Why Do Dogs Wheeze



A dog’s wheeze may be unobtrusive, or it may be hard to ignore. It may be so loud that you cannot hear the television over it or it may even keep you and your family awake at night. Do you need to turn the television up louder or sleep with earplugs in? If so, you need to figure out what is going on with your dog because it may be a sign of a major issue. Quite often, a canine wheeze is a symptom of seasonal allergies. However, it is a symptom that should not be ignored because it can point to a number of serious medical conditions.

The Root of the Behavior

So why does a dog wheeze? Many dogs have seasonal allergies, complete with coughing, sneezing and wheezing. Dogs with seasonal allergies are often treated with antihistamines, the most common of which is Benadryl. Are you surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be, after all, dogs are people too! That said if you are going to give your dog Benadryl, be sure that you are giving him the correct dose. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a dog can take two to four milligrams of Benadryl for every kilogram of body weight (1 kg = about 2.2 pounds). This amount of Benadryl can be taken two to three times per day, however, you should keep in mind that Benadryl has the same sedative effect on dogs that it has on people. It’s important that you consult with your vet before giving your dog any medication, and never use time-release Benadryl with your dog for any reason.

Another reason why your dog may wheeze is that he has Kennel Cough, which can be serious. Kennel Cough, officially known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is the equivalent of a human chest cold and is usually more annoying than dangerous if treated quickly. Like the chest cold, however, it is highly contagious and is easily spread wherever dogs are together, such as at a kennel, a daycare, or a dog show. While a dog with Kennel Cough will wheeze, the main symptom of Kennel Cough is, of course, a strong cough. It’s usually not too serious among healthy dogs, but dogs that are very young or immunocompromised may need extra care. Vets can vaccinate against Kennel Cough by giving your dog a Bordetella vaccination. Many kennels and daycares will require proof that your dog has received this vaccination before accepting your dog.

A more serious reason for wheezing can be heartworms. Heartworms are a parasite transmitted by mosquitos that result in larvae embedding themselves in your dog’s heart. Mature heartworms are long, spaghetti-like parasites that impede the flow of blood in your dog. In addition to wheezing, a dog with heartworms will cough, be lethargic and lose weight. Heartworms are carried by mosquitos, and dogs are at risk of heartworm infection anywhere mosquitos can be found. Fortunately, there are monthly heartworm prevention medications you can give your dog.

Encouraging the Behavior

There are many reasons a dog may wheeze, some more benign than others. Dogs can wheeze for reasons unrelated to illness. For instance, a hot, humid summer day will make anyone wheeze, especially a dog with a smooshy face, like a Bulldog or a Pug. Excessive leash pulling will result in your dog gasping for air and wheezing regardless of the weather outside, and this behavior can result in wheezing continuing for some time after you’ve returned home. The best way to discourage this behavior and to help guarantee your dog’s comfort and enjoyment of his favorite activity is to make sure your dog, and you, are well-trained in leash behavior. A service like Wag can provide walkies, but it is up to you to take responsibility to make sure your dog is comfortable walking on a leash.

Like people, some dogs will be heavy or even obese. And, just like people, overweight or obese dogs will tend to wheeze with moderate, or even mild exertions. If your dog is wheezing when he walks with you to the mailbox, it may be time to take a serious look at your dog’s diet, including any people food well-meaning family and friends have been sneaking him. You should also increase your dog’s activity level, taking him for more walks, or more visits to the local dog park.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Hearing your dog wheeze can be scary. Fortunately, it usually sounds worse than it actually is. Once you’ve eliminated the serious medical concerns, you are left with an upsetting noise from your dog. The best way to keep your dog from wheezing is to keep up with vaccinations for Kennel Cough and Heartworm. Be prepared to treat seasonal allergies if your dog has them or develops them. Also, make sure that your dog is properly leash trained. Keep an eye on your dog’s eating habits and activity levels and make sure that your dog isn’t carrying too much weight.


If your dog starts to wheeze, it is important to remain calm. Pay attention to your dog, and keep track of any additional symptoms that may come up. No one knows your dog better than you. Use your instincts, and don’t be afraid to talk to your vet about your dog.