Why Does My Dog Wheeze When Excited?

A natural increase in heart rate, breathing patterns, and exposure to allergens can all cause your dog to wheeze when they’re excited. If wheezing when excited becomes a consistent issue, take your dog to the vet to see if there are any underlying conditions.

Occasional coughing or sneezing from your dog is not uncommon. Dogs have a very powerful sense of smell. Sometimes, those vigorous inhales that tell them so much about the world also bring with them unwanted things like dirt or grass into their nose. 

But if you notice your dog wheezing, coughing persistently, or sneezing more often than usual, then there’s probably something else going on. Below is a list of the most common reasons that your dog might be wheezing.

Why Does My Dog Always Wheeze When Excited?

You’re more likely to notice breathing problems in your dog when he gets excited because his rate of breathing naturally increases. 

When he gets excited or is playing, your dog’s heart races, he breathes faster, and might inhale more violently. If he already has an underlying condition, this can aggravate the issue and further irritate his respiratory system. 

What Can I Do About It?

It can be concerning to hear your dog wheeze every time they get excited. If you’re worried, here are some things you can do.

Talk to your Vet

If you are concerned about your dog’s breathing and overall health, bring him in for a check-up. Observe your dog and let your veterinarian know what’s going on. 

Try to give an estimate of when you first noticed the wheezing. What was your dog doing when it started? Does it seem to be a constant trouble breathing, or does it only happen in certain situations? 

Tell your vet about any recent travel or new locations that your dog has been to, and review vaccination and heartworm prevention history. 

Look for any other symptoms along with the wheezing or coughing, like lack of energy, fever, or nasal discharge. Being aware of other symptoms can help to pinpoint the cause.

Take Your Dog to the Emergency Vet

If it’s an emergency, take your dog to the emergency clinic right away. If you suspect there’s an obstruction of the airway, or they struggle to breathe for an extended period, it can become fatal very quickly. 

Non-emergency wheezing might stop on its own or come back occasionally, but it usually only lasts a few seconds at a time. 

A dog that is wheezing continuously and struggling to breathe needs to be seen immediately. If he has a blue tint to his gums in addition to the wheezing, that’s a clear sign your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen. 

Bloody discharge from your dog’s nose, along with sneezing or reverse sneezing, is another obvious indication that he has a foreign object in his nose, which could migrate and cause more problems than just with his breathing.

What Will the Vet Do?

Your veterinarian will first do a physical exam to diagnose the issue. Along with the information you provide for the timeline and any other symptoms, they will decide whether the breathing problem is more likely from a foreign object obstructing the airway or an underlying disease or condition. 

With a foreign object that’s not easily seen, they may need to do an X-ray or sedate your dog to use a fiberoptic camera to get a better visual. Blood work will help determine if your dog is suffering from a chronic illness leading to wheezing.

Common Reasons for Wheezing

Allergies

Allergies, although not fun for you or your dog, are usually the most benign diagnosis. Your dog could have seasonal allergies to things like pollen or consistent irritation from mold or dust mites. 

Either way, this can constrict his airways and cause him to wheeze. Reactions to inhaled allergens also result in itchy skin for your dog. 

You can do your best to clean your house, wipe his paws when you get home from a walk, and minimize his exposure to these allergens, but many dogs end up taking medication to cope with their allergies. 

Most dogs don’t show symptoms of allergies until they reach about a year or two years old.

But why would this only seem to affect your dog when they’re excited? The answer is simple. Most dogs get excited when they go outside! It’s not the excitement that causes the wheezing, it’s the simple fact that they’re exposed to allergens.

Infections

Bacterial or viral infections can also lead to wheezing and are typically not that serious. Just like humans, dogs can get sick with a cold or flu strain that causes mucus to build up and their respiratory system to suffer. Kennel cough is the most common cause for coughing in dogs and is a highly contagious infection known as infectious tracheobronchitis. Many dogs will recover from kennel cough without treatment, but your vet can prescribe antibiotics to help them fight it. It is recommended that dogs be vaccinated each year to protect them from catching kennel cough. 

Parasites

Certain parasites that live in the lungs and airways can lead to respiratory issues, including wheezing. 

Roundworm, hookworm, heartworm, and nasal mites are common parasites in dogs. They are often treated with antiparasitic medications like a standard dewormer. 

This underlying cause of wheezing can be deadly for your dog if not caught and treated early, especially in cases of heartworm. 

With heartworm disease, dogs rarely show symptoms soon after infection. So if your dog is wheezing from heartworm disease, the infection has already progressed and spread throughout his body enough to be causing respiratory issues. 

Heartworms can cause heart failure, lung disease, and harm to your dog’s other organs and can leave lasting damage even after the worms are removed. 

Consistent heartworm prevention is the best way to protect your pet, even if heartworm isn’t common in your area. There is always a chance you and your dog will travel to an area where heartworm disease is prevalent or that the disease will spread to your location through other carriers. 

Obstruction of the Airway

Dogs can easily get a foreign object stuck in their airway. Unless it is visible and easily removed, this is an emergency situation. 

It can happen when your dog is chewing on a ball or a bone or if your dog is running with a toy in his mouth. Your dog accidentally inhales or tries to swallow the object, blocking his airway. 

This is common in younger dogs, so it is important to give them proper chew toys for their age and size. We also suggest only buying balls that are hollow with a hole through the middle. That way, if they accidentally get the ball stuck in their throat, they have a better chance of being able to breathe through it until the ball is removed. 

Dogs will pass out from a lack of oxygen if the obstruction prevents them from breathing entirely. But if their airway is only partially blocked by the object, this will result in violent wheezing and quite a bit of panic from your dog. 

Besides bones and toys, foxtails are another common foreign object that can lead to respiratory distress in dogs. 

These spiky clusters of grass seeds can get lodged in your dog’s nose, causing intense sneezing fits, significant discomfort, and often a bloody discharge from the nose. 

Foxtails can be fatal for your dog if they migrate from his nose to his brain or puncture a lung. Because of the barbed shape of the foxtail, extracting them from your dog’s body is very difficult and painful and best done by a veterinarian with your dog under anesthesia. 

Collapsing Trachea

Dogs with short noses, like pugs and boxers, are prone to breathing problems. Exercise and excitement only make this type of wheezing worse as they try to take in more air to fuel their little bodies, which is why these breeds often wheeze when they get excited.

However, It is relatively common for these dogs to experience a collapsing trachea. This usually progresses over time and tends to be more of a problem in older toy breeds. 

When the dog breathes in, the weakened trachea collapses, restricting airflow. This causes a natural obstruction of your dog’s airway. A collapsing trachea is usually treated with cough suppressants, but may require surgery depending on the severity.

Heart Disease

A common cause of wheezing in older dogs is congestive heart failure. Fluid builds up in your dog’s lungs, making it hard for him to breathe. 

Dogs suffering from heart disease will most likely also exhibit lethargy along with a persistent cough. 

Left untreated, heart disease will shorten your dog’s life and reduce the quality of what’s left of it. Your vet might prescribe medications to help reduce the build-up of fluid in your dog’s lungs or recommend surgery if your dog has a heart valve problem.

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