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Common Respiratory Disorders in Dogs

Updated on June 30, 2009

The respiratory system in dogs encompasses the nose, larynx, pharynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Together, all these parts work to accomplish two main functions: properly regulate the dog's temperature and efficiently allow the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

A normal dog at rest tends to take 10-30 breaths per minute. Anything faster or slower generally may suggest some problem. Each component of the dog respiratory system may malfunction due to various conditions and diseases. When this happens, it may affect the whole respiratory system to an extent. Following are some common symptoms suggesting some respiratory disorder.

Symptoms Suggesting Respiratory Disorders in Dogs

-Rapid Breathing

Rapid rise and fall of the chest suggesting rapid, often labored breathing may be due to a variety of causes. Fever, anxiety, pain, respiratory problems, heat stroke, dehydration, shock and distress may be various factors to consider. Rapid breathing at rest or after light exertion often can be suggestive of heart or lung disease.

-Noisy breathing

Brachycephalic breed dogs (those with pushed in noses) such as Boxers, Pekingese and Pugs are prone to noisy breathing because of their conformation. In other cases there may be an obstruction in the nasal passages, larynx or pharynx. Such obstructions may be due to excess mucous, foreign bodies or tumors.


Wheezing occurs in dogs when there is a narrowing of the trachea or bronchi. When this constriction occurs dogs develop a whistling sound. Wheezing can be symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and congestive heart failure.


In this case, an acute high pitched and raspy sound is produced especially during exercise. The cause is a narrowed voice box (larynx). This may be caused by an obstruction or if the stridor has been present for a while it could be a symptom of laryngeal paralysis.

-Shallow Breathing

Shallow breathing is often observed in chest injuries. Blood and pus may fill the chest cavity causing difficulty in breathing.


Coughing occurs when the airway is irritated. Causes of coughing may be due to congestive heart failure, bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, tumors, collapsing trachea and the inhalation of irritants. Coughs may be dry or productive.

Respiratory Disorders

A variety of disorders affect the dog's respiratory system.

The nasal cavity may be affected by nasal discharge, nasal, polyps, stenotic nares, rhinitis, foreign bodies,

The larynx may be affected by: laryngitis, laryngeal edema, laryngeal spasm, laryngeal paralysis, laryngeal trauma or laryngeal obstruction.

The lungs may be affected by pneumonia, pulmonary infiltrates of eosinophils, influenza and pleural effusion.

The trachea may be affected by tracheal prolapse and tumors.

These are just a few of the many respiratory illnesses that may affect dogs. It must be considered as well that dogs coughing may have an underlying heart condition or heart worms. Therefore, it is best to have a veterinarian assess the dog's condition for proper diagnosis a treatment.

Disclaimer: the above article is not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Should your dog exhibit symptoms of a respiratory disorder consult with your veterinarian for professional advice.


Dog owner's home veterinary handbook Debra Eldredge DVM, Liisa Carlson DVM, Delbert G. Carlson D.V.M and James M. Giffin M.D Wiley Publishing, INC


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    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 8 years ago from Mississippi

      Yes it is very interesting, A good hub for dog owners . I have two dogs. thank you for sharing

    • DanJ profile image

      DanJ 8 years ago

      Very interesting, Thank you for this.