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Dog Sounds Congested? Causes And Simple Remedies to Help Your Pup - PawSafe

Dog Sounds Congested? Causes And Simple Remedies to Help Your Pup

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

dog sounds congested

No one gets used to the noise when a dog sounds congested and the idea that a dog may have difficulty breathing is alarming to all pet parents. Sometimes, the stuffy sounds are simply a result of short snouts or normal breathing patterns. However, it’s important to pay attention to our canine companions and recognize when their congested sounds might be indicative of an underlying problem.

I distinctly remember the heart-wrenching experience when my beloved dog, Hudson, developed congestive heart failure. His lungs filled with fluid, causing him to cough and wheeze in his final days. Through this experience, I learned the importance of identifying and understanding clogged sounds in dogs to ensure their health and well-being.

While it’s usually not always a severe issue, being familiar with the various sounds our dogs make and the meaning behind them is crucial. We owe it to our furry friends to stay informed so we can provide proper care and medical attention when necessary. Using an abnormal lung sound study and Sage Journals on Nasal Congestion for a well-informed guide on the matter.

However, persistent blockages with other symptoms like difficulty breathing need the vet.

It’s crucial to listen carefully and closely observe your dog’s behavior while they are making these sounds. If you notice any changes in your dog’s health or any additional symptoms alongside the sounds, do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian for guidance.

Being vigilant can help you determine the severity of the condition. Sometimes, all your dog needs for their uncomfortable, clogged nose is a quick vet run or even simple remedies for a dog cold; check out our article if you’re interested in the remedies. But, other incidences need more intensive medical care.

Nasal Congestion versus Lung Congestion Sounds & Signs

In the case of nasal congestion, your dog may exhibit signs like sneezing, rubbing their face, and having discharge from their nose. It’s especially noticeable when they’re sniffing around or taking deep breaths.

These symptoms usually point to issues in their nasal passages, which might be due to allergies, infections, or even a foreign object stuck up there. Additionally, MSD Manual points out that nasal clogging is usually a sign of rhinitis and sinusitis.

On the other hand, lung congestion shows a slightly different set of symptoms. The dog might cough, wheeze, or even have a hard time catching their breath when they have lung blockage.

Additionally, their respiratory rate could be faster than usual, and they might be more tired after physical activity. This typically implies that there’s inflammation within the lungs, possibly caused by conditions such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or heartworm disease.

To better help you determine if your dog is suffering from nasal or lung clogging, pay attention to the specific sounds. For instance:

  • Nasal congestion: The sounds are usually more high-pitched and resonate mostly in the nasal area.
  • Lung congestion: The sounds are generally deeper, and it seems like they’re coming from the chest area.

It’s crucial not to self-diagnose. However, being able to recognize the distinctions between nasal and lung blockage can be incredibly helpful to ensure your dog receives the best care possible.

Common Causes of Congestion in Dogs

By knowing the common causes of dog stuffy noises, we can take better care of our pets and address any issues that arise promptly.

Here are 11 common reasons for dog respiratory clogging:

1. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is highly contagious and primarily affects dogs kept in close quarters, like at a boarding kennel or dog daycare. A variety of bacteria and viruses cause this condition. When a dog has Kennel cough, they might make a honking, goose-like noise that is immediately noticeable. The cough sounds almost as if they’re trying to clear something from the throat.

The poor dog may also cough up some phlegm or have a runny nose; this is because mucus is discharged due to the infection in the trachea and bronchial tubes. Another sign that your dog might be suffering from kennel cough is excessive panting or rapid breathing. In severe cases, fever and lethargy might be present as well.

To prevent kennel cough in the future, follow these tips:

  • Vaccination: Talk to your vet about the Bordetella vaccine, which might help protect your dog against the most common bacteria causing kennel cough.
  • Cleanliness: Ensure your dog’s living space is well-sanitized and ventilated to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Immune system: Maintain your dog’s overall health with a proper diet and regular exercise to strengthen its immune system.

2. Allergies & Allergic Pneumonitis

Dogs, just like people, can develop allergies to various substances in their environment. Common triggers include pollen, mold, dust mites, and certain types of food. When dogs are exposed to these allergens, their immune system may react by causing inflammation in their airways, leading to a stuffy sound.

A Sage Journal Study found that allergens can trigger nasal blockage as fast as thirty minutes or less after exposure. However, this kind of clogging is pretty short-lived, lasting around 90 minutes or slightly more.

Another condition that can cause a dog to sound congested is allergic pneumonitis. This is a type of lung disease triggered by breathing in allergens, leading to inflammation and swelling in the lungs. It can manifest as coughing, wheezing, or labored breathing.

3. Rhinitis & Sinusitis

Rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes, while sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses. Both of these conditions can cause similar symptoms, including nasal discharge, sneezing, and a clogged sound when the dog breathes.

Some common causes of rhinitis and sinusitis in dogs include allergies, infections, and foreign bodies. Allergies can be seasonal, food-related, or caused by environmental factors. Infections, usually bacterial or fungal, can also cause inflammation and blockage. Foreign bodies, such as a small object stuck in the dog’s nose, can cause irritation and lead to inflammation.

4. Foreign Objects

Another possible reason for the sounds could be foreign objects stuck in their nose or throat. Dogs are naturally curious creatures and like to sniff or chew on various items, which can lead to accidental inhalation of small objects.

Let me share a personal experience. One day, I noticed my dog making strange noises while breathing, and I suspected something might be lodged in her nasal passage. I carefully examined her nose and saw small seeds from the plants in our garden stuck in her nostrils. Using a pair of tweezers, I gently removed the seeds, and her breathing returned to normal.

It’s crucial to know the common objects that can cause nasal blockage. Some examples include:

  • Grass seeds: These can become easily lodged in the nasal passage or throat, causing discomfort and difficulty breathing.
  • Small toys: Pieces of broken toys or other small items can be accidentally inhaled while playing.
  • Food particles: Large or hard pieces of food may get stuck in the throat if not chewed properly.

If you suspect a foreign object is causing your dog’s clogged noises, it’s essential to act quickly and seek veterinary assistance. In some cases, removing the object on your own can be dangerous and might even push it further down the respiratory tract. Professional help is always the safest option.

5. Distemper

In the early stages, dogs with distemper may experience symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. It’s easy to mistake these initial signs for a common cold. However, as the virus progresses, more serious symptoms may arise. 

Dogs might develop a thick, yellowish-green discharge from their eyes and nose, which can cause congestion and difficulty breathing. Twitching at the mouth is another unique distemper symptom as the virus attacks the brain.

Distemper is transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or through aerosolized particles from sneezing or coughing. Because of this, it’s essential to keep our pets vaccinated and to avoid contact with strays or unvaccinated dogs. Ultimately, the best Distemper prevention is keeping your dog away from dog-crowded places. This is because a PMC study recorded an above 33% occurrence in vaccinated dogs. 

6. Congestive Heart Failure

In congestive heart failure, the heart can’t pump blood efficiently, leading to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs. This often results in coughing or other sounds that can be mistaken for congestion. Unfortunately, the prognosis of dogs with this condition isn’t good, with PubMed studies showing most dogs die within 6 to 14 months after diagnosis.

To better understand the condition, it is crucial to know the early signs. The most common symptoms include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, lethargy, and swelling in the abdomen. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian immediately. Early diagnosis can make a significant difference in their quality of life.

There are a few treatments that your veterinarian might suggest for your dog, such as:

  • Medications: Diuretics, vasodilators, and inotropic agents are commonly prescribed to help manage congestive heart failure in dogs.
  • Dietary changes: A low-sodium diet can help reduce fluid retention and ease the burden on your dog’s heart.
  • Exercise management: While mild to moderate exercise may be beneficial for dogs with heart issues, it is crucial to ensure they do not overexert themselves.

It’s important to remember that while we can’t cure congestive heart failure, we can help our dogs live a more comfortable life by closely monitoring them, ensuring they receive proper care, and adjusting their lifestyle accordingly.

7. Brachycephalic breeds

Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by short-nosed and flat-faced facial structures, are prone to respiratory issues that can contribute to the development of congestion sounds in dogs. 

These breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and French Bulldogs, often have elongated soft palates, narrowed airways, and other anatomical abnormalities that impede normal airflow. As a result, brachycephalic dogs may experience increased respiratory effort, snoring, and snorting like a pig.

8. Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a respiratory disease caused by two known strains of the influenza A virus: H3N8 and H3N2. These viruses spread among dogs primarily through contact with infected dogs, contaminated objects, and the air. Humans cannot get dog flu, but they can spread the virus between dogs.

The symptoms of canine influenza include a moist or dry cough, nasal discharge, sneezing, and a fever. It’s important to note that not all dogs will show these symptoms; some may become infected without showing any signs. Although dog flu is a serious condition, it is treatable as long as it is caught early and managed properly. 

9. Pneumonia

Sometimes, blocked dog noises might be something more serious, like pneumonia. Pneumonia in dogs is an inflammation of the lungs and airways, typically caused by infections or foreign substances. MSD observes that kennel cough and influenza cause damage to the airways, making a dog susceptible to pneumonia. 

 While it can be quite alarming, understanding the symptoms and treatment options can help ease my concerns. The symptoms of pneumonia in dogs can vary greatly, but some common signs include:

  • Coughing (sometimes producing mucus);
  • Difficulty breathing and nasal discharge;
  • Loss of appetite and lethargy; and
  • Fever.

10. Nasal Mites

These tiny parasites live in the nasal passages and sinuses of our canines. They can cause a lot of discomfort and irritation, leading to symptoms like nasal clogging, sneezing, and nosebleeds.

Thankfully, nasal mites can be treated. A veterinarian can prescribe medications to help eliminate these parasites and alleviate your dog’s symptoms. It’s important to remember that a proper diagnosis is required before any treatment is given, so visit your vet if you suspect nasal mites.

11. Lung Flukes

Lung flukes, also known as Paragonimus parasites, are a type of flatworm that can infect a dog’s lungs, causing respiratory issues. These parasites thrive in moist environments and can be ingested by dogs when they drink contaminated water or eat raw or undercooked meat that contains the parasite.

When a dog gets infected with lung flukes, they might display symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. The cough might produce mucus or even a small amount of blood. Other signs include fever, lethargy, and weight loss. 

The good news is that lung flukes can be treated. A veterinarian will typically prescribe a course of praziquantel, a medication that effectively targets and eliminates the parasitic infection. During treatment, it’s essential to keep your dog’s living area clean and dry and to prevent them from accessing potentially contaminated water sources or raw meat.

Immediate Relief for a Congested Dog

Thankfully, there are several things we can do to provide immediate relief for a congested dog.

First, it’s essential to keep the environment clean and well-maintained. Regularly vacuum carpets and upholstery, and make sure to wash your dog’s bedding frequently. This helps reduce allergens and irritants that may contribute to any nasal clogging.

Another thing is using a humidifier or vaporizer in the room where the dog spends most of its time. Adding moisture to the air can help soothe their irritated airways and make breathing more comfortable.

Additionally, offering warm, unsalted chicken broth can also help ease their congestion. Not only does it provide hydration, but the warm broth also helps soothe the throat and loosen mucus.

In some cases, providing a gentle nose massage can offer relief as well. Gently massaging the bridge of their nose, starting between the eyes and moving toward the nostrils, can help stimulate mucus flow and help with the stuffiness.

Don’t forget that it’s vital to keep a close eye on your dog’s condition. If symptoms get worse or if they’re not showing any improvement after a few days, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.

Preventing Congestion in Dogs

In this section, we will be discussing three crucial ways to ensure our furry friends are in top-notch shape: regular checkups, proper hygiene, and maintaining a safe environment.

Regular Checkups

Making sure that our dogs receive routine check-ups by a veterinarian is perhaps the most important way of preventing dog nasal issues. Doing so helps to catch any signs or symptoms of respiratory issues early before they become severe. 

It’s best to take our pets for vaccinations and general health assessments at least once a year. Keep a record of your dog’s medical history and share any concerns with the veterinarian.

Proper Hygiene

Maintaining our dogs’ cleanliness is not only essential for outward appearances but also for preventing stuffiness and other health issues. Make sure to:

Clean their ears: Regularly cleaning our dogs’ ears can prevent the buildup of dirt, wax, and debris that could lead to infections and congestion. Use a pet-friendly cleaner and cotton balls to gently clean the outer ear.
Trim their nails: Regular nail trimming prevents overgrowth, which can harbor bacteria and lead to infections. Use a pet nail trimmer and be careful not to cut into the quick, as this is painful for them.
Brush their teeth: Oral hygiene is crucial to prevent dental diseases, which can lead to other health issues. Brush their teeth using a pet toothbrush and toothpaste at least twice a week.
Bathe them regularly: Bathing our dogs as needed, depending on their breed and lifestyle helps keep them clean and free of allergens and irritants that can cause congestion. Be sure to use a quality pet shampoo to avoid skin irritations.

Maintaining a Safe Environment

A clean, safe environment is essential to prevent congestion and other health problems in our dogs. Some measures to consider are:

Remove allergens: Regularly clean our homes to minimize allergens such as dust and pollen, which can cause congestion in our dogs. Invest in an air purifier to enhance air quality.
Avoid smoke exposure: Smoking or vaping around our dogs can significantly increase the risk of respiratory issues and congestion. Avoid smoking in the same room or in confined spaces with our pets.
Monitor humidity levels: High humidity levels can make it challenging for our dogs to breathe and may lead to congestion. Keep humidity levels in check with a dehumidifier if needed or provide proper ventilation.

When to Visit a Veterinarian

If you notice that your dog is consistently exhibiting signs of nasal congestion, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian promptly. These include labored breathing, wheezing, excessive snoring, or nasal discharge.

Signs to watch out for include:

  • Persistent coughing or gagging: If your dog coughs or gags frequently while sounding congested, it could indicate something serious, such as kennel cough or heartworm disease.
  • Difficulty breathing: If the dog is struggling to breathe or their breathing seems labored, that’s a clear sign that they need immediate medical attention.
  • Loss of appetite: When the dog is not interested in eating or is unable to eat because of the congestion, you need to take action.

Pay attention to other potential signs of infection, including:

  • Fever;
  • Lethargy;
  • Nasal discharge; and
  • Sneezing.

By following these simple strategies, we can significantly reduce the risk of nasal obstruction in our dogs and help them stay healthy and happy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my dog throwing up and sounding congested?

Dogs throw up and sound congested due to various reasons, like respiratory infections, aspiration pneumonia, or an obstruction in their airways. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

What can I do for my dog’s congested cough?

If a dog has a stuffy cough, consult with their veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis. They may recommend medications like cough suppressants or antibiotics. Additionally, try to keep your dog in a comfortable and stress-free environment to promote healing.

How can I help with my dog’s congestion and swallowing?

To help your dog with congestion and swallowing issues, it might help to elevate their food and water dishes, as this can make swallowing easier for them. Moreover, a humidifier or a steamed bathroom may help in reducing congestion. Remember, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to address the underlying cause, as each dog’s situation may differ.

What should I do if my dog is congested and sneezing?

When a dog is congested and sneezing, it’s best to keep them in a clean and dust-free environment. You may also use a humidifier or steam to alleviate symptoms. However, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the cause of the congestion.

Is congestion in dogs a cause for concern?

Although mild stuffiness in dogs is not always a cause for concern, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. If your dog experiences persistent congestion, seek medical attention.

What are some remedies for a phlegmy-sounding dog?

For a phlegmy-sounding dog,  employ home remedies like using a humidifier, providing steam treatment, or using a natural saline nasal spray. It’s important to keep the home allergen-free to reduce irritation. However, always consult with a veterinarian before trying home remedies to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your dog’s specific situation.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to remember that there can be various reasons for nasal clogging, ranging from allergies to more serious health issues. While it’s normal for dogs to have some occasional nasal discharge, sustained nasal blockages might be a symptom of something more serious.

Closely monitor your dog’s behavior, appetite, and energy levels when they sound congested. If they’re still playful and eating well, it may be a minor issue. However, it’s always advisable to consult a veterinarian, especially if you notice other symptoms such as increased lethargy, frequent coughing or sneezing, or if the congestion persists for an extended period.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.