When our furry friends make strange choking sounds, it can be a worrisome experience. There are many possible reasons for this, including asthma, bronchitis, and allergies. More serious cases could involve a tracheal collapse, kennel cough, poisoning, or even a blocked airway.

If your pup is in distress and struggling to breathe, it’s crucial to take immediate action. In these emergency situations, the “Heimlich Maneuver” can be a lifesaver.

1) Stand behind your dog
2) Lift the dog’s hind legs upwards.
3) Press with your hands against the abdomen under the ribs

Note: This method should only be used in emergencies and should never be tested on healthy dogs.

If you’re unsure about the cause of your dog’s choking sounds, don’t hesitate to reach out to your VET. Below, we’ve listed the most common causes and their symptoms.

Remember, your pet’s health is important and seeking professional help can save their life. Click here to start a live chat with a veterinarian if you’re worried or unsure.


Kennel Cough

Kennel cough (tracheobronchitis), is a highly contagious respiratory tract disease in dogs. Kennel cough is caused by a combination of viral and bacterial agents like: Canine Adenovirus, Canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria!

As the name suggests, Kennel Cough is often transmitted in crowded environments like kennels, dog shows, and pet stores. The disease spreads through airborne droplets, direct contact with an infected dog, or contact with contaminated objects like food and water bowls.

Colloquially, this type of disease is also known as “dog flu”. Mostly bacteria or viruses are behind it. The most common symptoms are:

  • Constant coughing
  • Dog gets fever
  • Gagging and vomiting
  • Dog sneezes and snorts
  • Runny nose
  • Rotting breathing
  • Loss of appetite

The inflammation often makes breathing so difficult that the dog makes sounds reminiscent of choking. However, acute respiratory distress is rare.

You should be careful when dealing with other pets if you suspect it. This is because kennel cough is transmissible. Unfortunately, especially in animal shelters, this often becomes the undoing.

In most cases, kennel cough resolves itself. However, various medications and antibiotics can speed recovery.

Summary:

In Dogs with Kennel Cough, the upper airways become inflamed. This usually makes breathing difficult, so affected dogs more often make sounds like they are choking.

Fortunately, such “Dog Flu” can be treated well with medication.


Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation and irritation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs; these bronchial tubes are responsible transporting the air in and out of the lungs. When bronchial tubes become inflamed, they can become constricted, what makes it very difficult to breath for a dog.

Compared to kennel cough, this type of inflammation is more often chronic. This is primarily due to the causes. Typical triggers of it are:

Fungal infection
Tracheal collapse
Bacteria
Allergies and viruses
Pneumonia
Foreign body
Parasite infestation

Some breeds are also more prone developing bronchitis, such as the English Bulldog, Boston Terrier, and Pekingese.

Dog with Bronchitis

The most common complaints with Bronchitis include breathing problems. In some cases, affected dogs also make sounds like they are choking. Other symptoms are:

Heavy coughing
Frequent whining
Listlessness
Dog chokes constantly
Bluish gums
Fainting
Loud breathing

Depending on the severity and cause, oral medications, antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory agents are used here. For this, you should consult the veterinarian.

Summary:

Dogs with bronchitis are more likely to suffer from breathing problems. In addition to a rattling, affected dogs also give off choking sounds more often, which resemble an acute danger of suffocation.

In most cases, this type of infection can be treated well with medication.


Asthma

Asthma in dogs is usually caused by an allergic reaction to substances in the environment, such as pollen, dust, mold, or also certain types of food. Other triggers include exercise, stress, or exposure to cigarette smoke. In some cases, asthma may also be a result of a parasitic infection or heartworm disease.

If the airways suddenly swell up and the dog experiences shortness of breath, doctors also speak of an “asthma attack.” Typical triggers of this are:

  • Pollen and dust
  • Mold spores
  • Perfume and room scents
  • Cat hair
  • Air pollution
  • Pesticides and detergents
  • Cigarette smoke
Dog difficulty with breathing

During such an attack, dogs make sounds as if they are suffocating. However, in addition to difficult breathing, other symptoms usually show up:

  • Breathing with mouth wide open
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Dog has difficulty breathing
  • Gums turn blue
  • Lack of appetite and energy
  • Fast breathing

There is no cure for asthma as yet. However, the symptoms can be treated well with the help of medication. For this, the veterinarian should be consulted.

Summary:

When dogs suffer from asthma, sudden attacks occur more frequently. During these attacks, affected dogs have difficulty breathing and make a sound like choking.

This can be counteracted with suitable medication.


Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse in dogs is a respiratory condition that affects the trachea – the tube that carries air from the nose and mouth to the lungs. In dogs with tracheal collapse, the cartilage rings that support the trachea weaken and become narrow, which can lead to breathing difficulties.

In some dogs, the stabilizing cartilage along the trachea is fragile for genetic reasons. This can lead to a narrowing or even a collapse.

In most cases, the symptoms here do not occur abruptly but show up for weeks and months. Tracheal Collapse is most common in the following breeds:

PugsPomeranian
Shih-TzuYorkshire Terrier
Miniature SpitzChihuahua
PekingeseMiniature poodle

However – other small breeds with short muzzles are also more commonly affected. Affected dogs breathe heavily and become exhausted excessively quickly. Other symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Gums turn blue
  • Dry cough
  • Sounds like choking
  • Dog is quickly listless
  • Strange breathing
  • Exercise intolerance

Diagnosis of tracheal collapse include X-rays, endoscopy, and other imaging tests that can visualize the trachea and assess the severity of the dogs condition.

The Treatment options for tracheal collapse in dogs include medications which will manage the Symptoms! Cough suppressants and Bronchodilators will most likely be used, it is also essential to change the dogs lifestyle – to reduce stress on the trachea -weight loss, avoiding collars, and use of a harness instead.

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary for your dog. This surgeries will provide additional support to the trachea and improve the dog’s breathing. With proper treatment and management, many dogs with tracheal collapse can live comfortable and happy lives.

Summary:

Dogs with tracheal collapse get progressively worse at breathing over time. Depending on the degree of severity, affected dogs also make sounds more frequently, as if they were suffocating.

If you suspect this, you should seek professional help.

Read also: Gagging without Vomiting in Dogs: What You Need to Know and How to Help


Dog Swallowed a Foreign Object?

Dogs are, in part, quite comparable to young children in terms of behavior. They like to put everything in their mouth and chew on it out of curiosity.

It becomes a problem when they accidentally swallow objects. In particular, the following foreign objects cause breathing problems more often:

  • Table tennis balls and golf balls
  • Whole potatoes
  • Food packaging
  • Whole corn cobs
  • Large pieces of bone

When swallowing such things often comes with shortness of breath. Affected dogs also make choking sounds more often. Other typical causes are:

  • Constant coughing
  • Dog rubbing its mouth
  • Strong salivation
  • Dog retches without vomiting
  • Shortness of breath and shortness of breath
  • Strange breathing sounds
  • Dog refuses food

Depending on the species, this may be a veterinary emergency. In other cases, the problem partially resolves itself. However, a visit to the veterinarian is still advisable.

Summary:

When dogs swallow a foreign body, it can result in breathing problems. In severe cases, dogs make sounds like acute choking. If you suspect this, I advise you to seek professional help immediately.


Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions in dogs occur – when a dog`s immune system overreacts to supstanmces in the environment, such as pollen, dust, certain foods, or medications. Allergic reactions can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild itching and skin irritation to a life-threatening anaphylaxis shock.

Did you know – one in 5 dogs suffers from allergies, according to studies. The most common triggers, known as “allergens,” include:

  • Certain foods
  • Dust, pollen and mold spores
  • Animal dander and hair
  • Perfumes and room fragrances
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Certain grasses

In most cases, the timing of the symptoms can indicate the possible cause. This is especially true for allergic reactions to food.

Cute dog and list of allergies symptoms on white background

In some cases, the complaints occur only where the dog has been in direct contact. Some dogs also make noises during this process, as if choking. Other symptoms include:

  • Sudden diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dog rattles
  • Isolated redness
  • Heavy breathing
  • Severe swelling

An allergy test may be necessary for diagnosis. If food allergies are suspected, such a free food check can help. There you can also get free food samples.


Summary

In allergic reactions, among other things, the dog’s airways can also swell up; this can lead to respiratory distress, causing the affected dog to make sounds like choking.

Allergic Reactions can also occur by allergens in food.


Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic Syndrome is a medical-condition that affects dog breeds with short, flat faces and pushed-in noses! Brachycephalic Syndrome is caused by a combination of anatomical abnormalities- making it difficult for these dogs to breathe properly.

The abnormalities associated with brachycephalic syndrome include narrow nostrils, elongated soft palates, and a narrow trachea, which can cause breathing difficulties and other related problems.

Brachycephalic Syndrome is more common in overweight dogs, and it can be aggravated by hot and humid weather or physical exertion. Brachycephalic Syndrome can even lead to more severe respiratory issues like heatstroke, fainting, and even death in some cases.

Brachycephalic syndrome

In the past, breeds were more often bred to achieve specific characteristics visually. Unfortunately, these experiments have also led to many “agony breeds.”

This refers to dog breeds that have chronic problems due to their breeding. The so-called “brachycephalic breeds” are the prime example here:

  • Pug
  • Boston Terriers
  • German Boxer
  • English Bulldog
  • Pekingese
  • French Bulldog
  • Chihuahua

These are only the most popular ones. Basically, it affects all breeds of dogs with a flat face. Due to their short muzzle, breathing problems are more frequent.

Among other things, it manifests itself in loud breathing. In addition, the four-legged friends often experience shortness of breath during activity in the sun, making sounds like choking.

Treatment is usually only necessary if the complaints impair the quality of life. Here I would ask the veterinarian for advice if I suspect it.

Summary

Brachycephalic dog breeds, unfortunately, suffer from respiratory distress very often due to their breeding. This is due to their unnaturally short snout.

As a result, affected dogs here often give off choking sounds during sporting activities in the sun.

Read also: What to Expect When Your Dog Has Eaten a Tick: Consequences Explained


Poisonings

When it comes to poisonings, most dog lovers instinctively think of poison baits laid out. However, the reality is different. Because, in most cases, the owners themselves are responsible.

Poisonings in dogs can occur in a variety of ways – either by ingesting, inhaling or coming into contact with a toxic-substance. Some common ways that dogs can be exposed to poisonous substances:

  • Ingesting toxic foods: Chocolate, grapes, and raisins, onions, garlic, or xylitol (a sweetener often found in sugar-free gum and candy).
  • Consuming toxic plants: Lilies, azaleas, and tulips, among others.
  • Contact with chemicals: Cleaning products, fertilizers, and insecticides, and also medications and cosmetics.
  • Exposure to poisonous animals: Snakes or spiders.
  • Inhaling harmful substances: Mold-Spores, secondhand smoke, or carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of poisoning in dogs can vary, and depend on the type and the amount of toxin a dog consumed!
Symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • seizures
  • Tremors
  • Collapse

If you suspect poisoning, you should immediately contact the emergency veterinary service. If left untreated, it can lead to severe and permanent organ damage.

Summary

Poisoned dogs usually show several morbid symptoms. In addition to breathing problems and intense salivation, poisoning can also cause dogs to make sounds like choking.

Here it is necessary to take immediate action.


Other Possible Causes

In rare cases, in addition to the above causes, the following triggers may also be responsible for the symptoms:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Anemia
  • Heat stroke
  • Severe worm infestation
  • Cardiac insufficiency
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pneumonia
  • Nasal mucosa inflammation
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypertension

Summary

It’s important to understand the various causes of choking sounds in dogs, which can range from mild conditions such as allergies and bronchitis to more serious ones like tracheal collapse and poisoning.

Immediate action MUST be taken if the dog is struggling to breathe, and the “Heimlich Maneuver” can be a lifesaver in some emergency situations. Seeking professional help from a VET is crucial – treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause of the choking sounds.

With proper diagnosis and management, many dogs with respiratory issues can live comfortable and happy lives.


Dr-Orika-Mosquera-Lopez

Dr. Orika Mosquera

Hello, I am Dr. Orika Mosquera Lopez graduated from the free university of colombia sectional Barranquilla as a doctor and surgeon. I work as a General Practitioner with Experience in the Emergency Department, Hospitalization and External Consultation. I love pets, i have 2 cats, Bagheera and Nhala and one Yorkshire Terrier called Princess. I care a lot about the well-being of my animals

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