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Why is my dog breathing fast

Is your dog breathing rapidly while sleeping or awake, and breathing fast for no apparent reason? In today's post, our Portland veterinarians discuss some causes of rapid dog breathing and when to be concerned.

Is my dog having trouble breathing?

To recognize abnormal breathing in your dog, it's important to know what a healthy respiratory rate looks like. A healthy dog typically takes 15 to 35 breaths per minute while at rest. During exercise, a dog will breathe much more quickly. Anything above 40 breaths per minute while the dog is at rest is considered abnormal and should be investigated.

It's crucial to understand that panting doesn't always indicate a problem. Panting is how dogs regulate their body temperature, cooling themselves down by allowing water and heat to evaporate from their upper respiratory tract, tongue, and mouth.

Since dogs can't sweat, they need to breathe quickly to circulate air through their bodies. Rapid breathing helps a dog's body return to its normal temperature.

If your dog is breathing fast but otherwise acting normal, they are likely fine. However, if their breathing doesn't return to normal after a short while, or if you frequently notice rapid breathing for no apparent reason, it's time to contact your vet.

How can I tell if my dog is breathing too fast?

To determine if your dog is breathing unusually fast, count your dog’s breaths for a minute while they are at rest or sleeping. It's a good idea to do this when you are not worried, to establish your pet's normal respiratory rate.

A normal respiratory rate is typically under 30 breaths per minute, while anything above 35 may indicate a problem and should prompt you to contact your vet. Your vet will be familiar with your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous check-ups.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Dogs with "squished faces" or shortened snouts, such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, are at a higher risk of developing breathing issues. Pet owners should closely monitor these breeds for signs of increased respiratory effort.

However, breathing difficulties can affect dogs of any breed. Rapid breathing could indicate an underlying illness or injury, requiring urgent veterinary care. Potential causes of fast ,shallow or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Exercise
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Windpipe Issues
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Pressure on the Windpipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Pain
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heatstroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Medication

When should I contact my vet about my dog's breathing? 

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

  • Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)
  • Pale, blue-tinged or brick-red gums
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
  • Out-of-character drooling
  • 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 vet will conduct a comprehensive physical examination to identify the cause of your dog's breathing problem. This examination will involve assessing the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, and other relevant areas. Your pet's overall health condition will also be taken into consideration.

It's important to inform your vet about any previous medical issues your dog has had. They may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check for heart, lung, and abdominal issues, including lung tumors or broken ribs.

In addition to physical tests, the vet will also observe your dog for signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that may be contributing to rapid breathing.

How is fast breathing in dogs treated?

The best treatment for your dog's breathing difficulties will depend on the underlying cause. Your vet might prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help your dog recover.

If stress or anxiety is causing your dog to breathe fast, specialized training with a certified dog behaviorist may be recommended.

Rest and oxygen therapy will likely be necessary to help your dog start on the path to recovery. While most dogs can be treated at home, in severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor your dog's breathing and treat the underlying health condition.

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. 

If your dog is breathing fast and shallow, struggling to catch their breath, or showing signs of breathing difficulties, please contact our Portland vets right away for urgent care.

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