When your furry friend starts to make choking sounds that resemble a sick goose, it can leave you feeling alarmed.
After all, it sounds pretty painful and uncomfortable. However, there are a few different variations of doggy huffs and puffs.
Your dog can make a huffing noise due to allergies, respiratory issues, nasal mites, exercise intolerance, and even as a way to communicate. Sometimes, your pup just gets overexcited, or maybe they drank or ate too fast.
However, if you notice your dog huffing often, it’s worth a trip to the vet to investigate any potential underlying causes.
Luckily, dog huffing is often relatively benign, often with no more need for medical intervention than a case of doggy hiccups.
Furthermore, many breeds, like Pugs, Shih Tzu, and other flat-faced breeds, are more prone to the condition than others. Still, if you find your canine companion is huffing away frequently, it’s worth some further investigation.
Dog huffing, or paroxysmal inspiratory respiration if you want to get scientific, is basically a reverse sneeze.
Although this might sound confusing, it’s one of the best ways to describe the sound, like your dog is inhaling their sneeze.
Usually, if your dog experiences a huffing spell, it’s because of a spasm in the throat or back of the mouth. The windpipe becomes restricted and can make it difficult for your pup to breathe normally, lasting for up to 30 seconds.
It can sound a lot like your dog is choking, and you might notice them stretching their neck and front legs. Your dog is also likely to stand very still during their huffing and puffing episode.
Yes, it can sound highly concerning and make you think your dog is in significant distress, but usually, it subsides rather quickly.
Now sometimes, your dog might make a bit more subtle sounding huffing noises, which comes more from the back of the throat. These could perhaps be a prelude to a bark or growl, and it’s more likely that they’re trying to communicate.
Your huffing dog could be expressing any number of emotions ranging from contentment to frustration. Or, they could simply be on alert, having heard something that caught their attention.
But, if this is the case, you should definitely be able to tell the difference. These sounds are much more subdued than the honking coughs described previously, which occur through the nose.
If your pup’s huffing is coming more from the nose, then this is more like a reverse sneeze. It’s when your dog suddenly and intensely inhales air through their nostrils, resulting in the grunting and hacking you subsequently hear.
This type of huffing usually stems from things like exercise intolerance, irritants, or in some cases, underlying issues.
Your dog can start huffing for lots of reasons, and sometimes it might be obvious. However, other times it’s a little trickier to pin down the cause. Here are a few common reasons for dog huffing:
- Your dog is trying to remove an irritant that they can’t get rid of with a regular dog sneeze or cough. It could be the irritant is a bit too far down, somewhere in your dog’s throat right beyond the nose. These irritants can stem from many things, ranging from allergic reactions to your pup swallowing a bug.
- If you tug on your pup’s leash during a walk, it could apply pressure to your pet’s throat and trigger huffing.
- Your dog might eat too fast or drink too quickly.
- Excessive exercise or overexcitement can lead to huffing. It could be you notice it when your dog starts to play with other dogs, sees you get their leash ready for a walk, etc.
- It could be due to underlying issues that would need the help of a vet to pinpoint. These include things like ongoing allergies, nasal mites, or even something like an elongated soft palate (Brachycephalic Syndrome).
Of course, even if the cause of your pup’s huffing is the reverse sneeze phenomenon, it’s always wise to pay attention. Plus, you need to know your dog and their habits.
It’s also essential to be aware of your pup’s vaccination status.
For example, a repeated honking cough that comes on suddenly (i.e., your dog has never done it before) could be a sign of kennel cough.
If your dog is not vaccinated for Bordetella, keep your eye out for other symptoms. If you notice things like appetite loss, lethargy, or a runny nose, go to the vet.
If your dog is otherwise healthy, your vet can treat kennel cough relatively easily with antibiotics. Your vet will likely also recommend you get your pup vaccinated.
Other reasons for excessive coughing could be a collapsing trachea, other upper respiratory infections, or underlying chronic conditions like asthma.
Therefore, if you notice your dog’s huffing and coughing are ongoing and excessive, it’s critical to consult with your vet. In many cases, if there is a particular cause present, your vet will be able to offer treatment.
If your dog is experiencing huffing for the first time, getting them checked out by the vet is a good first step.
Once you’ve ruled out the more serious possibilities, you can relax knowing your dog is just doing one of those “dog things.” Most of the time, reverse sneezing is not a reason for alarm, nor is it considered a medical emergency.
Still, it’s not a very fun experience to basically gag nonstop for 30 seconds, so how can you help your pup out?
Luckily, there are several things you can do to help stop your dog’s huffing. The first thing to do is pay attention to your dog’s huffing episodes to see if you can pick up on any patterns.
For example, is it always after your dog eats? Or perhaps it’s when they start running too much or every time you spray them with doggy cologne. Narrowing down the reasons for your dog’s huffing can help you find a solution.
- If your dog is huffing because of eating too fast, consider using a slow-feed dog bowl. If your pal is drinking too fast, try ice cubes or serving less water at a time. You can also try placing a large object in their dog bowl to slow them down.
- If your dog is huffing because of a reaction to certain odors or allergens, reduce their exposure. For example, if it’s every time you spray them with doggy cologne, you may need to let them go ‘au naturel. which is the best way most of the time anyway.
- If your dog huffs during walks because you find you’re tugging on the leash, use a harness instead of a collar.
- In the moment, you can gently massage your dog’s throat to try and get the huffing to subside faster.
Now, what if your dog’s huffing is more of that little noise coming from the back of the throat we mentioned earlier?
Maybe your pal hears something and is bringing it to your attention. Or perhaps your furry friend is frustrated because you won’t throw their favorite ball.
When your dog starts huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf, don’t automatically assume they’re trying to blow you down. If you suspect your dog’s huffing is because they’re mad at you, you will notice other signs.
For example, your pup might avoid getting too close to you, perhaps hanging out in another room or hiding.
Your dog could also refuse to look you in the eye or even start to whine and groan. If your pal isn’t happy with you, you might see the whites of their eyes; they could yawn a lot or even tuck their tail.
Their ears might be hanging back, and they could be holding their lips back in a tight grin. Your dog might also hold their body stiff when you approach or act aloof around you.
Then, there are the things your dog does to your belongings to show their frustration. When your pet doesn’t get enough exercise and attention, you might start noticing chewed-up shoes, clawed-up baseboards and furniture, and more.
Your pal might also start having more accidents in the house, maybe even on your bed or clothes.
Of course, is your dog really mad at you, or just missing some critical things, like attention, exercise, and mental stimulation? Either way, there are a few things you can do to make your canine companion happier.
If you believe your best friend is mad at you, then it takes commitment and patience to restore the balance as with any relationship.
Don’t take it personally; give your dog the attention they deserve, and some space when they need it. Also, provide them with interactive toys, and don’t yell or fuss.
Take your cues from your pet and give them some extra attention as warranted. For example, when your dog approaches you, receive them happily and start a play session. Provide your pup lots of opportunities for exercise and positive stimulation, and you’ll soon be best chums again.
Do you have a huffing dog at home? What do you find works the best for you and your furry friend? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!