Wheezing and Breathing Problems in Dogs

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Wheezing and Breathing Problems in Dogs

A dog at rest takes about 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Breathing at a faster rate suggests fever, pain, anxiety, or a problem with the lungs or chest. Rapid breathing should be distinguished from panting. Panting is the primary way a dog lowers her body temperature; water evaporates from the mouth, tongue, and lungs, and warm air in the body is exchanged for cooler air in the atmosphere.

Rapid breathing, when accompanied by labored or difficult breathing, is a sign of distress. Dogs with congestive heart failure and/or lung disease often have rapid, labored breathing at rest or with only mild exertion. Other causes of rapid, labored breathing are shock, heat stroke, dehydration, and ketoacidosis associated with diabetes, kidney failure, and some kinds of poisoning.

Dogs with rapid, labored breathing should be seen by a veterinarian.

Noisy Breathing

Noisy breathing indicates an obstruction in the nasal passages, the back of the throat, or the larynx. Snorting and snoring are typically heard with the brachycephalic syndrome. If your dog normally breathes quietly but suddenly develops noisy breathing, this is a cause for concern. She should be checked by a veterinarian.

Stridor (Croupy Breathing)

Croupy breathing, or stridor, is a high-pitched raspy sound caused by air passing through a narrowed voice box. It may be heard only when the dog exercises. When the onset is sudden, the most likely cause is a foreign body in the voice box. When croupy breathing has been present for some time, laryngeal paralysis is a possible cause.


A wheeze is a whistling sound heard when the dog inhales or exhales, or both. Wheezing indicates spasm or narrowing in the trachea or bronchi. Wheezes in the lungs are best heard with a stethoscope. Some causes of wheezing are chronic bronchitis, congestive heart failure, and tumors of the larynx, trachea, and lungs.

Shallow Breathing

Shallow breathing is seen in dogs with broken ribs and severe bruising of the chest wall. Blood, pus, or serum in the chest cavity (called pleural effusion)restricts breathing by interfering with the range of motion of the chest and expansion of the lungs. A dog with shallow breathing compensates by breathing more rapidly.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.

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Reviewed on 12/3/2009 11:29:43 AM

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