Solving the Mystery of Rattling in Dogs: 12 Causes and Proven Solutions

Solving the Mystery of Rattling in Dogs: 12 Causes and Proven Solutions

When dogs start wheezing while breathing, it is usually due to narrowed airways. Typical triggers are inflammation, viral diseases, parasites, lung diseases, colds, and brachycephalic syndrome.

First the definition: A rattle is a rustling background noise that can occur when inhaling and exhaling. It is therefore no sneezing, no wheezing, and also no coughing.

Many diseases that lead to a rattle are also accompanied by a gag reflex. In addition, dogs with short muzzles are particularly affected.

If your dog is struggling with acute shortness of breath, then you should lay him down, calm him down and prepare for transport to the veterinary emergency service.

Any excitement, panic, or activity here increases the need for oxygen, can worsen breathing problems, and even become life-threatening.

Here you will learn about the 12 most common causes of sudden wheezing while breathing, their triggers, and symptoms.

1. Tracheal Collapse

When the cartilage in the trachea is weak, the trachea can gradually collapse. The cause of this is still unclear.

In practice, however, it leads to a narrowing of the airways, which makes breathing more difficult. Small dogs with flat faces are particularly affected:

  • Pekingese
  • Pug
  • Boston terrier
  • Maltese
  • Affenpinscher
  • English bulldog
  • Shih Tzu
  • French bulldog
  • Yorkshire terriers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Lhasa Apso

Heavy breathing with an increasing rattle is one of the most common signs here. Other typical symptoms are:

  • Dry cough
  • Mucous membranes become bluish
  • Rapid breathing rate
  • Sudden fainting
  • The dog gets tired quickly
  • Gagging and vomiting

The symptoms get worse as the disease progresses. For diagnosis, the veterinarian usually carries out an ultrasound examination.

While the trachea can initially be widened with medication, severe breathing problems sometimes require surgical widening.

If small breeds with a short snout begin to wheeze more frequently and loudly when breathing, this can be due to a collapsed trachea. Rapid exhaustion, sudden choking, and dry cough can also indicate this.

2. Kennel cough

Many first-time owners assume that kennel cough is caused by a kennel. For this reason, veterinarians usually speak of “dog flu”.

This disease of the upper respiratory tract is usually caused by viruses or bacteria and is accompanied by a strong cough. Other typical symptoms are:

  • Frequent retching
  • Constant sneezing
  • Elevated body temperature
  • rattling when breathing
  • Driveless behavior
  • Heavy breathing

In most cases, kennel cough will go away on its own within 3 weeks and does not require medical attention. However, antibiotics can speed up healing.

There are also vaccines that help against certain causes of kennel cough, such as the parainfluenza virus and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica.

When viruses or bacteria invade the dog’s upper respiratory tract, they can manifest themselves as sudden wheeze. In addition, kennel cough usually causes loud breathing, constant sneezing, and a dry cough.

3. Laryngeal Paralysis

The larynx is the connection between the windpipe and the pharynx. It ensures that neither food nor drink gets into the trachea.

In the case of laryngeal paralysis, the nerves in the larynx suddenly stop responding. Retrievers, mountain dogs, and setter species in particular often have to struggle with this.

Such paralysis can usually be recognized by a whistling and rattling noise when breathing. Other typical symptoms are:

  • Constant choking
  • Higher barking
  • cough when drinking
  • Dog breathes loudly
  • shortness of breath
  • Blue mucous membranes
  • Frequent gag reflex

What is also striking about such paralysis is that the symptoms occur very gradually. The process can sometimes drag on for years.

From a certain degree of severity, laryngeal paralysis can also cause breathing problems so severe that it becomes life-threatening during physical activity or heat.

In simple cases, medication to widen the larynx can be sufficient. In severe cases, surgery may also be necessary. The vet can help here.

When the nerves in the muscles in the dog’s larynx suddenly stop working, there is often wheezing when breathing. Affected four-legged friends cough constantly, choke or choke often and usually get bad breath.

4. Nasal Inflammation

If the dog’s nasal mucosa or paranasal sinuses become inflamed, doctors also speak of “rhinitis” and “sinusitis”.

According to statistics, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Greyhounds, Pugs, Shetland Sheepdogs, German Boxers, and all types of Bulldogs are particularly affected.

In most cases, such inflammations are triggered by allergens, bacteria, or fungi. The most common symptoms include:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Rattling when breathing
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nosebleeds
  • Breathing with the mouth open
  • Frequent cough

If allergies are behind it, then it is important to identify them with the help of an allergy test and then avoid them. However, there is no cure.

It becomes a problem when the allergens such as dust or pollen cannot be removed from the dog’s everyday life. This is where antihistamines can help.

Dogs with an inflammation of the nasal mucosa often find it very difficult to breathe through their nose. Affected dogs therefore usually breathe through their mouths and make rattling noises when they breathe. In most cases, allergies are responsible.

5. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that manifests itself primarily in heat, physical activity, and allergies. Asthma is currently considered incurable.

Among other things, the disease causes the airways to become inflamed, making breathing relatively difficult. Other typical signs of this are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Frequent gagging
  • Loud breathing
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Pale gums
  • Rattling when breathing
  • Loss of appetite and energy
  • Excessive panting

If allergies are behind the attack and the dog goes into anaphylactic shock, asthma can also be life-threatening.

Since there is still no cure for this, it is important to prevent such attacks as much as possible. For this purpose, all triggers should first be identified by the doctor.

Asthma in dogs can cause them to suddenly become short of breath and wheeze for air. In addition, there is usually a high pulse, pale gums and sometimes gagging. Prevention is key here.

6. Bronchitis

The lower airways are also called “bronchi” by veterinarians. If these become inflamed, then this is called “bronchitis”. Typical triggers are:

  • Bacteria
  • Allergens
  • Viruses
  • Irritants
  • Parasites

Bronchitis can usually be recognized by loud breathing, a rattle, and constant coughing. Other potential signs of this include:

  • Dog vomits mucus
  • Loss of desire and appetite
  • Light fever
  • Labored breathing
  • The dog gets tired quickly
  • Rapid respiratory rate

If the bronchitis is due to allergens that cannot be removed, it can also become chronic. Although this type can be treated, it is considered incurable. 

In contrast, anti-inflammatory drugs such as antibiotics can bring about an improvement in the case of bacteria and viruses. In this case, the veterinarian should be consulted.

Dogs with inflamed bronchi tend to wheeze when breathing. Comparatively heavy and rapid breathing can also indicate bronchitis. Affected dogs are also very quickly exhausted and make a listless impression.

7. Allergies

According to studies, almost every fifth dog has to struggle with allergies. The most common triggers or “allergens” here include:

  • Dust mites and fleas
  • Soap and detergent
  • Grasses, leaves, and pollen
  • Insect bites
  • Home Fragrances and Perfumes

Around 2% of all dogs are said to also suffer from food allergies. Here, certain proteins, gluten, soy, or dairy products usually cause the symptoms.

How strong the allergic reaction depends on the individual genes. In severe cases, allergic shock can also occur.

The most common symptoms include breathing problems, skin redness, and swelling. Other typical signs of this are:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Rattling when breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Dog breathes weird
  • Physical restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden diarrhea

If you suspect food allergies, I recommend doing a free food check. This will give you individual feed recommendations and free feed samples.

For other allergies, an allergy test can help. In addition, certain medications, so-called “antihistamines”, can help against acute symptoms.

When dogs suffer from allergies, they can experience respiratory problems when they come into contact with the allergens. Typical here are sudden nausea, restless behavior, and gasping for air. Prevention is the most effective strategy for allergies.

8. Cold

When a viral infection affects the upper respiratory tract in dogs, it is colloquially referred to as a “cold”. It is usually transmitted by other sick animals.

The symptoms can vary greatly depending on the virus in question. However, a sudden cough and constant sneezing are typical. Other classic signs are:

  • Discharge from the nose
  • Loss of appetite and energy
  • Dog rattles
  • Light fever
  • Heavy breathing
  • Watery eyes
  • Blocked nose

Stray cats or unvaccinated puppies can also be caused by distemper. It is a chronic viral disease that is often fatal.

For diagnosis, it is usually sufficient to measure the body temperature of the dog. In most cases, however, dogs will regenerate on their own when they catch a cold.

Drinking a lot can speed up the healing process. In the case of permanent or very severe symptoms, the veterinarian can also help with medication.

In dogs with a cold, the upper respiratory tract often swells, which can lead to breathing problems and a rattle. In addition, colds are often recognized by fever, lack of energy, a runny nose, and a sudden cough.

9. Parasite infestation

Various stomach, heart, and intestinal worms are known to have a negative effect on the breathing of dogs, among other things.

These are so-called “endoparasites” that only live inside the body. Typical representatives of these are:

  • Roundworms
  • Whipworms
  • Heartworms
  • Hookworms
  • Tapeworms

These parasites are particularly common in strays. According to statistics, almost 25% of all free-roaming dogs have to struggle with it. Typical symptoms here are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden cough
  • Rattling when breathing
  • Rapid exhaustion
  • Diarrhea with mucus
  • severe cough
  • The dog refuses to eat
  • Small worms in the stool
  • Swelling in the abdomen

The trigger for this is usually old meat and garbage leftovers. In addition, such parasites can also be transmitted by dogs eating the feces of other animals.

The solution here is a wormer. A single tablet is usually sufficient. Fiber and probiotics help to rebuild the intestinal flora afterward.

When dogs are infected with intestinal, stomach, and heartworms, diarrhea and vomiting often occur. Among other things, a parasite infestation can also be seen in the fact that the dog rattles, coughs heavily, and is generally quickly exhausted.

10. Brachycephalic Syndrome

Many of the most popular dog breeds worldwide are so-called “torture breeds”. Damage and suffering were only tolerated during breeding in order to achieve certain characteristics.

Breeding-related breathing problems often occur, especially in “brachycephalic dog breeds”. Because their nostrils are genetically too narrow. This includes:

  • English bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • German boxer
  • Shih Tzu
  • Bullmastiff
  • French bulldog
  • Chihuahua
  • Boston Terriers

Nostrils that are too narrow can usually be recognized by the fact that the dog has to breathe quickly with its mouth closed or even gasps to meet the oxygen requirement.

In addition, the palate is often longer in these breeds due to breeding, so the respiratory tract is also narrower. This is particularly noticeable in heat or physical activity.

Unfortunately, breathing problems are so common in these four-legged friends that they already have their own name – the so-called “brachycephalic syndrome”.

I recommend going to the vet to assess the severity. If the nostrils are too narrow, surgical dilation may also be necessary.

Due to their breed, dogs with the brachycephalic syndrome often have a tendency to wheeze when breathing. In most cases, this is caused by narrowed nostrils and a palate that is too long. In an emergency, however, this can be corrected surgically.

11. Airway obstruction

Whining is most often the result of a blocked or narrowed airway. The following causes can be responsible for this:

  • Severe overweight:

The additional fatty tissue presses against the airways. The solution, accordingly, is to put the dog on a diet.

  • Cancer:

When tumors form along the airways, they tend to narrow the airways. From a certain size, these are also noticeable on the outside.

  • Insect bites:

If the dog is stung by hornets or a lot of bees, then the neck may swell. This applies in particular to allergic reactions.

  • Injuries:

Swelling often occurs here, which makes breathing difficult and can lead to a rattle. Car accidents are among the most common triggers in dogs.

  • Developmental disabilities:

If the dog’s body does not develop properly at a young age, then this can also block the airways.

  • Foreign body:

Curious and young dogs often swallow small balls, making them breathless. This could be a veterinary emergency.

If you are unsure, you should always consult the vet if you have breathing problems. Most problems can be diagnosed with the help of an ultrasound scan.

Obesity, cancer, injuries, developmental disabilities, and foreign objects can block a dog’s airway, leading to shortness of breath. In milder cases, it can usually be recognized by loud breathing or a rattle.

12. Heart or lung disease

The heart is the body’s pump that supplies blood to all organs. Among other things, of course, the lungs, are primarily responsible for oxygen uptake.

However, if the heart is no longer working properly, the functionality of the lungs can also suffer. Typical symptoms of heart disease are:

  • Rattling breathing
  • Lack of drive and energy
  • The dog gets tired quickly
  • Rapid breathing rate
  • Pale gums
  • Sudden cough

In addition to heart problems, direct diseases of the lungs can also be responsible. Classic signs are here:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Bluish gums
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Loud breathing

The problem? A variety of diseases can lead to functional limitations of the heart and lungs. From water retention to cancer.

If you have any suspicions, I recommend going to the vet immediately. Many diseases can already be detected with the help of a blood test and ultrasound examination.

If the heart or lungs no longer have their full capacity due to illness, then this can also make itself felt in dogs with breathing problems. Loud, sluggish and rattling breathing is common here.

Categories Top

Leave a Comment