The Signs & Symptoms of a Dog With Respiratory Congestion

A lack of energy caused by respiratory congestion may make him so lethargic he no longer takes an interest in the cat.
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Respiratory congestion is typically a sign of fluid in the lungs. In dogs, this can be a symptom of various conditions including infections, kennel cough, allergies and heart failure. Regardless of the cause, symptoms are typically similar -- but they vary in intensity. If your dog experiences symptoms of respiratory congestion, consult a veterinarian immediately to rule out potential serious conditions.


As fluid builds up in the respiratory tract and lungs, breathing becomes labored. You may notice your dog gasping for air, taking rapid or shallow breaths, and panting excessively even without exercise or the presence of moderate heat. Because your dog is having difficulty breathing, he may not be bringing in enough oxygen. You may notice a blue-gray tint to his gums, lips and tongue.


A fever often accompanies cases or respiratory congestion caused by bacterial or viral infection. A dog’s normal temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature above this indicates a probable infection with conditions such as kennel cough or canine influenza. When infection is not contributing to the respiratory congestion, your dog’s temperature is likely to remain normal.

Coughing and Sinus Symptoms

Coughing is a common symptom of respiratory congestion due to many causes. It could be dry and hacking or mucus-producing. Simple allergies can cause irritation in the airway in addition to congestion. Coughing is a common symptom in left-sided congestive heart failure as well. In this case, fluid leaks into the lungs and causes pulmonary edema, resulting in coughing and difficulty breathing. Kennel cough, a highly contagious bacterial and viral infection, is known for its honk-sounding cough. Often the coughing worsens at night. Nasal discharge may or may not be present.

Energy and Behavioral Changes

Your normally active and energetic dog turning into a couch potato could signify a respiratory congestion. Breathing difficulty decreases energy levels and often leads to depression and lethargic behavior. You may find your dog is not interested in taking a walk or is slow to get up. Muscle weakness, loss of appetite and even fainting may occur.