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Heavy Breathing In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Heavy Breathing In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

If your dog is breathing fast for no apparent reason, it can be a cause for great concern. Today our Vienna vets share some of the reasons why your dog may be breathing hard and when it's time to head to the vet.

Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast?

In order to spot abnormal breathing, we need to be aware of what a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate for a dog is. An average healthy pet should take between 15 to 35 breaths per minute when resting. (Of course, while exercising, your pooch will naturally breathe faster).

Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered abnormal and worth investigating.

Remember, though – not all panting is bad! Panting helps your pup to regulate their body temperature, cooling them down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, the mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

Unlike people, your pup doesn't sweat to cool down, instead, they need to breathe fast to allow air to circulate efficiently through the body. Rapid breathing allows a dog’s body to get back to a normal temperature.

Identifying Fast Breathing In Dogs

To figure out if your dog's breathing is unusually fast, count your dog’s respiratory rate while they are sleeping or resting. It can be a good idea to do this when you are not concerned, in order to have a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, while anything above 35 is a cause for concern.

Some Causes Of Fast Breathing In Dogs

Your pet's quick breathing may be a signal that your pup is suffering from an illness or injury that should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dogs breeds with flatter faces or shortened snouts such as Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Pugs are more prone to breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of breathing difficulties.

Some potential causes of fast 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 (e.g. cancer)
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heatstroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Reaction to medication
  • Exercise

When To Be Concerned About Rapid Breathing In Dogs

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

  • Using stomach muscles to help with breathing
  • Unwillingness to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick red gums
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Heavy, fast breathing (sounding different from normal panting)

Diagnosing Fast Breathing In Dogs

Your dog's veterinarian will carry out a full physical examination to pinpoint the location of the problem; the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, and other areas will be checked. Your pet's overall general health condition may also be behind the breathing issue.

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

Your pup's vet will also look for any signs of anxiety, stress or other psychological factors that could be causing fast breathing.

Treatments For Fast Breathing In Dogs

Treatment for your dog's rapid breathing will be determined by the underlying cause. Your vet could recommend medications to relieve pain, intravenous fluids with calcium, or other medications.

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

No matter what the cause of your pet's breathing difficulties is, rest and oxygen therapy will likely be needed.

While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some serious cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing, and to 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.

Is your dog's heavy breathing worrying you? If your pooch is breathing fast, contact Hope Advanced Veterinary Center right away to book an examination for your dog. Our compassionate team is here to help your dog feel better.

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Hope Advanced Veterinary Center is always accepting new patients! Our board-certified vets and specialists are passionate about restoring good health to Vienna's pets.

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