A brown dog with its mouth open standing next to white flowers in the sun.

Weird Dog Sounds and When to Worry

If someone was asked to describe a dog, “quiet” is probably not one of the first adjectives they would use (if at all). A myriad of noises escape from a dog’s front end and back end, but what causes them? We’ll go over some of the weird noises that your dog can make and which sounds you should have checked out by your veterinarian.

Choking: The Sound You Don’t Ever Want to Hear

One of the scariest noises a pet parent can hear coming from their dog is choking. Since it’s caused by an obstructed airway, it’s a distressing situation for both your dog and you. The AKC explains that you can tell the difference between coughing and choking by looking at your dog’s skin and mucous membranes — if they’re blue, it’s likely that your dog has something lodged in their airway. They may also be pawing at their muzzle, drooling, gagging and rubbing their face on the floor.

You can learn how to help a dog that’s choking in the AKC article about the Heimlich for dogs. Even if your dog recovers from choking without veterinary aid, it’s important to have them checked out by a veterinarian in case their airway or another body part was damaged.

Coughing and… Honking?

If your dog coughs a couple of times and then stops, they probably just had a tickle in their throat. But if they are coughing for more than a day, it’s time to have them examined by your veterinarian. And if your dog is coughing violently, has difficulty breathing or has blue-gray colored gums, you should seek immediate veterinary attention.

Chronic coughing can be caused by a number of conditions, including allergies, heart disease, heartworm, a collapsing trachea, tumors or asthma (allergic bronchitis). It could also be due to a contagious disease like canine influenza or kennel cough. If your dog has kennel cough, an extremely contagious viral infection, their cough may have a honking sound to it. The good news is that if kennel cough is treated early, there are usually no long-term effects.

Snoring Could Be More Than Just Annoying

Ever been kept awake by a snoring dog? They can be loud! Snoring is usually caused by a partial blockage in your dog’s upper airways (nose, pharynx or throat). When your dog is in a deep sleep, the tissues of the upper airways are fully relaxed and can vibrate audibly during breathing — making the snoring sounds.

Snoring has many causes, including obesity, sleep position or an upper respiratory condition. Your dog’s head shape and facial features can also make them more prone to snoring. Brachycephalic breeds are common snorers due to their smaller nostrils and elongated soft palate that can partially block the opening of the windpipe.

Snoring usually doesn’t indicate a problem if your dog has always snored, can breathe well and the snoring isn’t getting worse over time. However, if your dog has suddenly started snoring, it’s become louder or they also have other respiratory symptoms (e.g., nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing), it’s time to see your veterinarian.

Gnizeens (Reverse Sneezing)

Perhaps one of the weirdest noises your dog can make is a reverse sneeze — although it sounds more like a loud snort than a sneeze. A reverse sneeze (also called paroxysmal respiration) happens when air is quickly pulled into your dog’s nose instead of pushed out of their nose like in a normal sneeze. It’s not clear what causes reverse sneezes, but they’re usually nothing to worry about.

Hiccupping Pups

Puppy hiccups are more common than adult dog hiccups (which are just as cute). Hiccups are caused by involuntary spasms of your dog’s diaphragm (the muscle separating the chest and abdomen). The diaphragm has an essential role in normal breathing and usually moves in a regular pattern. During a case of the hiccups, a sudden contraction in the diaphragm pulls air in quickly, causing your dog’s vocal cords to briefly close. It’s what makes the “hic” sound of hiccups. They are usually nothing to worry about and will resolve on their own.

Howling and Whining to Communicate

Contrary to the myth, dogs don’t howl at the moon, but they do howl for many other reasons. Dogs howl to attract attention, to alert their owner to danger, to “talk” to other dogs and as a way of expressing their fear, excitement, anxiety or aggression. They also howl in response to high-pitched sounds like emergency vehicle sirens or musical instruments. Dogs will sometimes howl if they’re hurt or sick, so it’s always worth checking why your dog is howling.

A whining dog usually wants something. Like breakfast. Or to go potty (now). Or for you to pick up the ball that they’ve dropped at your feet 50 times and you still haven’t thrown. Sometimes whining means that they’re showing fear or discomfort, but most often it’s because they need something.

The Stinky Noises: Burps and Toots

Those not-so-pleasant noises that come from your dog’s front and back end happen when excess gas is released from their digestive system. Burping is a common occurrence when your dog has gulped down their food or water too fast and swallowed a bunch of air with it. If the swallowed air isn’t released via the front end (which most of it is), it makes its way through the gastrointestinal tract and out the back end. Using special bowls that help slow down your dog’s eating habits can help reduce the amount of air they swallow (and then burp or toot back out).

If the back end of your dog is where most of the noises are coming from, that gas is mostly coming from gas produced during normal digestive processes and movement of gas from the blood into the intestines. Some flatulence is normal, but if it’s excessive, it may be due to sudden food changes, a diet that doesn’t agree with your dog’s digestive system, a food made with low-quality ingredients or your dog eating something they shouldn’t have. Medical issues can also cause excess gas, so if your dog also has other symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting), visit with your veterinarian.


These are just a few of the weird sounds your dog can make. You know your dog best, so if they’re making a sound that’s not normal for them and you’re concerned, have them checked by your veterinarian.


RELATED POST: Peculiar Pet Facts: Dogs Can “Talk” to Each Other


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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