What to Do When Your Dog Has Respiratory Congestion

Posted by Christy Caplan
congested dog

Can our dogs get "colds" too? Yes! But they don't catch the same cold (virus) as we do, they get respiratory viruses and infections with similar symptoms. 

Respiratory congestion can occur due to a variety of wide-ranging reasons. And when it comes to congestion in dogs, according to Animal Wellness Magazine:

"Respiratory congestion has numerous causes, but whatever the reason, it can make your dog or cat very uncomfortable. Getting to the root of the problem is the first step to alleviating his symptoms."

Essentially, respiratory congestion is some type of fluid in the lungs. Treatment depends on the diagnosis of course, so a trip to see your veterinarian is important. And managing their pain is half the battle. 

Lung congestion in dogs is often due to minor respiratory flu or seasonal allergies. If they inhale something that irritates the lungs, like smoke or liquid, they can also show similar symptoms.

Infections can also cause respiratory congestion and difficulty breathing. More serious conditions that can cause this are congestive heart failure, which is one of the most common causes of canine lung congestion. 

Congested dog

Symptoms of Respiratory Congestion  

According to VetInfo:

"Dogs suffering respiratory congestion will have trouble breathing, especially when they try to inhale. Breathing may be labored, rapid and shallow."

Other symptoms include:

  • If your dog's respiratory congestion is the result of an infection, he may run a fever (normal body temperature should be around 101 to 102 degrees F).
  • If the congestion is a result of allergies, irritants or underlying problems like congestive heart failure, his temperature may remain normal.
  • A deep, wracking cough that gets worse at night, and sneezing.
  • A wet sounding cough may indicate pneumonia.
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite.

A complete physical exam will be performed and perhaps some blood tests. If your vet suspects pneumonia or congestive heart failure, they may also want to do a chest x-ray.  

What Does Treatment Look Like? 

Your dog may feel dehydrated so it's important to encourage him to hydrate and drink lots of liquids if he's feeling under the weather. Treatment will vary depending on what they are diagnosed with and if it's an infection, an antibiotic will be used. Allergies will be addressed if congestion is a result of a seasonal allergy or something minor.

If this is the result of something serious like congestive heart failure your vet will administer diuretics to help remove fluid from the lungs. 

Have you ever had to bring your dog to the veterinarian for congestion or what appeared to be a cold? Please let us know if you have any advice for others in the comments.  

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What to Do When Your Dog Has Respiratory Congestion