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Why Does My Dog Sound Congested?

Is your dog making congestive sounds—the same types of sounds you would expect to hear from a human suffering from a cold or some other respiratory affliction?

Can a dog even get congested in this way?

These questions are very important.  They are also quite common.

Thousands of concerned dog owners the world over have posed these same questions to both the internet, via their favorite search engine, and to their local vets.

And the answers may surprise you.

In this article we will address the question, “why does my dog sound congested,” in more detail.

We will do this by listing, and explaining, some of the potential reasons for canine congestion, and by highlighting some of the solutions you can apply to address each of these causes.

Can Dogs Get Congested?

Before we get into the actual reasons for congestion in dogs, let us first address the question, “can dogs get congested.”

And the answer to this query is yes; dogs can absolutely suffer from congestion, and that congestion can often result in congestive sounds and noises, both when your pet is awake and sleeping.

Congestion in dogs, just as in humans, means roughly the main thing: a condition or set of circumstances that is obstructing the normal flow of air into the nose, lungs and/or other parts of the respiratory system.

This congestion, which often makes an audible sound because of the obstruction, can be attributed to many different factors and causes, ranging from the way the body is positioned as your dog sleeps, to health conditions ranging from mild to severe.

The Reasons for Congestion in Dogs—and What You Can Do about It

As we stated briefly above, the possible reasons for congestion in dogs are many in number.

To help you identify the exact culprit in your pet, below we have highlighted some of these reasons and, for each, offered a potential solution.

Obstructive Sleeping Position

Does the congestion you hear in your dog happen only at night?

If so, does it seem to occur more when your dog is in a certain sleeping position?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, the congestion you hear may be due to an obstructive sleeping position—lying in such a way that the airway is partially blocked.

As dogs sleep, they can toss and turn, just as their human counterparts.

And in this tossing and turning, they can sometimes land on a body position that partially blocks their airway.

This potential reason for congestion is much more common in larger dogs, and the congested sounds in these beefier breeds tend to happen more frequently when they are sleeping on their back.

In this position, which is certainly not a normal position for dogs, the airway can become partially blocked by the tongue, leading to snoring or congested sounds.

If you feel an obstructive body position may be behind your dog’s congestion, try waking him up and repositioning him.

If the snoring or congestion stops, you have found your culprit, and no more actions on your part are needed.

Allergies

When the cold and darkness of winter transform into the light, color and warmth of spring, most of us rejoice in the welcome change.

However, for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, the vernal equinox can bring utter misery.

And just like us, some dogs can also suffer the effects of seasonal allergies, resulting in congestion.

In addition to tree pollen, dogs can be allergic to all kinds of things.

Particles such as dust, mold, and even cat hair can bring about allergic reactions in your pooch.

So can certain food types.

When allergies strike dogs, they can cause their nasal passages to become very inflamed.

This inflammation leads to a narrowing of those nasal passages and the resultant airway obstruction, a symptom of which is nasal congestion.

So what can you do if you suspect your dog is suffering from nasal or respiratory allergies?

Can you simply crush up a Claritin or Benadryl pill into his food?

Not exactly.

But you can take your dog to the vet to be tested for allergies.

And if the result is positive, your vet can prescribe medications that ease your dog’s breathing—and you can get back to sleeping, uninterrupted by your dog’s nagging congestion.

Illness

There are many illnesses and conditions that can cause congestion in dogs.

In fact, any disease that affects the respiratory system can cause airway passages to inflame and narrow.

Some of these illnesses are mild and will usually pass after a week or two, while others may cause congestion that lasts significantly longer.

A sample of these illnesses includes:

  • Common cold.  The common cold, also known as rhinitis, is a (usually) mild viral infection of the upper respiratory system.  It can cause congestion as well as fatigue in your dog, but will usually pass on its own after a few days.
  • Sinus infection.  Sometimes, a simple bout of the common cold can turn into a bacterial infection of the sinuses.
  • Bronchitis or Pneumonia.  Both bronchitis and pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria and, in rarer cases, fungi.

Other more serious illnesses can also cause congestion in dogs, such as some cancers of the nose, throat and lungs.

If illness is the cause for your dog’s congestion, and that congestion (and other symptoms) does not resolve of its own volition after a week to ten days, it is very important that you make an appointment with your vet.

Serious bacterial and viral infections may need to be treated with antibiotics or antivirals, respectively.

And more serious issues, such as cancers and other tumors, have a better chance of successful treatment if they are caught early.

Other Possible Causes

The causes mentioned above are certainly the most likely reasons for congestion sounds in your dog, but they are not the only ones.

For instance, structural deformities of the nose (deviated septum, etc.) and palate can also be responsible for these sounds, as can certain dental issues and rapid weight gain.

As a general rule, if the congestion sounds in your dog are infrequent or fleeting in nature, you probably have nothing to worry about.

However, if the congestion is prolonged and accompanied by other unusual symptoms, it is imperative that you have him checked out by your vet.

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