Sick dog lays on its belly.

Dog Congestion: What To Do When Dogs Get Stuffed Up


Can our dogs get "colds" like we do?

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, so a trip to see your veterinarian is important. Also, managing their pain is half the battle.


Causes of Dog Congestion

Congested Dog

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.

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:

  • Fever, if the congestion is caused by an infection (normal body temperature should be around 101 to 102 degrees F)
  • Congestion caused by allergies, irritants or underlying problems like congestive heart failure should keep temperature around 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.

Nose and sinus inflammation

Congestion in dogs can also result in nose and sinus inflammation. According to Merck Veterinary Manual, rhinitis--an inflammation of the mucous membranes inside your dog's nose--often presents with sinusitis, where your dog's sinus linings become inflamed.

Symptoms of nose and sinus inflammation

These two conditions are often caused by a viral infection, like canine parainfluenza or canine distemper. Your dog can also develop nose and sinus inflammation because of an allergy, such as to dust, pollen, and even mold. Dogs who inhale smoke or who get a foreign object stuck in their nasal passages can also experience inflammation. Parasites, trauma, and chronic diseases can cause long-term nose and sinus inflammation in dogs.


Causes of nose and sinus inflammation

If your dog's nose or sinuses are inflamed, you may notice him sneezing, snoring, breathing with his mouth open, or even having a hard time breathing. Your dog may also have nasal discharge. Sometimes dogs will reverse sneeze, where they inhale shortly and quickly, in trying to clear their airways.

What does treatment look like? 

A dog who is congested 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 your dog is diagnosed with. If your dog's congestion or nose and sinus inflammation is the result of an inflammation, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic. Allergies will be addressed if congestion is a result of a seasonal allergy or something minor.

If your dog is congested because of something serious like congestive heart failure, your vet will administer diuretics to help remove fluid from the lungs.


Ever had to bring your dog to the veterinarian for congestion or what appeared to be a cold? Share your tips & advice at our Wide Open Pets Facebook.

This article was originally published August 28, 2019.

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