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Why is my dog breathing so fast and shallow?

If your pup is breathing fast without apparent cause, it can be worrying. Today, our Airport Pet Emergency Clinic vets share some reasons why your dog may be breathing fast but otherwise acting normal, and when it's time for your dog to see the vet.

What counts as fast breathing in dogs?

To identify irregular breathing in dogs, we must first understand what constitutes a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate. When at rest, a healthy dog should breathe 15 to 35 times per minute. Of course, your dog will naturally breathe faster when exercising.

Anything more than 40 breaths per minute while your dog is resting is considered abnormal and warrants investigation.

That being said, not all panting is bad or indicative of distress. Panting helps your dog regulate their body temperature by cooling them down and allowing moisture and heat to escape from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

Unlike humans, your dog cannot sweat to cool down. Instead, they must breathe rapidly to allow oxygen to circulate efficiently through their respiratory system. Rapid breathing allows a dog's body to return to its normal temperature.

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

Simply count your dog's respiration rate while they are sleeping or resting to determine if they are breathing too quickly. It's best to measure your pet's normal respiratory rate when you're not worried. Breathing rates are normal if under 30, but alarming if over 35.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Your pet's rapid breathing could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an illness, injury, respiratory distress or other condition that should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog breeds with "squished faces" or shorter snouts, such as Boston terriers, Boxers, and Pugs, are more likely to have breathing issues, so pet parents should keep an eye out for any signs of respiratory distress.

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

  • Asthma
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Issues affecting Windpipe¬†
  • 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
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Effects from Medication¬†
  • Exercise

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

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

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

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

Dogs with "squished faces" or shorter snouts, such as Boston terriers, Boxers, and Pugs, are more likely to have problems with the heart, lungs, airway, neck, head, or any other part of the body. An underlying problem could also be the cause of your pet's poor overall health.

Any previous medical issues your pet has had must be disclosed to your veterinarian, who may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs, and abdomen for broken ribs or lung tumors.

The veterinarian will also look for signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing the rapid breathing.

What are the treatments for fast breathing in dogs?

The underlying cause of your dog's rapid breathing will determine the appropriate treatment. Pain relief, intravenous fluids containing calcium, and other medications are some of the treatment options available to help your pet's problem.

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

Whatever the cause of your pet's breathing problems, oxygen therapy and rest will most likely be required; some dogs may recover sufficiently to be treated at home, while others may require more specialized care or hospitalization. In addition to at-home care, your compassionate veterinarian and veterinary team will help your dog recover.

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 pup is breathing fast, contact our Blountville vets right away for emergency care. Our compassionate vets are here to help your dog feel better.

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Airport Pet Emergency Clinic is open weekday evenings, overnight, weekends and holidays to provide your pet with urgent care when needed. Our experienced Blountville vets are passionate about caring for companion animals.

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Contact (423) 279-0574