Why is My Maltese Coughing? Maltese Breathing Problems

Maltese dogs who are having trouble breathing should be assessed by a vet to determine the underlying cause. This article has been written to provide detailed notes on the conditions which can cause Maltese dogs to have trouble breathing or conditions that cause Maltese dogs to cough. If your Maltese dog is having trouble breathing and has not been assessed by a vet then stop reading now and take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Breathing difficulties can result from a number of health conditions in your Maltese dog. The symptom of breathing issues is medically referred to as dyspnea. Dyspnea can be identified with the following conditions:

  • Effort to breathe. Breathing is hard for your Maltese dog to do and it is obvious that your dog is having a hard time getting in air.
  • Noise when breathing. This could be a wheezing, raspy or whistling sound.
  • Blue tongue on gums. Blue tinges anywhere on your Maltese dog means they are not getting enough oxygen into their blood stream.
  • Possible gasping and coughing. Coughing and gasping can mean your Maltese has an irritation in their airways.

There are several reasons why Maltese dogs could have difficulties breathing and these include:

  • Reverse Sneezing (also known as a collapsed trachea)
  • Swallowing an object and choking.
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Infection
  • Heart Issues
  • Unfit
  • Chest Injury
  • Bloated
  • Liver Issues
  • Adverse reaction to Medication

This list covers all of the most common issues for a Maltese dog having breathing issues. Each of these areas will be discussed below in detail including treatment for the condition.

What is Reverse Sneezing (also known as a collapsed trachea)?

Reverse Sneezing can be confronting the first time you see your Maltese dog have an episode. It is called reverse sneezing because it occurs when there are spasms in the Maltese dogs airways that pull in air too quickly through the nose. Reverse sneezing sounds like a honking or snorting noise and the dog will generally stand still and push their head forward. These reverse sneezing episodes can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and can be scary for your Maltese dog. It can be triggered at any time but it is known to trigger when a Maltese gets excited or inhales certain smells. You can be rest assured that this condition is common in many breeds of dogs such as the Maltese dog breed.

If you suspect your dog is reverse sneezing you should do the following:

  • Get someone to video record it for a few seconds so that you can document what is happening and it can be shown to your vet. Video of it occurring will help them to accurately identify if it is coughing, a collapsed trachea (reverse sneezing) or some other breathing issue.
  • Cup your hand over the dogs nose and mouth but allow air to still pass through the fingers. This will do a few things to help relieve the spasms. The first is it acts as an interruption trigger and causes your Maltese dog to adjust and think about something else. The second is that rubbing the nose with your palm gently may help to stop the rapid intake of air. Thirdly it will trap carbon dioxide near the dogs nose and mouth and the next few breaths with reduce the intake of oxygen returning the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide inside the airways.
  • Try a small treat. Chewing and swallowing food can help to relieve the spasms.
  • Try a small amount of natural peanut butter (if your dog isn’t allergic to peanuts) or a similar substance such as jam or cream and place a small amount on your dogs nose. When they lick it off their nose it will extend their tongue and this can stop the spasms in most cases.
  • Rub gently along your dogs throat in a downwards motion. This will cause your Maltese dog to extend its neck and raise its head high and the change in body position can help reduce and stop the reverse sneezing.

Reverse sneezing does not require immediate medical attention. it is common and your vet will usually just explain what is happening to your dog and give similar tips to those which have been outlined above. But if you find your dog has prolonged (5 minutes or longer) or very frequent episodes (every few hours each day) then there are medications which can help. These medications are usually anti-inflammatory, antihistamines or decongestants depending on what the vet believes is the underlying cause of the reverse sneezing. This may require some trial and error with the medications to see which one has the best result for your Maltese dog.

Reverse sneezing is common is both Maltese puppies and older Maltese adult dogs. It is not uncommon for it to become more frequent as a Maltese dog ages.

What to do when your Maltese dog swallows an object and is choking?

Maltese puppies will put everything into their mouth and can swallow items which should not be eaten. This can include small rocks, Lego, toys, string, leavers, etc and these items can be come lodged i the airways. If you believe your Maltese dog has swallowed something which they should not have eaten then you should take them to the vet. There is a chance it is lodged in a dangerous position and may require surgery to remove the item. An item lodged in the airways is an emergency so get to your vet as soon as possible.

If your dog is choking and can not get enough air you will need to try and remove the item or at least clear the airways. This can be hard to do but you will need to open the dogs mouth and using a finger sweep back and forth across the item to move it. If you can grab it then try and pull it out carefully, but if you cant you may need to try the Heimlich manoeuvre

To do the Heimlich manoeuvre on a Maltese dog you need to carefully lay your dog on their back. This is easier said then done because they will likely be in shock trying to get air. You then need to place the palm of one of your hands near the Maltese dogs abdomen just below the rib cage. Give a quick push inwards and forward into the lungs. This will use any air to force upwards out of the airway and hopefully dislodges the item. it is best to know how to do this in case of emergency rather than trying to read about it while its happens. In case anyone needs it quickly I have outlined the steps clearly below:

  • Lay your Maltese dog on their back
  • Push on the abdomen with your palm just below the ribs in an inward and upward motion.

Hopefully you never have to do this with your Maltese dog and I suspect this would be a very scary thing to experience.

The most common items which Maltese dogs swallow and can get stuck in their airways include:

  • Rocks
  • Large pieces of food
  • String
  • Bones
  • Plastic Items such as toys and food wrappers
  • Paper
  • Chewing Gum
  • Lollies

Some of the above items can be toxic and dangerous even if they are not stuck in the airways. if you believe your dog has eaten something they should not have eaten then you should go to your vets so that they can do a full examination and provide treatment.

A few tips to prevent Maltese dogs from swallowing objects include:

  • Ensure nothing small is left on the ground
  • Supervise your dog when they are outside on walks and in the yard.
  • Supervise them when they play with dog toys in case they break a part off.
  • Ensure all dog toys are of appropriate size for your dog.
hairless maltese dog
hairless maltese dog

Allergies and how they affect your Maltese Breathing

Maltese dogs can have allergies to a variety of things such as dust, pollen, food and plants. The main symptoms which are seen with allergies are:

  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Runny Eyes
  • Runny Nose
  • Red, Itchy rashes on their skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The most concerning of these symptoms is always the breathing difficulties. If you suspect your dog has allergies it is important to determine what the likely cause of the allergy is. A few ideas to determine this include:

  • Limit the food to one type of food for a period of time and then slowly reintroduce other foods
  • Check if the symptoms are worse inside or outside.
  • Keep a diary of when you notice the symptoms to try and determine the causes and timing of the allergy
  • Talk to your vet to get your Maltese allergy tested.

To resolve breathing difficulties related to allergies the best course of action is to reduce the allergens which affect your Maltese dog such as:

  • if they are allergic to pollen try and keep them inside and use an air cleaner to filter the air.
  • if they are allergic to a certain type of food then do not feed that to them
  • If they are allergic to plants outside then keep them inside the house.

If you are unable to remove the allergens from the air or from your dog there are medications such as anti inflammatory, antihistamine and decongestants which can be used to reduce the allergy symptoms. These medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian.

Maltese Dogs and Asthma

Asthma as it is presented in dogs is actually an allergy to airborne allergens such as pollen. The allergic reaction can be very similar to what we see in Asthma in humans. Its medical name is allergic bronchitis. Essentially what happens is the allergic reaction causes a build up in mucus in the bronchi. The bronchi is the air passage to the lungs. This excessive mucus can make it harder to breath and it can even cause the airways to spasm. Maltese of any age may develop canine asthma but it more common to appear in middle aged and older Maltese dogs. Across all breeds of dogs it is far more common in the smaller breeds so it is a fairly common condition in the toy size Maltese dogs.

The main symptoms of Maltese dogs with asthma include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Breathing with their mouth open
  • Panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss in extreme cases
  • Blue gums, tongue and lips due to a lack of oxygen

The symptoms shown in Maltese dogs with asthma will usually only appear in the environments where the allergen is found. This is more common outside but can include dust, cigarette smoke, pollution, perfumes, pollen and cleaning sprays which venture into the house or are used in the house. Some Maltese dogs will only show random periods of asthma and this can make it harder to track down the causes. Left untreated the symptoms can damage the bronchi and respiratory tract.

Asthma in Maltese dogs is usually diagnosed by a series of x-rays and a physical examination.

A treatment plan for your Maltese dog will be developed for their asthma based on how they respond to the available medications. The standard medications are steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and even oxygen therapy in severe attacks. The best treatment though is to minimize the exposure to the trigger of the asthma for the Maltese dog. If the treatment plan and medications are given there is no reason your Maltese dog can’t live a happy long life.

How Infections cause Breathing Issues in Maltese Puppies

Maltese puppies can get infections from various diseases such as viral and bacterial infections. These can be picked up from other dogs at parks. Generally these disease spread quickest in dog parks, beaches and at training centers. The infection may result in excess mucus being generated in the airways. This excessive mucus can cause problems with breathing and may result in wheezing and coughing. The most common symptoms of an infection include:

  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Aggression and change in temperament

You will need you vet to diagnose any infections and prescribe some medication. The medication prescribed will usually be aimed at relieving the symptoms If the infection is bacterial the veterinarian will also prescribe some antibiotics to help fight off the season. in extreme cases the veterinarian may need to keep your Maltese for observation and put in a drip to ensure your Maltese stays hydrated Viral infections are much harder to fight off and the best treatment is rest.

Most dogs will fight off infections given enough time and assistance from medication. But the best medicine is always prevention so ensure that your Maltese puppy is up to date on vaccinations and worming. Vaccinations will stop the deadliest viruses and keep your Maltese puppy in top shape for years to come.

white Maltese puppy
white Maltese puppy

What Heart Issues affect breathing in Maltese dogs ?

The heart and lungs work together to provide oxygen to the Maltese dogs vital organs such as the liver, brain and kidneys. When there are issues with a Maltese dogs heart the first few symptoms shown may be a change in breathing. This is because the heart needs to work harder to get the oxygen and blood distributed around the body so the lungs try and compensate by increasing the oxygen intake. The most common symptoms with heart issues are:

  • Lethargy
  • Rapid pulse
  • Laboured breathing
  • Panting excessively

Your vet will be able to diagnose any heart conditions and provide an outlook for your Maltese puppy. Some heart conditions can be treated, some require surgery and some are fatal. Each heart condition and the severity of the condition will determine the treatment plan for your Maltese dog. If your Maltese dog has a heart condition they are likely to be smaller in size and will live a shorter life. Maltese puppies through to older dogs can suffer from heart conditions at anytime.

Maltese Dogs who are unfit

Maltese dogs who are overweight and who sit around all day will be much more likely to have breathing problems when they try to be active. If they are unfit they will be out of breath on walks or when playing in the yard. To determine if they have an underlying issue or if it is just being unfit you will need to consult your vet for a check up.

In order to help with breathing problems due to being unfit:

  • Walk your Maltese dog for about 1 mile each day.
  • Take them on different routes to stimulate both their physical and mental well being
  • Get a dog walker if you do not have time to walk your Maltese dog.
  • Play with Maltese puppies often to keep them active and fit. Fetch is a great game for both you and the dog.
  • Get yourself fit with your Maltese puppy. Most unfit dogs are owned by unfit dog owners and getting fit is good for you as well.

Chest Injuries and breathing difficulties

Dogs can injury themselves especially when they are puppies. If your Maltese puppy is full of energy and runs around like a crazy dog on energy pills then there is a chance they could hit their chest when jumping on things or falling over. Chest injuries can cause issues with breathing due to the pain your Maltese puppy will feel when they breathe. Chest injuries need to be assessed by a veterinarian and will require an x-ray. If your puppy has injured themselves they may require pain medication to help them be comfortable while the injury heals.

Symptoms of a chest injury for your Maltese dog include:

  • Difficultly breathing
  • Panting
  • Looks uncomfortable
  • Trouble laying down and getting up
  • Crying

Chest injuries can not always be prevented but there are some precautions you can take:

  • Do not place the dog on high furniture which they may jump off
  • Do not encourage your dog to jump onto furniture or other high objects
  • When playing ensure the area is clear of obstacles and trip hazards

Chest injuries are more likely in a Maltese puppy then a senior dog as the older a dog gets the more lethargic and docile they will be and the craziness eventually settles down.

If you believe your dog has a chest injury take them to the vet to get inspected.

Bloated Maltese dogs and Breathing Issues

Maltese puppies are usually eager to eat everything and everything while they are growing and this can cause them to overeat. This can happen more often when you have multiple dogs and one of your Maltese puppies gulps down their own food and that of their sisters and brothers. Eating too much will put excess pressure on the lungs as the stomach fills to be much larger than its normal size. The excessive pressure on the lungs will cause your puppy to feel bloated and can lead to breathing issues. Luckily these issues will resolve over time as the food is processed.

To prevent breathing issues in a Maltese dog from bloating you can try the following tips:

  • Feed dogs separately if one of them eats all the food
  • Ensure you feed your Maltese the recommended amount of food and do not overfeed them
  • Break one meal down into several meals which will allow the stomach to process the food before becoming bloated.

There is no need to see a vet unless you believe your dog is becoming bloated on a small amount of food. If this is the case and your dog is always bloated then your vet can look into the digestive issues and treat the cause of the bloating with medication or surgery.

Liver Issues can cause Breathing Problems in Maltese dogs

Some issues with the liver can cause breathing difficulties as the liver cleanses the blood of toxins. The toxins can build up and affect the lungs. Liver disease is usually more present in older Maltese dogs and is a serious health condition that needs to be treated by your vet.

Symptoms of liver issues will also be :

  • jaundice
  • breathing issues
  • a lot of bathroom breaks
  • loss of appetite,
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • blood clots
  • fluid in the abdomen

If you suspect your Maltese dog has issues with their liver you should get them examined by a vet.

Medication Reactions and Breathing Issues

Some Maltese dogs can have adverse reactions to medication which can cause their airways to swell and restrict air flow. This can be serious and you should contact your vet immediately to determine what to do. When giving your Maltese new medication you should always keep an eye on them to ensure they do not have any side effects which affect their breathing.

If you suspect your dog has had a reaction to medication you should stop giving the medication to the Maltese dog and ask your vet on advice of what to do next. They will want to understand what the reaction was to the medication and will likely prescribe alternate medication which may work without side effects. if your dog has trouble breathing take them immediately to the vet to get advice in case the conditions worsens. Your vet can give an injection to stop the swelling and remedy the allergic reaction so that the dog can breath.

How did we go at answering your Questions on Maltese Dogs and Breathing Problems?

There are a lot of reasons a Maltese dog can have breathing issues but the most likely are reverse sneezing and allergies. hopefully this article has answered all of your questions about Maltese puppies and breathing problems. Have you had a Maltese puppy with breathing issues? What was the cause? My Maltese dog had reverse sneezing and we found rubbing the nose worked great. Do you have any other tips that work with reverse sneezing with your Maltese dog? let us know in the comments so all our readers can hear your tips and advice on what has worked for you.