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Top Causes for Dog Sneezing and Wheezing & What to Do

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dog sneezing

This article was updated on July 10th, 2023

“Doc, my dog is making a whistling noise when he breathes. What should I do?” When I got calls like this from my pet parents I would explain that whistling or rattling sounds that dogs sometimes make during breathing is wheezing. Then I would ask if their pup was also sneezing, as dogs often sneeze and wheeze. There are several causes: some are relatively innocuous while others are quite serious. In this article, we will review the top causes of sneezing and wheezing in dogs, and what you can do to help your dog.

Top reasons dogs wheeze and sneeze

dog sneezing while on a walk in a forest

Understanding the underlying cause can help you make wise decisions about your pup’s care. Before we dive into the reasons for sneezing and wheezing, we need to know what wheezing looks like. Canines make a whistling or rattling sound when their airways have a partial block of some sort. The impediment can be anything from inflammation to a partial foreign body obstruction. When the breathing passage is restricted or compromised, the airflow is more forced resulting in turbulence.

Let’s review the top reasons:

1. Allergies

Airborne irritants or environmental allergens can trigger inflammation in your dog’s airway. As the tissues swell, airflow often becomes turbulent causing wheezing sounds. In some pups, allergy attacks can cause asthma attacks. Learn more about dogs sneezing due to allergies.

Allergy symptoms

Other signs of allergies you may see when your dog is wheezing include:

  • Sneezing
  • Eye redness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Ear discharge/head shaking
  • Itchy or red skin
  • Licking, chewing or scratching
  • GI symptoms like diarrhea

Treatment and prognosis

Most dogs with allergies respond well to treatment, and they can live normal lives with the appropriate care. Treatment for allergens include 

  • Antihistamines or corticosteroids
  • Allergen avoidance if possible
  • Lifestyle changes

At home, you may be able to reduce your pup’s allergy symptoms by

  • Using a HEPA air filter 
  • Don’t smoke or vape near your dog
  • Don’t burn wood near your dog
  • Wash your dog’s bedding regularly


Initial diagnosis of allergies in dogs runs about $50-150, and ongoing medication can cost $20-100 or more per month.

2. Respiratory infection

An infection of the respiratory system in dogs causes tissue inflammation in the airways. As with allergies, swollen passageways create disruptions in airflow that trigger wheezing and sneezing. 

Respiratory infection symptoms

In addition to wheezing and sneezing, signs of respiratory infection include:

  • Nasal discharge with blood or mucus
  • Snoring
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Coughing
  • Eye inflammation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Treatment and prognosis

Treatment depends on the type of infection.

  • Antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • Antifungal medications for fungus
  • Supportive care for viral infections

At home, you may also be able to provide your pup with relief in various ways:

  • Wipe discharge from his nose and eyes
  • Gently flush nasal sinuses with saline per your veterinarian’s instructions
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier where your dog spends his time
  • Check with your veterinarian about giving an antihistamine like Benadryl
  • Encourage your dog to drink and eat

Mild upper respiratory infections usually resolve with appropriate treatment and supportive care. 


The cost of treatment for an upper respiratory infection in dogs can run around $50-150. If the infection progresses to a sinus infection or pneumonia, the cost can increase to around $500-2000.

3. Foreign body

Sometimes dogs eat their food or other materials too fast, and something goes down the wrong tube. When this happens, a foreign body lodges in the windpipe and causes wheezing. Inhaled foreign bodies are an emergency because they obstruct the trachea and can cause your dog to choke.

Foreign body symptoms

When dogs inhale a foreign body, they may exhibit a range of symptoms, including:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing
  • Hacking
  • Dry heaves
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Snorting

Treatment and prognosis

Your veterinarian will treat the respiratory obstruction in your dog by sedating him to remove the materials and providing supportive care. If foreign bodies are treated promptly, the prognosis is favorable. 

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.


Depending on the location of the foreign body, the cost to examine your pooch and treat him can run about $1500-1900.

4. Nasal tumor or polyps

Nasal tumors cause a partial obstruction of airflow. When your dog breathes, the air is forced through a smaller airway resulting in wheezing and noisy breathing. If the tumor is in the nasal passages, your pup may also sneeze regularly. 

Nasal tumor or polyp symptoms 

Other signs of a tumor or polyp include:

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  • Nasal discharge with mucus, pus, or blood
  • Snoring
  • Periodic sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Voice change
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss 
  • Lethargy

Treatment and prognosis

Nasal tumors are often cancerous and rarely cured. However, radiation treatment can help reduce the severity of the symptoms and improve your dog’s quality of life. Depending on the location of the tumor and whether it has invaded surrounding tissues, surgical removal may also be recommended. With treatment, dogs usually live 12-18 months.

Nasal polyps are benign, but they can still partially obstruct the nasal passage. Therefore, they require surgical removal. After surgery, dogs need a period of hospitalization and observation. The prognosis for recovery is favorable, but dogs can relapse if the polyp isn’t completely removed. These growths are not as common in dogs as they are in cats. 


Treatment for nasal cancer can cost $5000 or more. If your dog has a benign polyp, treatment is usually about $500-3500.

Can I just monitor my dog and wait?

If your dog’s wheezing and sneezing last a few moments and then resolve, you can monitor him to see if the symptoms recur. It’s possible that your pooch inhaled an irritant like some dust particles. Sneezing and forceful breathing may expel the materials. 

When your dog has recurring, brief bouts of noisy breathing and sneezing, you should schedule an examination with your veterinarian. Your pup may have allergies or a developing polyp. With an examination and diagnostic tests, the doctor should be able to get to the root cause and initiate appropriate treatment.

However, wheezing is an emergency when your dog

  • wheezes continually
  • appears uncomfortable when he takes a breath
  • has pale, bluish gums 

These symptoms suggest a foreign body obstruction or severe allergic reaction. When dogs can’t get enough air to the lungs, they can suffer from anoxia and lose consciousness or potentially die. 

Signs that you need to see the vet when your dog is sneezing & wheezing

There are several situations in which you should take your dog to the vet for sneezing and/or wheezing.

1. Wheezing that persists

Any time wheezing persists beyond several seconds, you should be concerned because the noisy breathing points to turbulence in the air passages. There may be a foreign body or swelling in the airway that’s interfering with breathing.

2. Wheezing & sneezing

If wheezing and sneezing occur concurrently, you may be dealing with an asthma attack or severe allergic reaction. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. If you notice pale or blue mucous membranes, or if your dog shows signs of distress, take him to the emergency clinic.

3. Sneezing & coughing

When it comes to sneezing with coughing, it’s best to schedule an exam. These symptoms usually indicate an underlying condition such as a respiratory infection or parasites.

4. Sneezing with blood or thick discharge

Dogs that sneeze blood or have a thick, nasal discharge often need veterinary care. The symptoms can occur when dogs have

  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Nasal tumors
  • Nasal polyps

5. Uncontrollable sneezing

If your dog sneezes a lot or has an uncontrollable sneezing fit that won’t stop, treat it as an emergency, particularly if your dog also has a discharge. Continuous sneezing often indicates a foreign body, tumor, or parasite in the nasal passages. 

6 Things you can do at home to help your dog 

Depending on the cause of your dog’s wheezing and sneezing, there are some things you can try at home to help ease his symptoms.

  1. Reduce allergens at home by vacuuming, washing bedding, and investing in a HEPA filter
  2. Eliminate any suspected allergens
  3. Consult with your vet about flushing nasal sinuses with saline
  4. Use a vaporizer or humidifier to increase humidity 
  5. Check with your veterinarian about giving an antihistamine like Benadryl
  6. Encourage your dog to drink and eat

How can the vet help?

When you take your dog to the vet, he will take a detailed history of any events that led to your pup’s wheezing and sneezing. Once the veterinarian has a history, he will examine your pup and may take diagnostic tests including:

  • Bloodwork
  • X-ray or cat scan
  • Nasal swabs

The treatment your veterinarian recommends will depend on the symptoms and diagnosis as described above in “Top reasons dogs wheeze and sneeze.”

How to prepare for your veterinarian visit

There are some things you can do to prepare for your dog’s veterinary appointment. 

  • Be prepared to answer questions about changes to your dog’s routine, diet, and environment. 
  • Share any recent travel or outings with your pooch. 
  • If you’re not seeing your normal vet, bring a record of his vaccinations and medications 
  • Record any wheezing and sneezing episodes your dog has for your veterinarian to review

Having answers and examples ready for the doctor can help him reach a clear diagnosis and recommend the best treatment options for your furbaby.


  • Dr. Liz Guise, Veterinarian

    Dr. Liz (Elizabeth) Guise graduated from the University of Minnesota with a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM). She worked as a veterinarian for two years before working for the US Department of Agriculture for 13 years.

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