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Why is my dog breathing fast

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

Is my dog having trouble breathing?

For you to be able to spot abnormal breathing you'll need to understand what a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate for your dog is. Typically, a healthy dog will take between 15 to 35 breaths per minute while at rest. (Naturally, while exercising, your pooch will breathe much more quickly). So, anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered abnormal and certainly worth investigating.

That said, it's important to understand that panting doesn't always mean that there's a problem. Panting is your pup's way of regulating their body temperature, cooling themselves down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from their upper respiratory tract, tongue, and mouth.

Dogs can't sweat to cool themselves down, instead, they need to breathe fast to allow air to circulate through their body. Rapid breathing helps your pup's body get back to its normal temperature. So, if your dog is breathing fast but acting normal there is a good chance they are fine. However, if their breathing doesn't return to normal after a short while, or if you frequently notice that your pooch is breathing fast for no reason, it's time to contact your vet. 

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

To tell if your dog is breathing abnormally fast, count your dog’s breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. (You may even want to do this when you are not concerned, to get a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate). Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 may be a cause for concern and is worth contacting your vet over. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Dog breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts, such as  Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs face a higher risk of developing breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet owners for signs of increased respiratory effort.

That said, short-nosed breeds aren't the only ones that can experience difficulties breathing normally. Regardless of your dog's breed, fast breathing could be a sign that your pet has an underlying illness or injury that requires urgent veterinary care. A few potential causes of fast 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 fast while at rest, or breathing fast while sleeping, they could be experiencing respiratory distress. Contact your vet right away 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?

A full physical examination will be performed by your vet, to determine whether your dog's breathing issue stems from a problem in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or other area. Your pet's overall general health condition may also be causing an issue.

Your vet will need to know about any previous medical issues that your pooch has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues such as lung tumors or broken ribs. 

The veterinarian will also watch your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress or other psychological factors that could be causing the fast breathing.

How is fast breathing in dogs treated?

Ultimately the underlying cause of your dog's breathing difficulties will determine the best treatment. Your vet may prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help restore your dog to good health.

If your dog is breathing fast due to stress or anxiety, special training with a certified dog behaviorist may be recommended.

Rest and oxygen therapy will likely be needed to start your dog along the road to healing. While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some severe cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing, and to 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 Gillette animal hospital right away for urgent care.

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