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Heavy Breathing in Dogs

If your dog is breathing fast for no apparent reason, you're bound to be concerned. Today, our Mechanicsburg vets share some of the reasons why your dog may be breathing hard and when it's time for your dog to see the vet. 

How can I spot abnormal or fast breathing in my dog?

To be able to detect abnormal breathing, we must first understand what a normal respiratory (breathing) rate for a dog is. When resting, the average healthy pet should breathe at a rate of 15 to 35 times per minute. (Of course, exercising causes your dog to breathe faster).

Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered abnormal and should be investigated.

However, pet parents should keep in mind that not all panting is bad. Panting helps your dog regulate their body temperature by cooling them down and allowing water and heat to escape from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat to cool down; instead, they must breathe quickly to allow air to circulate efficiently throughout the body. Rapid breathing allows a dog's body to return to its normal temperature.

How do I know if my dog is breathing too fast?

To determine whether your dog is breathing abnormally fast, simply count his or her respiratory rate while sleeping or resting. It can be beneficial to do this when you are not concerned in order to gain a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. Anything less than 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, while anything more than 35 is cause for concern.

Why is my dog breathing heavy and fast?

Your pet's rapid breathing could indicate that he is suffering from an illness or injury, which should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog breeds with ‘squished faces' or shortened snouts, such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, are more prone to breathing problems and should be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of trouble breathing.

Some possible causes of rapid or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Windpipe Issues
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Pressure on the Windpipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Exercise

When should I be concerned about my dog's rapid breathing? 

If your dog is breathing fast at rest or breathing fast while sleeping, it could be experiencing respiratory distress. Contact your vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Engaging stomach muscles to help with breathing
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting

How will the vet diagnose the cause of my dog's fast breathing?

Your dog's veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to determine whether the issue is with the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. Your pet's overall health status may also be causing a problem.

Your veterinarian should be aware of any previous medical issues your pet has had, and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs, and abdomen for broken ribs or lung tumors. 

Your dog's veterinarian will also look for signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that may be causing rapid breathing.

What are the treatments for fast breathing in dogs?

The underlying cause of your dog's fast breathing will determine the appropriate treatment. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids containing calcium, or other medications.

If your pet's rapid breathing is caused by stress or anxiety, specialized training with a certified dog behaviorist may be required.

Regardless of the cause of your pet's breathing difficulties, rest and oxygen therapy will most likely be required.

While most dogs will recover enough to be treated at home, in severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor the dog's breathing and treat the underlying cause.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about your dog's breathing? If your dog is breathing fast, contact our Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center vets right away to book an examination for your dog. Our compassionate team is here to help your dog feel better.

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At Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center you never need an appointment to access our full complement of emergency services. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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