My Dog Sounds Congested? Dog Breathing Problems and What to Do

We’ve all had days where we’re congested and can’t breathe well. Our noses may be clogged, we may be suffering from a cold, or the weather may be making us suffer. Congestion and a respiratory issue here and there is just a part of life. But we sometimes forget that dogs can just as easily suffer from the same things.

Just like humans can suffer from congestion and breathing issues, so can our furry friends. Many people notice it when their companion is sleeping and suddenly starts snoring or sounding like they’re congested and having a hard time. Others may see them congested or struggling during the day after exercise or drinking water. And since your poor puppy can’t tell you directly what’s wrong, it’s up to you to figure out if it’s serious or not.

Your pup sounding congested every once in a while is normal. They have bad days or nights just like us, especially during allergy season. If they’re just mildly congested while sleeping or occasionally having problems, they will probably get through it on their own. But it’s still good to know when to call the vet in case it gets serious. There are also some ways you can help ease their suffering.

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Congested While Sleeping

Many people notice that their dogs sound congested while they’re sleeping. It can be alarming and a little scary when you’re woken up in the middle of the night by your pup’s congested breathing or snoring. Our minds may naturally jump to the worst conclusion and even wake them up to make sure they’re okay.

If your pup has nights where they sound congested, they are usually fine. They may be sleeping in a position that affects their breathing, like sleeping on their back. Or it could just be a rough night due to allergies or sinuses. We have nights like that too. But of course, since they can’t tell us if there’s a deeper issue, there are some things we need to look out for.

If you notice your pup sounding congested at night, check what position they’re sleeping in before you panic. If they’re sleeping on their back or in an awkward position on their side, the issue will resolve itself. Your pup will naturally move back to a normal position. If you notice that they’re in a normal sleeping position or you notice that it’s a constant issue, you should keep an eye on them to make sure it’s not serious.

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Sinuses and Allergies

Allergies and sinus issues are problems that we all suffer from constantly, and we may not realize that our dogs are suffering right along with us. It can be especially hard in the spring months when pollen is everywhere. If your companion sounds congested, allergies could be responsible, especially if you’re also suffering from sinuses or allergies.

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If your companion is suffering from congestion and a runny nose, sneezing, or a minor cough from allergies, keep an eye on them. A minor allergy or sinus irritation should at least improve in a few days. If it’s not showing any signs of improvement or you’re just too worried to handle it, don’t hesitate to take your furry friend to the vet.

Respiratory Infections

While a congested dog doesn’t necessarily mean a sick dog, you do need to be keeping an eye out to make sure that their problem isn’t a full-blown infection. If your congested pup’s symptoms include coughing and hacking, a fever, or retching, there may be a respiratory illness involved. The most common respiratory infections that dogs can get include Kennel Cough and Rhinitis.

Kennel Cough is similar to the cold in dogs. This disease can be easy to contract if your pup is in close quarters with other dogs. If you’ve recently had your companion in a kennel at the vet or daycare and they’re now having breathing difficulties or a cough, it’s possible they contracted it.

Kennel Cough can also produce a fever, loss of appetite, and labored breathing. It can be dealt with at home just like a human cold, but it’s best to go to the vet for a proper diagnosis and medications. If you think your furbaby has Kennel Cough, it’s best to keep them, their toys, and their food bowl away from other dogs.

Rhinitis and Sinusitis are other common respiratory illnesses that could contribute to your pup’s problems. Rhinitis involves swelling of the nose while sinusitis involves swelling of the nasal passages. If your companion’s breathing problems are accompanied by facial pain or swelling, excessive sneezing, labored or open-mouth breathing, or nasal discharge, you may want to consider getting your companion to the vet. They may have one of these illnesses.

Congested from Dental Issues

We don’t always think about our dog’s dental health as much as we should, but it can be a factor in their breathing. If they have a cavity or any kind of infection in their mouth, it can potentially cause breathing issues. If your pup seems congested or like they’re having trouble breathing at night, you may want to take a look at their teeth. If you’ve never had a vet do an exam on their teeth, you may want to consider doing that on your next visit.

There are ways you can help your pup’s dental health from home. You can buy your furry friend some dental toys and treats that have ingredients to help with plaque build-up.

You can even brush their teeth using a pet toothbrush on pet toothpaste. You can buy a dog toothbrushing kit to help clean your pup’s teeth and remove plaque, preventing cavities and infections. If your companion’s congestion or breathing problems are caused by dental issues, these methods may help.

Congested from Obesity

Weight problems can cause a number of other health issues in anybody, including dogs. Being overweight can naturally have a negative impact on the lungs, causing breathing problems and congestion. If your pup is congested and having breathing problems, it may be an early warning sign that they need to lose weight.

Pay attention to your pup’s weight and the weight range of the breed. If your furbaby is overweight, it may be time to cut back on the treats. Keep track of how many treats you’re giving them each day, how many calories are in each, and how much you’re feeding them. Try to use healthy, low-calorie treats whenever you can.

You can also help your furry friend lose weight by getting them out more to exercise. If your pup is sitting around doing nothing all day, it’s going to be hard to get them to lose weight. Make sure you’re taking them on walks every day if possible, playing with them, and keeping them as active as possible.

If you’re still having trouble getting your pup’s weight under control, you may need to consult your vet and potentially put them on a special diet for losing weight.

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Breathing Issues from Age

As your dog gets into their older years, the nerves around their airways will start to weaken. Because of this, seniors are more likely to deal with congestion while sleeping. If you hear your old companion struggling with congestion or snoring while they’re sleeping, you usually don’t need to worry. I’ve had many older dogs throughout the years, and snoring was almost always normal for them.

While congestion in older dogs is natural, you should still keep an eye on them and make sure you’re getting them checked out at the vet regularly. You should go to the vet if the snoring is disrupting your old pup’s sleep or if you’re worried that it’s an illness.

Breed-Related Breathing Issues

If you have a certain breed, breathing problems are unfortunately going to come with the territory. Any flat-faced breed specifically is going to have more difficulty with their nose. Because of their skull and face structure, flat-faced breeds have obstructed airways that often cause them to suffer from BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome). These breeds include Pekingese, Pugs, and French Bulldogs.

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Flat-faced dog breed (Pekingese)

If you have any of these breeds, you should expect some congestion and breathing difficulty at times. You can do things to soothe the congestion so they can breathe a little better, but keep in mind that breathing issues are pretty much always going to be part of their life.

You need to be especially careful about keeping these breeds healthy to limit the problems they have. Keep them in their weight range, don’t keep them out in the heat for too long, and don’t do anything to make their breathing obstruction worse.

Soothing Your Dog’s Congestion

While there may not be a magic pill to cure you or your furry friend of congestion, there are some home remedies and techniques you can try. While they may not magically make your dog feel 100% again, they may help them breathe better for a while.

If you think that your pup may be congested because of the air quality, you may want to invest in a humidifier and put it near their bed. The humidifier may clear their airways allowing for better breathing. It may even help you too if you’re struggling to breathe at night.

You can try making your congested baby some chicken soup at home to help clear their sinuses. It can work on dogs as well as it can on humans. Just make sure your recipe includes low-sodium broth. Normal broth can have too much sodium for your pup.

You can include cooked vegetables like carrots and brown rice with your soup. Make sure it’s warm, but not too hot. You don’t want your furry friend burning their tongue.

If your furbaby is congested because of allergies, you may be able to give them antihistamines, namely Benadryl. This medication is known for helping humans with allergies, and it can help our furry companions too. You do need to be careful about how much you give them though.

I get away with giving my small Pekingese half of a Benadryl pill, but I would recommend consulting your vet about the dosage before giving them any human medicine. Keep in mind that antihistamines can make dogs drowsy just like humans, so don’t panic if your pup seems a bit out of it after taking a pill.

Knowing When to Call a Veterinarian

When in doubt, contact your veterinarian to be safe. If you’ve tried the soup, the humidifier, and the meds and seen no improvement in a few days, don’t take any risks. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your vet even if it seems like a small issue to get their opinion.

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If you’re not confident in determining how serious your pup’s symptoms are or that you can help them, go ahead and make the appointment, no matter how much your pup hates it. Even if it’s nothing serious this time, you may learn how to handle it next time something happens.

There are some cases where you should just give up figuring it out yourself and call the vet right away. If your pup’s congestion is accompanied by a hacking cough or any of the other symptoms I mentioned for a respiratory infection, I recommend going ahead and going to the vet, especially if this is your first time dealing with a respiratory infection in your pup.

While they might heal on their own, dogs can’t tell us when they feel better or worse, and infections can cause serious problems if they don’t heal properly. Some infections just require extra medications from a vet clinic.

If you don’t have one already, buy a pet thermometer so you can easily check their temperature. A fever can be a big red flag and should never be ignored. If your pup has a fever accompanied by discolored gums and lips, mucus from the nostrils, and difficulty breathing, call the vet.

Watch Your Dog’s Breathing

Hearing a congested dog can be scary the first time. I’ve been in the position of listening to them and even waking them up because I’m scared that they can’t breathe. It can be worrisome when they can’t seem to breathe or seem to be sick. We can’t just talk to them and figure it out, so we have to look at the signs ourselves.

If your furbaby seems congested at night, don’t hit the panic button yet, and watch and wait to see if the problem resolves itself. If they’re consistently congested or struggling at night, consider getting a humidifier, especially if it seems like sinuses or allergies are involved. Get them some warm (not hot) soup if they seem to be suffering from sinus issues. Consider giving them allergy medications, but only after you’ve consulted a vet.

Watch for deep, hacking coughs and make sure your pup isn’t suffering from a serious respiratory illness. When in doubt, call the vet and see if an appointment needs to be made. Make sure you have your nearest emergency vet’s contact information on standby at all times in case your baby needs it in an emergency. A congested dog usually isn’t cause for much concern, but it’s always best to have your vet’s contact information ready in case it turns into a serious issue.

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