A dog wheezing sound can be somewhat similar to the sound produced by wheezing observed in humans. Wheezing, is typically described as a whistling sound that is produced by the airways during breathing. It may come from the dog’s nose or mouth. If your dog’s wheezing sound is something new that your dog has never done before or if it’s being going on for a while, it’s always best to have it evaluated by the vet considering that it can a sign of trouble breathing. Wheezing in dogs can be due to several medical conditions and some of them may be emergency situations.
What Does a Dog Wheezing Sound Like?
A wheezing sound is something you do not normally hear in healthy, happy dogs. A dog wheezing sound is often described as whistle and is the result of some part of the dog’s airway being narrowed or obstructed.
The dog wheezing sound is caused by movement of air through the restricted airway passage just as it happens when you send air through a long, narrow flute to make music or when you purse your lips to produce whistling.
Wheezing in dogs can be heard during the inspiratory phase (when the dog breaths in) or in the dog’s expiratory phase (when the dog breaths out).
Wheezing is often described as an audible sound heard during breathing. Wheezing though should be differentiated from stridor, which is a special type of wheeze. A stridor is a high-pitched raspy vibrating sound that takes place when there is some type of respiratory obstruction.
A stertor instead is seen in dogs with nasal, pharyngeal or soft palate problems and it sounds more like a snoring noise taking place during either inspiration or exhalation. Wheezing should not be confused for a reverse sneeze.
On top of the dog wheezing sound, many dogs may panic when they feel they can’t breath easily. You may notice your dog get up and try to find another resting spot in hopes of breathing better. Sometimes the wheezing resolves on its own, but if it comes back, or increases, then seeing the vet is best considering that wheezing in dogs is often indicative of some narrowing of the airway which may take place anywhere from the dog’s throat to his lungs.
If your dog is wheezing non-stop, appears uncomfortable or stressed, or has pale, grayish or bluish gums (a sign of lack of oxygen), see your vet at once or the emergency vet if it’s after hours. Left untreated, severe wheezing in dogs may lead to collapse.
“Wheezes are longer duration (>80 msec) continuous sounds with a musical (tonal) quality in the range of 100-1000 Hz, and in most instances are related to fluttering of the wall of an airway. Generation of a wheeze commonly indicates the presence of a flow-restricted zone (partial obstruction, bronchospasm) within an airway.”~ Bernie Hansen, DVM
Causes of Dog Wheezing
The causes of dog wheezing sounds may be numerous. In most cases, the narrowing of the airways is caused by inflammation, presence of mucus or muscle spasms. Any pre-existing inflammation affecting the bronchopulmonary tree in dogs can evoke wheezing.
Allergies and chronic bronchitis, which can be caused by exposure to environmental pollutants (such as cigarette smoke) can cause wheezing in dogs.
Dogs suffering from laryngeal paralysis typically produce a stridor, the rasping sound when breathing described above. This condition is often found in Labradors. The sound is typically worse during inspiration, explains Dr. Lesley King. Other symptoms include heavy panting and a change in barking sound.
Several small breed dogs are predisposed to a condition known as tracheal collapse. Basically, the dog’s trachea (windpipe) can collapse on itself which leads to narrowing of the airway. This may lead to wheezing and coughing which is often compared to a goose honk.
Dogs suffering from pneumonia may suffer from wheezing on top of other symptoms such as a hunched posture, eye and nose discharge, lethargy, lowered appetite, weight loss, fever, coughing and breathing difficulties which are manifested by pronounced abdominal movement when breathing.
Other possible causes include a foreign object stuck in the back of the throat (such as parts of sticks, bones, toys), sinus infections or post-nasal drip, dryness affecting the dog’s nasal passages, presence of parasites such as heartworms, nasal mites in the nose, or opportunistic hookworm or roundworm larvae traveling to the lungs, underlying heart conditions such as congestive heart failure (often seen in old dogs with the wheezing dog sounds due to increased fluid in the lungs), lung cancer (often accompanied by a productive cough as well), masses pressing on the dog’s trachea or lungs, and infectious diseases such as kennel cough often spread after being around other dogs.
At the Vet’s Office
Your vet will examine your dog, ask you several questions such as when the symptoms first started, if there were any recent changes and if there are other signs that you have noticed. Let your vet know whether your dog is on heartworm medication and whether your is current on all shots.
Your vet will then proceed to listen to the heart and lungs using a stethoscope. The dog wheezing sound may be evoked upon palpation of the trachea or it may be simply heard upon expiration, explains veterinarian Dr. Claire R. Sharp.
Depending on what your vet suspects, your dog may undergo several diagnostic tests such as heartworm testing, complete blood count and x-rays of the neck or chest.
For severe cases of wheezing, where the dog is gasping for air with an open or gaping mouth, your vet may put your dog in an oxygen cage. An oxygen cage works best since dogs are reluctant to accept a mask placed over their muzzle.
Treatment for dog wheezing varies depending on the underlying cause. For example, if the vet finds a foreign body, the dog will be sedated so that it is removed, if the dog has allergies, he may need antihistamines, if the dog has a heart condition, the vet will provide medications to help the heart work more efficiently, if the dog has inflammation of the upper airway anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed and so forth.