Why Does My Dog Sound Congested? It’s NOT a Cold

There are many reasons a dog might sound congested. The most common is because of a respiratory infection. Dogs do not get colds in the same way humans do, but they can still get sick. Kennel cough and Rhinitis are the two most common infections. Seasonal allergies can also make your dog sound congested.

When a member of the family is not feeling well, it affects the whole family. Since our dogs are beloved members of the family, we must take it to heart when they become ill. When your dog is sick, it doesn’t know what to do to help itself, which means it’s now your responsibility to do everything you can to help your dog get better.

Yes, dogs get congested from time to time, and many things can cause it. A cold, an infection, and conditions that bring about infections, foreign objects, or allergies are all possible causes of congestion. Treatment of your dog’s congestion depends heavily on the cause.

In today’s guide, we will go into detail on why dogs sometimes sound congested and what you can do to make them feel better.

Is The Congestion Caused By An Infection?

Dogs can get sick, just like humans can. If they are around other infected animals, especially dogs, their likelihood of becoming ill significantly increases.

Dogs do not technically get a cold in the way that a human does. Dogs can get infections that will then mimic the symptoms that we humans consider ‘cold-like’.

Cold-like Symptoms in Dogs Caused By an Infection

Symptoms of your dog having an infection include having:

  • Congestion
  • Runny Nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Red Throat
  • Watery Eyes
  • Fatigued – Low Energy
  • Fever

While most of the items on this list are relatively easy to determine, even for the average layperson, a fever is different. You need to use a special dog thermometer that is designed to be placed in the ear canal for an approximate temperature.

If your dog has more than three symptoms on this list at any time, there’s a good chance of an infection. You should consult with a veterinary professional for verification and guidance on how to handle it.

The Two Main Nasal and Respiratory Infections

If your dog has an infection in its nasal region, it can very well become congested. The disease will cause an inflammation that may seep puss, or just irritate the nostrils and produce mucus. The mucus can quickly begin to block air-flow, thereby causing congestion and labored breathing.

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There are two common respiratory infections that would make a dog sound congested.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is the most common type of infection that gives a dog cold-like symptoms. When a dog inhales the virus into their respiratory tract, the mucus “traps” the virus, which leads to an infection. Kennel cough is the closest thing to the common cold in a dog. When your dog has this infection, there will be a consistent, forceful cough. WebMD describes it as a “goose honk.”

Another symptom of kennel cough is when your dog does the “goose honk” cough immediately after drinking water. The good news is that kennel cough is easily treatable.


Rhinitis is another common upper respiratory infection a dog can have. It is an inflammation of the mucous membranes in your dog’s nasal cavities. If left untreated for long enough, it can bring about sinusitis, which will cause inflammation in the lining of the sinuses. The most common causes of Rhinitis are canine distemper, canine flu, and adenovirus types 1 and 2.

Both kennel cough and Rhinitis can be responsible for your dog’s sounding congested.


Allergies…most humans have them, so we are pretty familiar with them. Believe it or not, your dog can suffer from seasonal allergies as well. If your dog gets into or around something that it is allergic to, its nose will become runny and congested. Unlike a human, your dog cannot acceptably blow its nose, so it may begin sneezing uncontrollably to get rid of the mucus.

If your dog suffers from allergies, most over the counter allergy medications are safe. However, be sure to talk to your vet before giving your dog any OTC medication intended for humans.

Foreign Objects

Perhaps the easiest to diagnose and hopefully easiest to remedy on the list. If your dog was sniffing around some loose dirt or sawdust, some is going to end up in the nose, causing your dog to sound congested.  While this may be uncomfortable for your dog, it’s also the best scenario for you since it’s the easiest to fix.

What to Do When Your Dog Sounds Congested

Now that you know the common reasons dogs can sometimes sound congested, let’s talk about what you can do about it.

How to Treat Infections

Only a veterinarian can accurately diagnose your dog with an. After all, It may be allergies manifesting many of the cold-like symptoms.

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If you believe your dog has an infection, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your vet. Your vet can look at your dog’s past health history, current symptoms, and perhaps even take an x-ray of the chest to see what’s going on. These are all far more reliable methods for determining your dog’s current health than relying on your own judgment.

Infections shouldn’t be taken lightly since they can lead to many dangerous conditions for your dog if left untreated. Your vet will be able to prescribe antibiotics and the proper regimen for dealing with the infection.

How to Treat Allergies

Even if your dog has never had allergies in the past, they can develop allergies later in life. Allergies are a scourge to most mammals and can be very uncomfortable. However, once correctly diagnosed by a vet, they can easily be treated with prescription or over the counter medications.

Most dogs respond well to either Benadryl or Claritin. But again, it’s vital to talk to a vet before giving your dog any medication that was designed for humans. You’ll also want to ask your vet about the correct dosage for your dog’s size.

How to Remove Foreign Objects

More often than not, even a layperson can tell if a foreign object is stuck up a dog’s nose. It is more than likely visible, but not always. If you know your dog was sniffing around the ground by your table saw, it probably has some dust up its nose. If your child left some small piece toys out, it could very well be in your dog’s nose.

With your dog facing a light, lift it’s head up so you can see down the nostrils. If you see an object and it appears to be loose, then go ahead and try to pull it out with some tweezers. If your dog begins to experience any discomfort, then stop and seek the advice of a veterinarian. If the obstruction appears to be a plug of some sort of powder, your dog’s natural mucus will eventually dislodge it.

If you’re having trouble removing the object, it’s best to take your dog to the vet. The last thing you want to do is force the object further back.

My Dog Only Sounds Congested At Night

Nighttime congestion is common in dogs, and is even more common if the dog has been laying down for about 10+ minutes. When a dog lays down, it makes it difficult for the mucus to clear from the nose and sinus cavities. The excess mucus will make your dog sound congested and might even lead to snoring. Your dog should sound less congested as they get up and walk around for a few minutes.

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My Old Dog Sounds Congested

Unfortunately, aging is not a graceful thing for humans or dogs. As dogs get older, their bodies don’t function nearly as well as they did in their prime. When an old dog sounds congested, it’s likely because of fluid in the lungs or chest cavity. If you hear congestion in your elderly dog, it’s always better to play it safe and get them into the vet as soon as possible.

Basic Congestion Treatments

If your veterinarian does not seem concerned with the symptoms you have described over the phone, you can try some home remedies.

While it may seem simple enough, keeping your dog in a humid environment may help immensely. Try having your dog sleep in a room with a humidifier for a few nights. We have seen great success with this.

If you do not have a humidifier, keep your animal in the bathroom with you while you take a hot shower. The water vapor will hopefully comfort your animal’s nose and kickstart the healing process.

When your dog is sick, it can be a burden for the whole family, it is especially troublesome to the animal. Your dog doesn’t understand what is happening; it’s up to you to help it. We hope this guide has given you the knowledge you need to help your animal the next time it becomes congested.

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