before vanishing, it’s probably not an emergency, though you should tell your vet. If minor wheezing that quickly resolves is a recurring issue, schedule an appointment with your vet.
However, it’s a very different story if your dog is wheezing for long periods. That could be the sign of something serious. It’s an even bigger cause for concern when your dog can’t exercise very much, lies down a lot, or seems to be struggling to breathe.
A bluish tint to the gums should be very worrying because it means your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen. If your dog shows any of these signs, get them to the vet immediately, especially if you have reason to believe your dog inhaled something right before the wheezing started. If you find your wheezing dog’s chew toy in pieces, get to the vet immediately.
Diagnosing the Cause of the Wheezing
Your vet will try to work up a detailed history of what your dog was doing before the wheezing started. They need to know when your dog first started showing symptoms and what they were doing, both right before the wheezing and in the days and weeks before it. You’ll also need to provide your dog’s vaccine record and a list of medications that it is currently taking. Your vet may need to take x-rays or do blood testing to get to the root of the breathing problem.
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Treating and Preventing the Wheezing
If dog wheezing is caused by a disease or infection, your vet will prescribe medication to treat the underlying cause. Medications can also be a remedy for parasites and alleviate symptoms of heart disease. If the vet suspects dog allergies, you need to make some changes at home to try to get rid of whatever it is your dog is allergic to. You may have to do some experimenting to narrow down the cause. It can also help get a dog bed with an easily washable cover.
If the breathing problem is an obstruction in the airway, the vet will most likely anesthetize your wheezing dog and remove the obstruction with medical instruments. If the obstruction is far down in the airway, surgery at an emergency vet may be necessary.
You can prevent wheezing from illness by making sure your dog is properly vaccinated. This will prevent many diseases and parasites from ever becoming a problem in the first place.
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