My Dog Sounds Congested When Sleeping (Explained)

You might be concerned if you’ve noticed your dog dealing with congestion when they sleep. Is it something that you should worry about? Here’s what you need to know!

Dogs can sound congested when they sleep for a variety of reasons. The most common causes include being flat-faced, living with obesity or excess fat, having allergies, living with bad dental health, having growths or cysts in their airways, aging, and even sleeping position.

Some are more dangerous than others, so understanding what you’re dealing with is a good idea for your dog’s health!

Is it normal for dogs to sound congested?

Sometimes dogs can become congested temporarily due to having a cold. In these cases, it would be temporary, clearing up as the condition does. Rarely your dog can have something “foreign” stuck in their nasal passage, too. If you suspect this, get a good look to see if you can extract it!

While it’s not normal for a dog to be congested while sleeping, it isn’t necessarily an emergency. This distinction will simply be understanding short-term congestion and long-term congestion.

Reasons for a dog to sound congested while sleeping

The most common reasons for dogs to sound congested while sleeping, as introduced above, include:

  • Being flat-faced
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Living with allergies
  • Having bad dental hygiene
  • Having growths or cysts
  • Aging
  • Sleeping position

Being flat-faced

Some dogs have flat faces, as most know. Those with flat faces will be more prone to snoring and general breathing issues simply because there just isn’t enough space!

Proper vet attention for respiratory issues is really important when you have a flat-faced dog since they can often spot a problem early on and help you to deal with it. 

Being obese or overweight

While many people may not think about it this way, obesity and excess fat, particularly around the throat and head area, will put extra pressure on the airways and other parts of the respiratory system. This pressure can cause congestion and snoring when sleeping.

Living with allergies

If your dog has allergies, you’ll find that they’ll have certain times of the year where they will have flare-ups, much like humans! Whether seasonal allergies or food allergies, congestion is a common symptom of those in your dog. As the flare-up fades and the allergen is avoided, the congestion should clear up on its own!

Having bad dental hygiene

When dogs don’t have good hygiene, they start to have cavities and other serious dental issues. This can lead to abscesses and other growths in their mouth that can attribute to congestion. This is especially if they are infected and have other problems that worsen the conditions.

Having growths or cysts

Sometimes dogs can develop growths or cysts in their noses, mouths, and airways that, while harmless in and of themselves, can create wheezing and congestion since their airway is partially blocked. When you suspect this is the case, it’s a good idea to have someone look at your dog since these can be removed to offer your dog more comfort.


As dogs get older, their bodies change. They need longer spells of deep, restful sleep. The deeper the sleep, the more relaxed their muscles get. This relaxation can cause congestion and snoring. Compared to other causes, this is harmless. However, take note of the difference between congestion and dealing with fluid in the lungs or difficult breathing, as we’ll discuss later.

Sleeping position

Yes seriously. Dogs sometimes sleep in the strangest positions, you have to admit. Sometimes, your dog’s chosen position can be so twisted that their airway and nasal passages get somewhat blocked. This can cause congestion and snoring. It’s hilarious since we can’t understand how those positions would be comfortable, combined with physically struggling to breathe, but dogs have always done their own thing.

Should I be able to hear my dog breathing while sleeping?

Hearing your dog breathing while they’re sleeping isn’t necessarily a bad thing since not hearing your dog breathing can be unsettling. Occasionally, dogs will snore or otherwise make noises while sleeping.

Hearing apparent signs of congestion means that your dog’s airways are struggling, caused by any of those common reasons above. Any time you feel your dog’s health is at risk, particularly if they’re struggling to breathe, you should talk to your vet as soon as possible.

What are the signs of respiratory distress in a dog?

Signs of distress in your dog’s respiratory tract will be similar to those in humans: difficulty swallowing, thick, perhaps bloody nasal discharge, gasping, and labored, “wet” breathing sounds. All of these indicate that your dog is struggling to breathe correctly. 

Whenever you think your dog is struggling to breathe, you must bring them to the vet immediately to get an assessment!

How do I know if my dog has fluid in their lungs?

Fluid in your dog’s lungs will sound like “wet” breathing, as mentioned above. It will also take on the sound of rattling or gurgling. Some even describe it as wheezing. Most experts will agree that you’ll know if your dog has fluid in their lungs because it’ll sound exactly like it!

How can you tell if your dog has a sinus infection?

Sinus infections can be common in dogs, particularly those with allergies or are flat-faced. With that kind of infection, you’ll notice discharge and your dog picking at their face quite a bit. You might notice them sneezing and wheezing. Any time you suspect it’s an infection, a trip to the vet is a good idea!

Puppy sounds congested breathing when sleeping: what should I do?

Puppies can be prone to colds and illnesses, which can be more dangerous when they are younger. If you notice wheezing or congestion in your puppy, you can try at-home remedies to help. You should be good to go if it clears up with no major issues. If it worsens or it doesn’t clear up after a day or two, a trip to the vet is a good idea!

Why does my senior dog have congested breathing when sleeping?

Congestion does get more common as your dog ages. While there’s no known cause, most agree that it’s because older dogs need to sleep more, and they’re also required to sleep deeper for their body to rest properly and recover. As long as they aren’t showing any signs of distress, there’s no reason for concern.

How do I decongest my dog?

If you want to help your dog feel better at home, there are quite a few things you can do to help them on that journey! Here are the easiest and most affordable options to consider.


This is an all-natural option that will help them to enjoy more relief. Using a diffuser and a small amount of diluted essential oil, you can help clean your dog’s nasal passages and enjoy a refreshing scent at the same time! Remember that not all aromatherapy scents are safe for your pet; some are downright dangerous. You’ll want to talk to your vet before you start an aromatherapy routine!

Hot shower steam

This is a common starting point for those who have congested dogs! When you have a shower next, you’ll want to bring your dog into the room with you. The steam from the shower can loosen their congestion enough that they’ll be able to breathe easier and even start to sneeze out the blockages. 

Herbs and honey 

If you want to feed your dog something, you can combine a small spoonful of honey with small amounts of herbs, such as elderflower. Giving them this once daily will help them clear their sinus passages and comfort them in a soft and gentle flavor.


This medicated option can give your dog a lot of comfort, particularly if they are struggling with allergies or colds. This will gently clean their sinuses and offer them easy breathing for better sleep. However, you’ll want to check with your vet about giving this to your dog, particularly with dosages.

When should I worry about my dog’s congestion?

If your dog is congested, you’ll want to keep an eye on it for the actual quality of breathing itself. Can they still breathe properly to prevent panting? Are they going about their daily activities normally? Is their breathing obviously labored or rattling? The worse off they seem, the more important it is to get them to the vet!


Congestion in dogs can be a severe problem, particularly long-term, chronic congestion. Congestion causes and severities vary from dog to dog.

Common causes include: being a flat-faced dog breed, dealing with excess weight or obesity, having allergies, bad dental health, growths or cysts in their airway, aging, and sleeping positions. While short-term congestion is okay, long-term congestion should get a professional check-up!

Understanding how to deal with it and what the cause might be will help you figure out the best approach to giving your dog the best quality of life! Know someone who will find this helpful? Share it!

Photo of author
Andre Neves

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.