My Newborn Puppy Sounds Congested

There are a number of things to worry about when you have a new litter of puppies, but one of the most common concerns puppy parents have is congestion in their newborn and very young puppies. Congestion has several causes, some less concerning than others, and there are a number of ways it can be successfully treated.

Why Does My Newborn Puppy Sound Congested?

Puppy congestion can cause a number of different symptoms. Some forms of congestion are more serious than others. It can be difficult to determine which kind of congestion your puppy is struggling with, but a little detective work and some quick action on your part can help your puppy recover and may even save her life!

The most common causes of congestion in newborn puppies are the inhalation of fluids such as birth secretions or mother’s milk. Another common cause of puppy congestion is infection. 

When a puppy is born, fluids from the birth canal can clog the puppy’s nose and throat. If these fluids are not fully cleared after birth, they can remain in the respiratory tract and cause congestion. These fluids must be cleared from the puppy directly after birth to avoid serious complications.

Once puppies begin nursing, the most likely cause is milk aspiration. Milk aspiration occurs when a puppy inhales milk while nursing. Milk aspiration is not uncommon, but it can be dangerous, as it can lead to a serious form of pneumonia.

Another cause of congestion in newborn and very young puppies is infection. Most upper respiratory infections are easily treated. However, if a puppy’s lungs have fluid in them, the puppy is going to need more intensive care.

How Do You Know If Newborn Puppies Have Fluid In Their Lungs?

Because there are several causes of fluid buildup in a puppy’s lungs, it is important to pay close attention to your puppies. Signs of congestion with possible fluid in the lungs are:

● Runny nose

● Coughing

● Difficulty breathing (Urgent!)

● Rattling sound when breathing. (Urgent!)

● Fever (Urgent!)

● Snuffling sound

● Snorting

Birth fluids.

As soon as your puppies are born, look for signs that there may be birth fluids trapped in her respiratory system. Labored breathing, gasping, wheezing, coughing, and snuffling are all signs that a puppy has fluid in her respiratory tract and potentially her lungs. 

If your puppy is weak or struggling to find her mother, it is important to listen to her chest. If you hear rattling sounds, she has fluid in her lungs and needs immediate attention.

Milk aspiration.

Once a puppy is born and nursing, watch for signs of milk aspiration. If your puppy is nursing, milk should be going into her stomach, not coming out of her nose. If you see milk or milk bubbles coming through your puppy’s nostrils, remove the puppy from her mother immediately. If she inhales milk, she can become extremely ill.

Respiratory infections.

Respiratory infections in puppies are unfortunately common. Upper respiratory infections can be viral or bacterial and can range from mild to life-threatening. 

If your young puppy begins showing signs of congestion, it’s important to know if the cause is infectious. If it is, knowing the cause of infection will determine how serious the situation is and whether or not your other puppies and dogs are at risk. Furthermore, congestion caused by infection is more likely to build fluid in a puppy’s lungs. The sooner you seek treatment, the more likely you are to successfully treat your puppy.

How Can I Help My Congested Puppy?

Many methods have been developed for removing fluid from the airways of newborn puppies. Some of these methods have been used for many years with success. However, not all are without risk. It is important to know not only what methods are available but also how to perform them. 

Some methods for clearing the airways of newborn puppies are:

●       Suction catheter for newborn puppies. 

●       Bulb syringe (aspirator).

● Saline drops.

● Heating.

● Humidifiers.

● Touch treatment.

● Syringe (standard).

● Swinging.

 Bulb syringes and suction catheters designed to alleviate congestion in newborn and young puppies are relatively new alternatives to standard syringes and swinging. These offer a safer, less hazardous means of clearing fluids from puppies who show signs of respiratory distress.

Standard syringes can damage delicate membranes if used incorrectly. Swinging—the act of cradling a puppy in hand with her head and neck supported and swinging her downward with some force—can cause brain trauma or death, even when performed by experienced handlers. Because of these risks, it is important for expectant puppy parents to seek professional advice before their puppies are born so that they are aware and prepared ahead of time.

Saline drops, heat, and humidity.

Using a bulb syringe or a suction catheter can be difficult if your puppy is dehydrated. When mucus hardens, it will resist any method of removal, no matter how well it’s done. For this reason, keeping pure, sterile saline drops handy is a great way to help your congested puppy. Saline drops placed in the congested puppy’s nostrils will loosen hard mucus so that it can be removed more easily. 

Since newborn and very young puppies cannot regulate their own body heat, warming pads designed for whelping puppies will keep them from chilling. Maintaining proper body temperatures will help your puppies resist illnesses that could cause congestion. Further, keeping a cool-mist humidifier in the room where your puppies are whelping can help keep their mucus from hardening.

Touch treatment

Touching, handling, and moving puppies regularly is an effective, gentle way to help puppies thrive. When puppies are moved frequently, it helps keep their airways clear and prevents puppy flattening.

Syringe suction and swinging.

Using syringes suction or swinging a puppy both require some training to do safely and even with training, swinging a puppy should be looked at as a last resort to save a puppy who will otherwise certainly die. 

If you are expecting a litter of puppies, it is wise to discuss all of these potential treatments before your puppies are born.

When To See The Vet.

Congested puppies are a cause for concern because puppies need to smell their mother in order to latch and nurse properly. However, most bouts of congestion may be treated at home with diligence and care. There are times, though, when puppies need immediate medical attention.

● Crackling sounds in a puppy’s chest.

● Breathing difficulties that do not resolve quickly.

● Milk aspiration.

●  Excessive tearing.

● Pus-like mucus discharge from the eyes, nose, and/or mouth.

● Yellow or green mucus discharge from the eyes, nose, and/or mouth.

● Fever.

● Foaming.

If your puppy has any of the above signs of respiratory infection, seek veterinary care immediately.


There are multiple reasons why newborn and very young puppies may become congested. Determining the cause and appropriately treating it can save a puppy’s life. Learning the signs of respiratory distress and/or infection is crucial to know how to get your puppy the care and handling she needs to get healthy, happy, and hungry.

If ever you feel like your puppy is in distress and you do not know how to handle the situation, consult your vet immediately. Doing so could save her life!


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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