Dog Sounds. When to Worry

Dog Sounds. When to Worry

by: Judy Hamontre, AVHS Volunteer 

Just like humans, dogs cough, sneeze and snore, and just like humans, a little is normal.  However, when any one becomes persistent, it could indicate a serious problem.


Coughing is part of everyday life for dogs who can sniff 4-6 times per second, as they may be trying to get rid of dust or other “stuff” they have inhaled.

If their coughing worsens or becomes more frequent, it could be a sign of more serious causes, such as allergies, infections, viruses, kennel cough, sore throat, partial throat blockage, heart disease, pulmonary disease, or tracheal collapse.  Although less common, coughing can also mean canine influenza virus, chronic bronchitis, heart worms, distemper or cancer.

If your dog has a cough that is becoming persistent, you need to contact your veterinarian ASAP for medical attention.

Also,  if normal coughing sounds become those of hacking, honking, gagging, gargling and/or produce phlegm, prompt medical care is needed.


As with coughing, dog sneezes are common.  They can even be cute.  Dogs sneeze when they play, to get attention, show interest or even express comfort.

Flat-faced dogs, such as Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers are more prone to sneezing due to the anatomical compression of their nasal passages.

Sneezing is actually healthy because the canine’s body is doing what it needs to do.  Dogs sneeze after sticking their snouts into the grass or digging in the dirt to expel what they inhaled.

When those sneezes become uncontrollable, then  something more serious is going on, and medical attention is needed,

Causes of more constant sneezing include: allergies, airborne irritants, nasal mites, nasal infection, nasal obstruction, nasal tumor or teeth problems.  All can threaten your dog’s health if not treated.

If your dog is repetitively sneezing, experiencing nasal discharges or bleeding, appears to be in pain while sneezing or is pawing at his nose, he needs to be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Some dogs snore, especially the flat-faced breeds.

Your dog could be snoring because of something as simple as the way it’s positioned or an allergic reaction to dust or second-hand smoke. More serious causes include sleep apnea, excess weight, hypothyroidism, or an abscessed tooth obstructing the nasal sinus passages.

If the snoring is too loud and frequent, or if your dog has never snored and suddenly starts, then there could be cause for concern. A talk with your vet is justified.

If your dog has always snored, and he’s otherwise happy and playful and active, and the snoring is only at night, then you probably do not need to worry.

Coughing, sneezing and snoring are just three more ways our furry friends communicate with us.  I hope you never hear these sounds in the extreme, but if you do, most causes can be treated, especially if caught early.


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