Why Do Dogs Make Choking Sounds



Gross! Does it sound like your dog is about to hack something up? This loud choking sound can cause pet parents to panic. If you have ever been at home and suddenly heard your dog coughing as if he or she was choking on something, but nothing was in their mouth, you might scoop your dog up and rush him to the local animal hospital. If you can confirm that your dog isn’t choking on an object, there are other reasons that can cause this type of behavior. Before you panic, continue reading to learn more about the possible causes and what to do to help your dog.

The Root of the Behavior

A cough that involves a choking sound can be worrisome. Common causes of this symptom include reverse sneezing, pneumonia, kennel cough, heart disease, collapsing trachea and a foreign object lodged in the throat. Some of these causes are worse than others. Observe your dog closely as soon as you notice the behavior. Reverse sneezing is a common issue seen in dog breeds that have flat faces such as Pugs. The sound of a reverse sneeze can also sound like a choking noise. Reverse sneezing is not usually a cause for alarm. It is often due to an irritant causing the soft palate spasm. Common irritants include pollen, excitement, sudden temperature change, exercise, and a tight collar. Usually, these irritants cause a dog to sneeze, but some dogs experience a reverse sneeze instead. A reverse sneeze pulls air rapidly through the nose instead of pushing the air out. Reverse sneezes sound awful but aren’t serious unless they become chronic and interfere with your dog’s ability to breath properly. 

Pneumonia is the build-up of phlegm or fluid in the lungs. Coughing is a common symptom, but other signs include difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, fever, weight loss, and lethargy. Pneumonia is a serious condition that needs to be treated by a veterinarian. Kennel cough is an infection that produces deep coughing, choking, gagging, snorting, vomiting, sneezing, and a dry hacking cough. These coughing fits can happen anytime while your dog has kennel cough, but exercise and excitement are common triggers. Full recovery is often the outcome when treated by a veterinarian. Heart disease can be developed in dogs of any age. Common signs include coughing, choking, weakness, loss of appetite, bluish color tongue, fatigue, decreased desire to walk or play, difficulty breathing, and a rapid or slow heartbeat. A visit to the veterinarian is required for diagnosis and treatment options. A collapsed trachea causes dogs to experience a strong cough that can sound like choking or honking. Other symptoms include gagging, respiratory distress, and exercise intolerance. This is a disease that can be acquired or congenital. Treatment by a veterinarian is required. If your dog is choking on an object he or she will attempt to swallow repeatedly, lick their lips, and violently continue gagging, choking, and coughing. If your dog doesn’t cough up the object quickly an emergency visit to the veterinarian office or animal hospital is wise. 

Encouraging the Behavior

Regardless of the cause of the choking sounds, visiting a veterinarian for a confirmed diagnosis is recommended. Some of the causes are serious and can lead to death if not treated properly. Treatment can help resolve the issue, improve the quality of life, and prolong the life of your dog. You should never ignore the symptom of choking because it can be a sign of serious illness. The first time you see your dog making choking noises you need to determine if they have an object lodged in their throat. If your dog isn’t choking on an object you need to consider one of the causes and illnesses mentioned earlier. Your dog’s age, current health status, past health history, eating habits, and lifestyle should be considered when determining the cause of the choking sound. A licensed veterinarian needs to examine your dog for proper diagnosis and treatment options. Depending on the situation, treatment options often include an improved diet and medication. However, every case is unique and other treatment options could be recommended by the veterinarian. If the choking behavior is harmless and due to an adorable flat dog face or a reverse sneeze then this behavior will just be part of normal life for you and your dog. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

If the illness has been ruled out as the cause of the choking sounds, chances are an irritant is causing the symptom. Observing your dog and taking note of the environment when your dog has a choking episode will help pinpoint the irritant. Common irritants are the odor of cleaning products, baby powder, cooking smells, perfume, and room deodorizers. Sometimes the irritant can be the type of shampoo and doggie cologne the groomer uses on your dog. If your dog continues the behavior but you are not able to determine the irritant, visit a veterinarian for further diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes you might need to get a second opinion if necessary.


Watching your adorable dog cough and choke is not easy. As a pet parent, you want to do everything you can to get your dog immediate help, especially if he or she is choking on an object. If an irritant or other illness symptoms are the cause, an appointment at the veterinarian office is best suited for this situation. The severity of the illness or other health issues will determine the treatment plan.