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Why Does My Puppy Sound Congested? [And What To Do About It]

If your puppy sounds congested, you’ll probably be concerned and want to help as best you can. Dogs don’t get colds in the same ways that we do, although they can get congested for various reasons. Here’s everything you’ll want to know to assist your puppy if they sound congested.

So, why does my puppy sound congested? The most common cause of congestion in puppies is a respiratory infection, with Rhinitis and Kennel cough the usual culprits. Puppies can also sound congested if they have allergies, are taking medication, or have something stuck in their nose. Some puppies can also get congested from sleeping in an unusual position.

Of course, there’s a lot there to consider.

And you’re going to need more information than that.

So, let us take a look at each potential cause in greater detail before turning to how you should respond in each instance.

What Can Cause Congestion In Puppies?

There are several causes for congestion in puppies.

Congestion Caused By An Infection

If your puppy has picked up an infection, there’s a possibility that it will cause an inflammation that seeps pus or irritates the nose to produce mucus.

The mucus then partially blocks the flow of air, which gives rise to difficulty breathing and congestion.

Below are the two most common infections in puppies.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is the closest infection in puppies that resembles our human cold.

The infection causes mucus in the respiratory tract, causing persistent and forceful coughing that some describe as a “goose honk”.

If your puppy coughs right after drinking water, this can be another symptom of Kennel cough.

Fortunately, Kennel cough is relatively simple to treat.


Rhinitis is also a common infection in puppies and is characterized by inflamed mucous membranes in your puppy’s nose. Untreated Rhinitis can cause sinusitis, which can be quite painful.

Rhinitis is usually caused by adenovirus types 1 and 2, canine flu, and canine distemper.

Treatments for Rhinitis vary, depending on the cause, but can involve either antibiotics, antihistamines, or steroids.

Congestion Caused By Allergies

If an allergy is causing your puppy’s congestion, speak to your vet to see what medication is suitable for your pup.

Puppies can have seasonal allergies just like humans.

Many over-the-counter allergy medications are safe to use, but your vet can offer the best advice.

Congestion Caused By A Foreign Object

Sometimes a curious puppy can sniff things that get stuck in its nose, such as sawdust, loose gravel, or dirt.

Obviously, this will be uncomfortable for your puppy, but you can easily help your puppy yourself (see below).

What Does It Mean If My Puppy Sounds Congested?

If your puppy sounds congested, it most likely means that they have either picked up an infection, have an allergy (which could be seasonal), or have something stuck in their nose.

The congestion indicates fluid in your puppy’s lungs, and your pup could have a runny nose, a cough, or a fever.

Check for the following symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat (red)
  • Congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Low energy or overall fatigue

These symptoms are easy to spot most of the time, except for a fever.

Use a special dog thermometer to determine if your puppy has a fever.

Some thermometers are inserted into the ear canal, while others are inserted into the rectum (once lubricated).

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Besides, you’ll likely need a thermometer for your puppy at some point or other so why not get it now!

Nonetheless, your puppy has likely picked up an infection if you notice more than three of the above symptoms.

Take your puppy to your vet to get the infection treated as soon as possible.

How Can I Help My Congested Puppy?

You can best help your congested puppy in different ways, depending on the cause of the congestion.

If the Cause Is An Infection

Only your vet can make the correct diagnosis and prescribe treatment if an infection is the culprit.

Sometimes it’s easy to confuse an infection with an allergic reaction, but your vet can take x-rays and examine your puppy’s current symptoms to discover the root cause of the congestion.

Infections need treatment as soon as possible because they can lead to more serious health conditions, some of which are quite dangerous.

If The Cause Is An Allergy

Once you have eliminated the possibility of an infection with your vet, it might be that an allergy is the cause.

Your vet will, therefore, recommend a prescription or even over-the-counter medication.

Benadryl or Claritin are often used – but remember to check with your vet before buying any medication for your puppy.

Your vet will help determine the correct dosage for your puppy according to its size.

If the Cause Is A Foreign Object

If a foreign object has found its way into your puppy’s nose, you will be able to see it and sort it yourself most of the time.

Look Around You

Think about what your puppy could have sniffed up in the course of the day.

If your child has left tiny pieces of toys or arts and crafts materials on the floor, your puppy may have decided to investigate.

If you spotted your puppy sniffing around the floor when you had been using a wood saw, they’ve likely got sawdust up their nose.

Look Inside Their Nose And Remove Debris If Possible

To spot the debris, have your puppy face a light source and lift their head so that you can see down their nostrils.

If you see something there and it looks like it’s loose, try to pull it out with tweezers.

If you’re unsure about doing this, let your vet do it: you don’t want the object to go even further back!

If you see what looks like a kind of powder forming a plug of sorts, your puppy’s mucus will most likely get rid of it eventually.

Don’t leave it for too long, though, especially if it’s distressing for your pup.

If, however, an object appears to be stuck, or if your puppy is experiencing any discomfort, take them to the vet.

Can I Give My Puppy A Decongestant?

You may want to consider giving your dog a decongestant, but you should only do so under the close supervision and following approval from your vet.

Rules For Providing Decongestants

You can give your puppy a decongestant, but only if:

  • Your vet has diagnosed the problem, and
  • Your vet provides you with names of appropriate decongestants to purchase

Some decongestants aren’t recommended for weakened immune systems or upper respiratory tract infections, so you want to get the right one.

Most decongestants that you can buy over the counter are not safe for dogs because they contain ingredients that are toxic for them.

Ingredients To Avoid

Ingredients to avoid at all costs are:

  • Pseudoephedrine*
  • Phenylephrine*
  • Aleve-D
  • Mucinex-D
  • Zyrtec-D
  • Claritin-D

*These two ingredients can be highly dangerous for dogs.

Acceptable Ingredients For Dogs

Some active ingredients that have a good track record with dogs are:

  • Oxymetazoline
  • Guaifenesin
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Hycodan (Hydrocone Bitartrate)**

**Requires a vet’s prescription.

The best time to give a decongestant to your puppy is at nighttime to help them get a good night’s sleep.

Get The Dosage Right

Ask your vet for the exact dosage for your puppy. Giving your puppy too little decongestant won’t help, but giving them too much could be fatal!

It isn’t just a question of your dog’s weight – there are other factors to consider, so leave the dosage to your vet to decide.

Watch For Side Effects

Like all medications, decongestants have potential side effects, so contact your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Trembling
  • High heart rate
  • Hyperactivity
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • Collapse
  • Excessive panting
  • Dilated pupils

Home Remedies

If you prefer a home remedy to a store-bought decongestant, the best thing to do is use humidity.

Keep your puppy in a humid environment. You can have your puppy sleep in a room with a humidifier for a few nights, which can give excellent results.

If you don’t own a humidifier, have your puppy come into the bathroom when you take a hot shower. The vapor will provide comfort for your puppy and help the healing process begin.

Other Ways to Help A Congested Puppy

Once you’ve been to the vet and may or may not have come home with medication, here are some other things you can do to help your congested puppy.

Keep Everything Clean

Clean everything that your puppy comes into contact with to clear up as many germs and bacteria as you can.

Items like food and water dishes, blankets, and toys harbor germs.

Make sure you are providing fresh water for your puppy each day. Your puppy needs to stay hydrated to keep the nasal fluid thin.

If your puppy isn’t a big drinker, provide clear broth in a separate bowl: low-sodium chicken soup is a good choice.

Keep Your Puppy Away from Other Dogs

Other dogs have germs, too, so keep your puppy away from them if you can. Human colds don’t transmit to dogs, but other dogs give doggie colds to each other.

Make Sure Your Puppy Rests

Rest is crucial for healing, so save the long hikes for another time.

Puppies need exercise, but this can be a stroll around the block rather than a run when they’re congested.

Provide Nutritious Food

Your puppy may not want to eat if their sense of smell is impacted. Try plain chicken with brown rice, and heat it to make it more enticing.


In reality, your puppy may be congested for several different reasons.

Either way, it should really be your vet that diagnoses the underlying cause and provides you with an appropriate treatment directly or advises you exactly on the resulting approach to take.

For the most part, this really is not the time to take matters into your own hands.

So do contact a vet and get your puppy checked out.

You never know how serious it could be, and you really don’t want to take any risks here.

Have other questions about your puppy’s behavior and tendencies? Well, my following guides may be of help: