Gasping for Air in Dogs

Why is my dog gasping for air?

Most common conditions

Nose and Sinus Inflammation / Sneezing / Upper Respiratory Infection

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Rated as moderate conditon

4 Veterinary Answers

Most common conditions

Nose and Sinus Inflammation / Sneezing / Upper Respiratory Infection

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Why is my dog gasping for air?

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What is Gasping for Air?

Chances are you’ve heard your dog gasping for air or honking and making a terrible noise commonly known as a reverse sneeze.  The occasional gasp for air is caused by an irritation of the soft palate and throat and is a spasm that will quickly pass.  However, if you notice your dog gasping for air often and it becomes a chronic occurrence, you may have cause for some concern.  Chronic reverse sneezing and gasping for air may indicate one of the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Rhinitis and sinusitis due to viral infections
  • Nasal mites

The severity of a reverse sneeze or gasping for air is usually mild, but if your dog’s symptoms become chronic, you should seek medical assistance to determine the cause.

Why Gasping for Air Occurs in Dogs

There are a few reasons why your dog may be experiencing episodes of gasping for air.  Allergens can affect your dog causing respiratory gasps and honks as the mouth and throat go into a spasm.  More severe cases may be from viral infections that cause rhinitis.  Nasal mites, which are a microscopic mite may irritate your dog’s nasal passage and also cause the spasms that lead to gasping for air.  

Reverse sneezing can affect any type of dog but is more commonly seen in smaller dogs and dogs with long narrow nasal passages.  Dogs with flat faces, such as Boxer and Pugs are also prone to gasping for air but not due to potential medical conditions.  Flat-faced dogs have elongated soft palates that occasionally get sucked into the throat while breathing, especially when excited, causing spasms.        

Allergies

Dust, pollen, perfumes, smoke, and other airborne particles may settle in your dog’s nasal passages and cause irritation and possibly inflammation. Intolerance to an allergen can cause your dog’s immune system to overreact and manifest respiratory symptoms such as, gasping for air, coughing, and sneezing in addition to having watery, itchy eyes, a runny nose, itchy skin, and excessive licking.  Allergies can affect any breed and any age.  

Rhinitis and Sinusitis

Rhinitis and sinusitis can occur when the mucous membranes of your dog’s nose and sinuses become inflamed due to a viral infection.  The most common culprits causing rhinitis in your dog are canine distemper, adenovirus type 1 and 2, and parainfluenza.  A viral infection will lower your dog’s ability to fight disease, and a secondary bacterial infection most often accompanies the viral infection, further aggravating your dog’s symptoms. In addition to gasping for air and coughing, you may notice your dog has bad breath, opens his mouth to breathe or has labored panting, and rubs or paws at his face.      

Nasal Mites

Nasal mites are microscopic mites that live in a dog’s nasal passage. The infection does not usually cause any noticeable symptoms, but occasionally your dog may experience coughing, reverse sneezing, or other respiratory symptoms.  Nasal mites are easily transmitted by touching nose to nose with an infected dog.  A nasal mite infection can affect any type of dog at any age.

What to do if your Dog is Gasping for Air

If your dog starts breathing rapidly through the nose followed by a snorting or gasping sound, he is probably experiencing a reverse sneeze.  Once the reverse sneeze spasm subsides, your dog will be back to normal; however, if your dog is experiencing multiple episodes, you will want to observe any accompanying symptoms and consult with your veterinarian.  

In most cases, reverse sneezing does not require medical treatment because it is a regular respiratory event in some dogs.  If your dog is experiencing an episode, you can raise his head slightly, cover his nostrils, and gently stroke his throat to help calm the spasms.  If your dog’s reverse sneezing is allergy-related, your veterinarian may suggest administering an antihistamine.  You should also bathe your dog with hypoallergenic shampoos and try to keep the dust down inside your home.  Though plants can also be the cause of allergy-related gasping, fresh, cool air is also recommended when your dog is experiencing an episode.  

When gasping for air is accompanied by other symptoms or behaviors or becomes chronic, you will want to consult with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the issue.  Your vet will perform a full physical examination and conduct a rhinoscopy and nasal flushing to determine the cause, be it a viral or bacterial infection or possibly nasal mites. 

If your dog is diagnosed with nasal mites, you will need to keep him away from other dogs and follow strict instructions provided by your veterinarian.  Your vet will also administer drug treatments to help rid your dog of nasal mites.

Prevention of Gasping for Air

Gasping for air, honking, and reserve sneezing are common in dogs, especially small dogs and those with flat faces.  Your dog may be perfectly healthy before and after his episode, but you can prevent some of the health conditions that may cause reverse sneezing.  If you can determine your dog’s allergy-related gasping is due to a particular plant or allergen, you can take steps to avoid the allergen.  This may be difficult to achieve but is possible.  Fresh water and a clean home will also help alleviate your dog’s allergy-related issues.

Antihistamines and decongestants, at your veterinarian’s orders, will help keep inflammation down in the nasal passages; thus preventing chronic or acute inflammation caused by a viral or bacterial infection.  

Finally, fresh air and exercise are also good for your dog but be careful not to let him come into contact with strays or other unknown dogs as they may be infected with nasal mites.  Fresh air and exercise often excite your dog, and he may pull at this leash or pant heavily in excitement.  This type of behavior may cause a spasm of the soft palate leading to gasping for air and honking noises.  Try to calm down your companion by rubbing on his throat and soothing him.  Proper socialization and training will go a long way in preventing excitement induced spasms.

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Cost of Gasping for Air

Treatment cost will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s need to gasp for air.  For example, nasal mite treatment can cost around $300 while treatment for rhinitis can cost around $1,500.  However, the average cost of treating conditions related to gasping for air is around $350.

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Gasping for Air Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Brutus

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Boxer

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10 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Gasping, Lythargic, Thursty, Falls.

I have a ten year old male boxer. He has been having episodes of gasping for air after he has laid down. It reminds me of someone with sleep apnea.when he has these spells he will not lay his body down.he stays sitting up. I'm not sure what is happening when he does this.

July 29, 2018

Brutus' Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any time a dog (or any animal) is having difficulty breathing you should visit your Veterinarian immediately for an examination; given the breed there are known possible issues which may affect breathing. However sleeping position, masses in the throat, heart disorders, laryngeal disorders, elongated soft palate among other issues may cause issues. You should have Brutus examined by your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 30, 2018

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Pedro

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Teacup Chihuahua Teacup Poodle Mix

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2 Years

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Moderate condition

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1 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Snorting
Snorting Wheezing Gasping
Snorting, Wheezing, Gasping, Hiccup

My 2 yr old Teacup Chihuahua Teacup Poodle mix has been snorting, gasping, reverse sneezing for air. It also sounds like he's got hiccups while he's doing it. I've elevated his head and softly stroked his throat and at first it seemed to help and he had 1-2 episodes after. Now, when I do it, it subsides for a few minutes and keeps coming. My heart just breaks when he looks at me during these horrifying episodes. What more can I do to try and help to relieve and comfort him through the night until I can get him to the vet in the morning?

April 29, 2018

Pedro's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Unfortunately, there aren't any home remedies for what you're describing that I am aware of. Pedro may need anti-inflammatory therapy or other medication to help with his breathing problems. Without examining him, I'm not sure what might be going on with him, but your veterinarian can look at him and determine the best course of action for him. I hope that he is okay.

April 29, 2018

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Mia

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Shih Tzu

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2 Years

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Mild condition

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0 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Runny Nose
Gasping For Air
Reverse Sneezing
Honking

I have a 2 year old shih tzu and she’s beening doing the hole gasping for air, reverse sneeze, honking sound ever since she was a puppy. But recently it’s gotten worse, before it was usually when she got too excited or ran around a lot but now it’s usually when she’s sitting at the window or just doing her normal doggy stuff. She’ll probably do it at least once every hour but other than that she’s fine as soon as she’s done with her episode

April 13, 2018

Mia's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Sometimes reverse sneezing can get worse with allergies, and if that is what she is doing, she may need medication for her allergies, at least in the short term. If she is actually gasping for air and having problems breathing, she needs to see her veterinarian immediately.

April 13, 2018

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Kramer

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Australian Shepherd

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11 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Wheezing
Wheezing,Panting,Gasping,Honking

My dog is wheezing and his panting seems to getting louder and at a lower tone A vet once called it “old man trache”. It seems to be getting louder and he is now wheezing at times.

Feb. 6, 2018

Kramer's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

With the symptoms, especially the honking I am concerned about tracheal collapse; you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination especially if Kramer is struggling to breathe. Medical management may be beneficial in mild or moderate cases, but this is something to certainly return to your Veterinarian to discuss. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/condition/tracheal-collapse www.acvs.org/small-animal/tracheal-collapse

Feb. 6, 2018

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Padmé

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Terrier mix

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4 Months

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Mild condition

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0 found helpful

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Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Coughing
Excessive Thirst
Muscle Spasms
Wheezing
Shortness Of Breath
Rubbing Face

My 4 month old puppy wheezes when she sleeps and it seems as though she gets in less air with each breath until I wake her up because I am scared. This is my first dog and we adopted her from a shelter a month ago. She also coughs, sneezes and gets hiccups multiple times a day. Along with the breathing issues when sleeping she has aggressive spasms while asleep. I’m not sure what to do and I know she gets super excited which can affect her small body but I need to know if I should take her to see a vet. Her first appointment isn’t until June and I don’t want to overreact for nothing. Any advice is welcome :)

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Bowser

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Dachshund/Hound mix

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6 Months

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Fair condition

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3 found helpful

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Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Gasping For Air

My 6m old puppy sometimes starts gasping for air, mostly when waking up from a nap, no matter how long. No honking sounds. Not sure if I should get this checked out at his vet or if it's normal for puppies.

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Rocky

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Brussels griffon

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7 Years

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Moderate condition

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0 found helpful

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Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Gasping

I rescued Rocky on 7/20/19, he came from the local shelter. I took him tree the round of kennel cough meds because he seemed to have the first stages of it. Now he does this gasping thing where his sides suck in and he acts like he can't breathe.

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Bean

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Chihuahua

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12 Years

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Serious condition

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0 found helpful

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

Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Choking
Wheezing
Honking
Struggling To Breathe

My really old blind chihuahua has been ;what it sounds like, “honking,choking and gasping for air” . When he swallows he has an episode it seems like. When facing him face to face I touch his right nostril and he doesn’t do anything then I touch his left nostril and he snaps/ bites at me. Not sure if it’s because he’s blind or what. When he’s havinv an episode he try’s to cover his face and hurry’s it in his blanket.is there any all natural at home remedies available that I can try for my dog until he is seen by our vet? He is so old, really smelly even if I give him a bath. His breathe smells , he’s always urinating on himself and pooping in his crate when he’s not even in there for a long time. He eats a lot but seems very boney . He’s always itchy seems like he has fleas. I’m not sure what to do. I hate seeing my dog like this I’m not sure if it’s just old age and he’s getting close to his time to go or if it’s allergies or something else. He’s so old. Someone please give me a honest and helpful advice.

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Savannah

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Mixed

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1 Year

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Moderate condition

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1 found helpful

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

Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Gasping
Gasping” “ Constipation”

My dog spent 5 days in a kennel and is now gasping and extremely constipated. She recived the bordatella vaccine about 6 weeks before her stay at the kennel. The kennel hs a pool for dogs. She is also more tired than usual.

Cannanine