While seeing our dog panting after a lot of running or exercise is completely normal, there are certain times when it can be downright concerning. Today our Doraville vets talk about the reasons behind fast breathing in dogs and the signs that there may be a more serious concern.
Why is my dog breathing so fast?
To be able to spot abnormal breathing, we need to understand 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.
That said, pet parents need to keep in mind that not all panting is bad. Panting helps your pup regulate their body temperature, cooling them down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, the mouth, and the 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. This means that a dog may be breathing fast and acting normal, all at the same time as they are just trying to cool down.
How can I tell that my dog is breathing fast?
To determine whether your dog is breathing abnormally fast, simply 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, to have a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 is a cause for concern.
Why is my dog breathing fast and shallow?
Your pet's rapid breathing may be an indication that your pup is suffering from an illness or injury that 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 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:
- 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
- Compressed Lungs
- Heat Stroke
When is a dog breathing fast a concern?
When a dog is breathing fast at rest or breathing fast while sleeping, it could be experiencing respiratory distress. If you note any of the following signs you should reach out to your vet right away to schedule an exam:
- 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 is a dog diagnosed when breathing heavy and fast?
Your pup's vet will perform a full physical examination to determine whether the problem is located in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. Your pet's overall general health condition may also be causing an issue.
Your vet needs to know about 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.
What are the treatment options for dogs breathing fast?
Treatment for your pup's fast breathing will be determined by the underlying cause. Your vet may prescribe pain relief, 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.
Regardless of the cause of your pet's breathing difficulties, 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.