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What is Noisy Breathing?

When a dog has a noisy breathing problem, we as pet owners, cannot easily dismiss it. Not only is the sound disturbing, the actions of our pets as they deal with uncomfortable breathing is a concern as well. Noisy breathing is described as stertor and stridor. Stertor is an inspiratory snoring or gasp. Stridor is is a raspy, wheezing, or vibrating sound upon inhalation (most common) and exhalation.

Noisy breathing can be an indication of many different medical issues. When a dog has a breathing abnormality, whether acquired or congenital, this means an indication of a respiratory issue, which should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Noisy Breathing in Dogs

Noisy breathing can be displayed in many ways; the causes for why your dog is breathing with a raspy sound can range from mild to serious. Always see your veterinarian for any changes in your pet’s breathing patterns.

  • Open mouth breathing
  • Exercise intolerance
  •  Restlessness
  • Noise upon inhalation, exhalation or both
  • Coughing
  • Snorting
  • Gagging
  • Labored, difficult breathing (dyspnea)
  • You may see movement of the chest
  • The sounds may be heard even at a distance
  • Snoring
  • He may be asymptomatic at rest, and only breathe noisily during exertion, or he may make the noises all of the time
  • Change or loss of bark
  • There may be a nasal discharge
  • He may have blue mucus membranes (cyanosis)

Types

 

Abnormal breathing will result when air passes through areas that may be affected with disease or malformation.

Nares and nasal cavity

  • The nose openings, the nasal cavity, and internal nares open to the pharynx

Nasopharynx

 

  • Connects the windpipe with pharynx above the soft palate

Pharynx

  • Connects the mouth and the nasal passages with the esophagus

Larynx

  • Connects the pharynx to the trachea, and is also known as the voice box

Trachea

  • Connects the larynx to the lungs, and is commonly called the windpipe
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Causes of Noisy Breathing in Dogs

The causes of stertor and stridor in dogs are many. Some are congenital (present at birth), while others may be acquired due to illness or trauma. Always consult your veterinarian if you notice that your canine family member is having a breathing issue. A few of the causes you may want to have your veterinary care team investigate are listed below.

Nares and nasal cavity

  • Neoplasia (new, uncontrolled tissue growth)
  • Foreign body
  • Collapsed nostrils (stenotic nares)
  • Chronic nasal disease like rhinitis

Nasopharynx

  • Neoplasia
  • Foreign body
  • Nasopharyngeal stenosis (results in poor airflow when the mouth is closed)
  • Polyps

Pharynx

  • Neoplasia
  • Abscess
  • Tonsillar prolapse
  • Retropharyngeal lymphadenopathy (enlargement at the back of the throat)
  • Soft palate elongation

Larynx

  • Neoplasia
  • Laryngeal paralysis (breeds congenitally prone are Bouvier des Flandres, Dalmatian, Siberian Husky, Bulldog and Bull Terrier, while  breeds prone to acquire the paralysis are Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Labrador Retriever, Irish Setter and Great Dane)
  • Laryngeal collapse
  • Everted laryngeal saccules (masses between the vocal folds)

Trachea

  • Tracheal stenosis (windpipe becomes narrow or constricted)
  • Tracheal collapse (tracheal loss of rigidity and prevention of airflow to the lungs, often seen in Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, and Pomeranians) 
  • Foreign object

Brachycephalic syndrome is common to breeds with short noses; the complications are a combination of elongated soft palate, stenotic nares, and everted laryngeal saccules. Breeds predisposed are the Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Pekingese, Chow Chow, Pug, Lhasa Apso, Boxer, Shar Pei, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, French Bulldog, and Boston Terrier.

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Diagnosis of Noisy Breathing in Dogs

Sometimes our family pets become very excited when they walk through the veterinary clinic doors. Whether it is the elation about the outing or the stress of the clinical visit, the excitement will perhaps exacerbate the noisy breathing that is already present. While waiting in the reception area of the clinic, try to calm your pet if he is so enthusiastic that the veterinarian will have a difficult time assessing the problem.

Give your veterinarian as much information as possible. Let her know the changes that you have seen in your furry family member, such as a difference in his bark or exercise tolerance. Tell the veterinarian if your pet has had any accidents or trauma of late. As she listens with the stethoscope, your veterinary caregiver might hear sounds that will provide clues as to if there is an obstruction or abnormality.

Radiographs of the head, neck, lungs, and chest may give some insight. Sometimes an elongated palate or a polyp on the windpipe could be evident. Further diagnostic tools, like ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan could be invaluable in assessing noisy breathing.

In addition, a complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis may be needed to add information to the health evaluation of your dog.

If absolutely necessary, a pharyngoscopy or laryngoscopy will be considered. This will clearly show anatomical changes, but will only be done if the risk of complication (such as airway collapse) is low. Rest assured, if the veterinary team feels this must be done in order to fully diagnose the reason for the stertor and stridor, your pet will be carefully monitored, and the team will be prepared for intervention measures if required.

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Treatment of Noisy Breathing in Dogs

Treating the cause of noisy breathing is important, especially if there is risk of respiratory collapse or secondary complications like hyperthermia, aspiration pneumonia, or consistent regurgitation.

Surgical measures are sometimes needed to correct noisy breathing problems. Shortening of an elongated palate, removal of obstructive polyps, enlarging of nasal openings, and foreign body removal are all possibilities that can bring dramatic improvement for your beloved pet. Your veterinary specialist and her team will discuss with you the best options, cost, prognosis, and aftercare.

Of course, if when you bring your dog into the clinic the situation has already reached critical stages, emergency measures will be taken to permit your dog to breathe more easily, once he has been stabilized.

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Recovery of Noisy Breathing in Dogs

Once your pet has been released from the hospital, it is essential that you provide a quiet resting place. A soft bed would be a nice feature to offer your recovering pet. There will be pain medication and antibiotics prescribed, and exercise restriction will need to be followed for a period of time. You may notice that your pet still makes noise when he breathes. This is normal, may take time to resolve due to swelling at the surgical site. Your veterinarian will advise you on follow up appointments in which to verify that all is well.

As for the future, it is in the best interest of your dog to remain at a weight healthy for his stature. Over strenuous exercise, stress, and exposure to extreme heat and high temperatures must be avoided.

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Average Cost

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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 02/07/2016, edited: 02/24/2021

Noisy Breathing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Malinois X

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Five Weeks

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My puppy started with noisy breathing a couple days ago, sounded like he had mucus stuck in his nose but now he has a runny nose and he’s sneezing. I think he caught a cold but I’m not very sure. He’s 5 weeks old and still hasn’t had his first vaccine. He’s very furry, so he doesn’t like sleeping on his bed with his siblings because it gets hot for him, so he sleeps on the floor. He’s acting normal: eating/drinking, playing, and running around. Is there any reason for concern? We’re keeping an eye on him, but from what I’ve seen he’s doing alright.

Feb. 19, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Hello, Sorry about that. The above symptoms indicate either an allergy or a respiratory infection. Please take him to a vet for treatment. If it's a respiratory infection e.g kennel cough he may pass it to his littermates as it's contagious. Good luck

Feb. 20, 2021

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Pit Bull

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five months

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

When she breathes it sounds like something stuck in her throat. And its loud like you can hear her breathing over her eating.And she seems to try to hack something up a lot. She eats just fine, is active, nothing else seems out of the ordinary.

Jan. 15, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Hi, Sorry about this. This could be a respiratory infection commonly known as kennel cough. It's usually treated with a prescribed course of antibiotics. Please visit your vet for a tentative diagnosis and treatment.

Jan. 15, 2021

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Boxer

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Three Years

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My dog is usually very active and happy and annoyingly in your face and curious and yesterday he woke up just acting lethargic and lazy almost sad acting. He did eat and drink some however he just isn’t acting normal. He was just laying down or sleeping all day. I worry about him since he had a trauma when he was a puppy which caused his lungs to fill with fluid. It was fixed and we haven’t ever really had an issue with it since but I worry about him. Could this be a simple flu or something worse? Thanks

Dec. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Lethargy can be a sign of illness in dogs, since they cannot talk to us. If he continues to sleep more than normal and is not back to his regular self, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible - they will be able to examine him and see what might be causing him to feel lethargic.

Dec. 6, 2020

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Corgi

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Watery eyes and noisy breathing. Kind of like she would have a cold if she were a human. No real lethargy, still wants to run around and play. Eating, drinking, urinating and defecating normally.

Dec. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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6 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear your dog is not herself. If the discharge from the eyes is watery rather than yellow or brown this is not a big concern and could be due to a viral infection or allergy. However, the noisy breathing might be a concern. While it could simply be a viral upper respiratory tract infection, we always need to be cautious when breathing is involved. This is in case something more sinister is going on such as asthma, pneumonia or heart disease. Breathing should be calm and less than 30 breaths a minute. Gums should be pink and wet. She should be settled and easily able to sleep. To know what is going on for sure (and in case medicine needs to be prescribed), a vet check would be advised.

Dec. 4, 2020

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Australian Cattle Dog

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

noisy breathing when breathing out. only when laying down awake and asleep. active and otherwise healthy.

Nov. 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If this is relatively new behavior that you are noticing, it is possible that he may have a problem with his heart or lungs, or he may be overweight, or there may be other things going on internally. The best thing to do would likely be to have an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can listen to his heart and lungs, examined him, and see what treatment you might need.

Nov. 16, 2020

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Poppy

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Morkie

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

Our 4year old Morkie seems very healthy and normal except when she is exerted, like when running hard playing fetch. She will be panting which I consider normal except her pant will be very harsh sounding. When she is not exerted and panting like when she is excited it sounds normal

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CH Chinook Wind (we just call her Breez)

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Brittany (Spaniel)

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8 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Loud Noise In Lungs

So i was listening closely to my dogs chest and it sounded like a goose. I have no idea what it could be, beacuse the sound is lower than the treancha I have no idea. I don't want it to be something serious but this scares me. I don't want it to be something serious like lung collapse or something so I'm genuinely worried.

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Penny

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Beagle

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Snoring
Wheezing
Scratching
Red Eyes

Recently adopted a 6 year old beagle, who has been wheezing on inhale without any exertion. Sounds like a snore, but can hear rasping in her chest as well. She also has very red eyes after walks, and often paws at them as if they're itchy. Owner handed over complete vet history and no signs of any infection or previous allergies - could it be something in her new home? Visiting vet next week but wpuld like to give her some relief in the interim.

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Doggy B

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Pomeranian

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Congested

Hi! My name is Amanda, my 1 year and a half pomeranian was diagnosed with kannel cough 3 weeks ago. He took the antibiotics and the cough syrup for 2 weeks. now he started to breathe like he is congested, and every time that i get home, the traqueia noise is worse, like he really needs more time to catch up the air. Is it possible that he still with the disease, theres any natural things i could be giving to him or just take him back to the vet for more antibiotics?

Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$950

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Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

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