Animals make all kinds of noises. From that low yowl your cat likes to sing in the middle of the night to the cute little snores that come from your sleeping Pug, they are often harmless.

In certain cases, animal noises can signify a problem – especially when it comes to respiratory sounds in pets. Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital wants to help you know when to call us and when to breathe easy.

Common Respiratory Sounds in Pets

There are certain respiratory sounds in pets that are quite common. Some are no big deal, while others can signify a problem.

Understanding what these different sounds are can be very helpful when deciding whether a trip in to see us is warranted. It can also help you to better describe what is happening with your pet.

Common respiratory sounds in pets include:

Coughing — Most people know what a cough sounds like. When a pet coughs, there is typically some effort from the abdomen. Sometimes a cough is also productive, bringing up some foam or liquid. Pets may cough due to respiratory infections, airway irritation, asthma, cardiac disease, or even parasitic diseases such as heartworm. More than the occasional hack warrants evaluation by one of our veterinarians.

“Goose honk” cough — It is not necessarily possible to diagnose a disease process on the basis of the cough that occurs, but a loud goose-honking sound is often a key component of infectious tracheobronchitis, aka kennel cough.

Reverse sneezing — When the back of the throat is irritated, a sneeze-like reflex called a reverse sneeze can occur. This scary-looking gag-like occurrence is typically harmless but should be investigated if it is occuring frequently.

Sneezing — Irritated nasal passages can result in actual sneezing. An occasional sneeze is no big deal, but persistent sneezing (especially when accompanied by nasal discharge) could signify something more serious such as an upper respiratory infection.

Stridor and stertor — Stridor (a high-pitched wheeze) and stertor (a snoring sound) can occur when something is obstructing normal breathing. This is common, especially in brachycephalic breeds such as Bulldogs whose airways are often impaired by normal anatomy. While some loud breathing is to be expected in these breeds, any increase in intensity or frequency, or new noise in a normally quietly breathing pet should be looked at.

Wheezing — A pet who is wheezing while breathing is not usually normal. Asthma and other potentially serious conditions can cause this and should not be ignored.

When to be Worried

It would be silly to bring your pet in for a visit for every sniffle or snort. Likewise, some respiratory sounds in pets can be a clue to a serious problem. So when should you call us?

It is never wrong to bring your pet in for a visit. If you are concerned, that is reason enough to have things looked at. You definitely want to come in right away, though, for:

  • Labored breathing
  • Fast breathing at rest
  • Changes in the color of the gums/tongue
  • Decreased activity level
  • Discharge from the eyes/nose
  • Respiratory noises that display increased frequency/intensity
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • A pet that seems painful, scared, or distressed

Respiratory sounds in pets are not always an emergency, but they are usually a clue that something is going on. A good physical examination and diagnostic testing such as chest radiographs (x-rays) and blood work can often get us an answer fast. When your pet’s breathing is at stake, we don’t mess around!