If your pup is breathing heavily for no apparent reason, you're bound to be concerned. Today, our Poway 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 heavy and 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.
Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest, is considered abnormal and worth investigating.
However, pet parents should remember that not all panting is bad. Panting aids in the regulation of your dog's body temperature by cooling them down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.
Unlike humans, your dog does not sweat to cool down; instead, it must breathe heavily for air to circulate efficiently throughout the body. Rapid breathing allows a dog's body temperature to return to normal.
How do I know if my dog is breathing too heavily?
To determine whether your dog is breathing abnormally heavy, 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 heavily?
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 difficulty breathing.
Some potential causes of heavy 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 should I be concerned about my dog's rapid breathing?
If your dog is breathing heavily at rest or while sleeping, it could be suffering from respiratory distress. If you notice any of the following symptoms, please contact your veterinarian:
- 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, heavy breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting
How will the vet diagnose the cause of my dog's heavy breathing?
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 heavy breathing.
What are the treatments for heavy breathing in dogs?
Treatment for your pup's heavy 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.