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Why is my dog breathing heavy and fast?

If your pup is breathing fast for no apparent reason, you're bound to be concerned. Today, our San Gabriel 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. 

Why is my dog breathing fast?

To be able to detect abnormal breathing in a dog, we must first understand what a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate is. When resting, a healthy pet should take 15 to 35 breaths per minute. (Of course, your dog will naturally breathe faster while exercising).

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 to 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.

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

Simply count your dog's respiratory rate while they are sleeping or resting to see if they are breathing abnormally fast. When you are not concerned, it is a good idea to do this 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 fast?

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 problems and should be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of breathing problems.

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 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 problem is in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or elsewhere. Your pet's overall health condition could also be a factor.

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 treatments for fast breathing in dogs?

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.

Are you concerned about your pup's breathing? If your dog is breathing fast, contact our San Gabriel 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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