Why Does My Dog Breathe Fast?

Constipation is one of the most common digestive issues our Davidson County vets see in dogs, and it can be a sign of a life-threatening health issue. Here’s why

Why does my dog breathe so fast when he's resting?

When a dog’s heart starts to fail his body is not circulating enough oxygen, and rapid breathing develops to counteract the lower levels of oxygen in circulation. Breathing can also quicken due to fluid build-up on the lungs and compression of the lungs due to an enlarged liver and/or fluid in the abdomen.

How can I calm my dogs fast breathing?

Treatment of Fast Breathing in Dogs. If your dog is breathing heavily because of heat stroke, you can help actively cool down him or her. This can include draping a wet towel over them and placing a fan in front of them. Your dog may also be given a low dose of a sedative to help calm them down.

Many factors control fast breathing in dogs, and sometimes the underlying problem can be life-threatening, especially if it happens when your dog is at rest. You should definitely be watchful if your pup has a breathing rate over 30 breaths a minute, because this is considered too fast. Excessive and rapid breathing while resting is called tachypnea and may be a symptom of the following medical conditions:

The severity of your dogs tachypnea will depend on the underlying condition causing him to breathe fast. It is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian to determine how serious the threat is and how to treat rapid breathing best.

Learn More There may be several reasons why your dog is breathing fast while at rest. If he has just finished playing hard and is taking a rest, it is normal for him to pant or breathe rapidly for a few minutes. Signs of heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, include elevated body temperatures of 103F or higher, drooling, weakness, and seizures.

Dogs who have flat faces, such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Bull Mastiffs are at increased risk of heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectivity. Though a small amount of fluid is usually present in a dog‘s lungs, excessive build up can become a serious health concern and may indicate other underlying medical conditions. When a dog‘s heart starts to fail his body is not circulating enough oxygen, and rapid breathing develops to counteract the lower levels of oxygen in circulation.

Breathing will be labored as well, and your dog may show an increased intolerance for exercise. A lower red blood cell count means less oxygen is in circulation, and your dog‘s body may react by increasing respiration. Other common symptoms of anemia include weakness, jaundice, pale gums, and lethargy.

Certain breeds are predisposed to develop anemia, such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus. A dog‘s diet plays a huge role in their health and feeding him table scraps meant for human consumption can have negative impacts. Onions, when consumed in large quantities or over a long period of time, can cause fast breathing in your dog due to them causing haemolytic anaemia.

Conditions such as tracheal collapse, laryngeal paralysis, bronchitis, lungworm, pneumothorax and pneumonia would all need to be considered. If you believe your dog is experiencing heat stroke, take him to the hospital immediately. While in transport, make efforts to cool your dog down using a wet, lukewarm towel and moving air.

Once at the hospital, the veterinarian will work to stabilize your dog‘s respiration and lower his body temperature. In severe cases, your dog may have to be intubated to assist with respiration and fluid therapy is administered for stabilization. Antibiotics may be given to prevent sepsis from bacteria if your dog is vomiting or has bloody diarrhea.

Heat stroke is a serious illness that requires immediate, early, and aggressive treatment to save your dog from organ and system failure. Your vet will perform a physical examination and ask you when you first noticed signs of rapid breathing. The vet may order chest X-rays if he suspects heart or lung issues as well as an echocardiogram to assess the heart structure and check for fluids on the lungs.

In severe cases, your vet may provide oxygen therapy and a blood transfusion to make up for the reduction of red blood cells as toxicosis from onions can cause anemia. You may not be able to prevent heart failure in your dog as he ages, but it is important to recognize the early signs of failure so you can make lifestyle adjustments and prevent further complications. To prevent suffering from heat stroke, make sure your dog has adequate water and shade while outside and only exercise him during the cooler parts of the day.

Though most dogs do not like the taste of onion and garlic plants, keep the raw food items out of reach. If you suspect your dog has breathing difficulties or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today . Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion .

Paying for your pets routine shots, bloodwork and tests can be also difficult to budget for. Wellness plans cover costs for routine care for your pet, getting your money straight back into your bank account within 24 hours. The cost of treating fast breathing in your dog depends on the underlying medical condition.

We may see a temporary increase in resp rate while sleeping (due to REM / dreams) but a continuous fast resp rate for no apparent reason needs urgent veterinary investigation.

Why is my dog breathing fast? is a fairly common question from dog parents. Sometimes rapid breathing can be normal, but other times it may signal a problem. Integrative veterinarian, Dr. Julie Buzby, puts your mind at ease by explaining how to tell if your dogs breathing is normal and discussing 10 conditions that may cause your dog to breathe fast.

Laryngeal paralysis, commonly seen in Labrador Retrievers, can cause heavy, raspy breathing and voice changes. Your dogs larynx is also called a voice box because of its box-like shape and role in making sounds.

Small muscles cause the laryngeal flaps to cover the tracheal opening when your dog eats and drinks. They also pull the laryngeal flaps out of the way while the dog breathes to allow maximal airflow into the trachea. Neck trauma and other underlying health issues can cause laryngeal paralysis in dogs .

Researchers believe it may be one component of condition called geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy (GOLPP). The trachea is the large tube-shaped structure that runs down the neck and into the chest before splitting into the main bronchi (i.e. airways) that lead into the lungs. The other 20% is a soft-tissue structure called the dorsal tracheal membrane that spans the space between the edges of the rings.

This leads to frequent coughing (sounds like a goose honking), rapid breathing, and sometimes respiratory distress. Many bacterial, viral, and fungal agents can infect the respiratory tract (nose, trachea, airways, and lung tissue). Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a well-known airway and trachea infection that may be caused by a multitude of bacteria or viruses.

Alternatively, a dog may develop aspiration pneumonia if he or she breathes in a bit of food, fluid, or vomit. The cause for some of these lower airway diseases is unknown, but factors like obesity, infections, and environmental irritants can worsen the intensity of symptoms. Sometimes even mild physical activity can cause breathing difficulties, and severely affected dogs may collapse due to lack of oxygen.

Also take note of if the respiratory problems seem to be linked to exposure to anything in the environment (i.e. cigarette smoke, air fresheners, candles, pollen, etc). In order to help regulate their body temperature, humans sweat through special glands in their skin when they get hot. This is not enough to help them cool off completely, so they rely on panting as a primary mechanism for dissipating heat.

Heavy panting or difficulty breathing Collapse Disorientation and/or seizures or tremors Vomiting and/or diarrhea Change in gum colormay be bluish purple, grey, or bright red Brachycephalic breeds (i.e. those with short noses) because they often have small nasal passages, a narrowed airway due to an elongated soft palate, tiny nostrils, and a skinny trachea, all of which make breathing and getting rid of heat quite difficult. Dogs with medical conditions such as heart disease, laryngeal paralysis, or collapsed trachea.

Pressure from the heart is part of what drives oxygen-depleted cells back toward the lungs in order to restock with the oxygen that a dog needs to survive. When the heart isnt distributing enough oxygen around the body, your dog will begin to breathe faster to try to compensate. As fluid pools in the lungs or abdomen due to congestive heart failure, breathing becomes even more difficult.

Increased respiratory rate, along with a cough and exercise intolerance could lead to a diagnosis of heart disease. But it can often be managed for a period of time with different medications to continue to allow your dog to have a good quality of life. His doting dad mentioned that he had been panting more often during the day and was acting a bit off. He had pristine senior bloodwork and his heart and lungs sounded great.

When his dad called with an update, he was thrilled to report that his pup was panting less and seemed like a new dog! Cancer elsewhere in the body can metastasize (i.e. spread) to the lungs, which can also cause a dog to breathe more rapidly. Pulmonary edema interferes with the dogs ability to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, and pleural effusion prevents the lungs from fully expanding.

Thus, if a dog is anemic (i.e. has low red blood cell numbers) less oxygen can get to the tissues. In addition to panting excessively or breathing fast, anxious dogs may also yawn when not tired, cower and tremble, or become destructive or aggressive. Also, consider taking a quick video of how your dog is breathing in case anything changes by the time you get to the vet.

If your dog is breathing fast and shallow this may not necessarily be an indication of illness or disease. This is known as tachypnea. And is a normal way for your dog to keep cool by panting with his tongue hanging out. But there are other times when your dog breathing fast could be quite serious.

Your dog breathing fast could be due to pneumonia, a tumour on the lung, or laryngeal paralysis. A heart that doesnt function properly will increase your dogs rate of respiration to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

Chronic pain can also result in swelling, loss of appetite, excessive grooming, and mobility issues. Symptoms of respiratory issues include clear discomfort shown as your dog is breathing fast. Other heart disease symptoms include coughing, reduced appetite, swollen abdomen and tiring quickly.

You can begin to treat heatstroke at home by taking the dog out of the heat and providing plenty of fresh water.

What is “normal” breathing for a dog?

Being a hound, Jake likes to spend some of his day lounging around the house. At rest, he should be breathing easily through his nose with his mouth closed. If I were to count how many times he breathes (inhales and exhales) in minute, it would probably be around 10 to 35 times. (For more details on how to measure your dog’s respiratory rate, check out my blog Keeping a “Pulse” on Your Dog’s Vital Signs).Sometimes during REM sleep, he will be breathing fast while sleeping. He may also whimper, twitch, or growl as he dreams. As long as I can wake him up and he acts (and breathes) normally once he is awake. this isn’t a cause for concern. These actions are probably just a dream, not something more scary like a seizure in dogs.If he goes outside and romps with my kids in warm weather, he may start panting with an open mouth and his tongue sticking out. This is a normal way for dogs to cool down since they don’t have as many sweat glands as people do. As long as he isn’t panting extremely hard, is still acting normal, and stops panting once he cools down inside, I’m not too worried.

2. Tracheal collapse

Your dog’s larynx is also called a “voice box” because of its box-like shape and role in making sounds. It is located in the back of the throat at the top of the trachea. Small muscles cause the laryngeal flaps to cover the tracheal opening when your dog eats and drinks. They also pull the laryngeal flaps out of the way while the dog breathes to allow maximal airflow into the trachea.If there is a problem with the nerves that control the laryngeal muscles, the laryngeal flap(s) don’t move and can partially obstruct the entrance to the trachea. This creates resistance as air moves past the defective flap(s) and means less air gets to the lungs.Neck trauma and other underlying health issues can cause laryngeal paralysis in dogs . However, in senior dogs, the cause is often unknown. Researchers believe it may be one component of condition called geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy (GOLPP). Dogs who have GOLPP may also suffer from generalized muscle weakness and esophageal dysfunction. Laryngeal paralysis seems to be more common in some breeds such as German Shepherd dogs, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers but can occur in any dog.Signs of laryngeal paralysis include:In severe cases, laryngeal paralysis can cause acute respiratory distress. If you see that your dog is having breathing difficulties or his gums appear blue in color, contact your nearest veterinarian immediately. Some dogs with laryngeal paralysis benefit from tie back surgery for dogs and/or medical and environmental management (more on that in my blog Canine Laryngeal Paralysis: A Veterinarian Answers Your Questions).

3. Respiratory infections and pneumonia

Many bacterial, viral, and fungal agents can infect the respiratory tract (nose, trachea, airways, and lung tissue). Some infections remain contained to the trachea or larger airways where they cause inflammation of those structures. Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a well-known airway and trachea infection that may be caused by a multitude of bacteria or viruses. Dogs with an uncomplicated case of kennel cough may only have a harsh cough but still breathe normally.However, sometimes the agents causing kennel cough (or other infectious agents) can spread deep into the lung tissue, causing pneumonia. Alternatively, a dog may develop aspiration pneumonia if he or she breathes in a bit of food, fluid, or vomit. This can happen to any dog but is more common in dogs with laryngeal paralysis because their airway is unprotected due the the malfunctioning laryngeal flaps.Pneumonia is problematic because the alveoli (i.e. airsacs) in the lungs become filled with fluid and debris from the infection. Now the alveoli can’t do their job of exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen as effectively. This may lead to low oxygen in the blood and fast or difficult breathing. Fever and a lethargic dog are two other common pneumonia symptoms.

4. Lower airway disease

There are any number of diseases that can affect the lower respiratory tract such as bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchioles or small airways) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a type of progressive and chronic bronchitis. The cause for some of these lower airway diseases is unknown, but factors like obesity, infections, and environmental irritants can worsen the intensity of symptoms.Ongoing inflammation causes narrowing of the lower airways. This makes it more difficult for oxygen to get to the lungs and for carbon dioxide to leave the lungs. As a result, dogs with lower airway disease may cough frequently. They may show fast, heavy breathing and they may pant more often. Sometimes even mild physical activity can cause breathing difficulties, and severely affected dogs may collapse due to lack of oxygen.If your dog is coughing or breathing fast, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Also take note of if the respiratory problems seem to be linked to exposure to anything in the environment (i.e. cigarette smoke, air fresheners, candles, pollen, etc).

Use caution in the heat

In order to help regulate their body temperature, humans sweat through special glands in their skin when they get hot. As the sweat evaporates, it helps to cool them down. However, dogs only have sweat glands in their paws. This is not enough to help them cool off completely, so they rely on panting as a primary mechanism for dissipating heat.Sometimes there are instances where a dog’s body cannot cool down fast enough. If a dog is stuck inside a car (even if the windows are cracked) on a hot day, panting is not enough to lower a rapidly rising body temperature as the temperature inside the car climbs. (To learn more, head over to the AVMA website to read their article about the dangers of pets in vehicles.) Or if a dog is exercising on a warm day, he or she can easily overheat. Many dogs will keep on playing even when they are extremely hot, so you can’t rely on them to know when to stop.By the time the body’s temperature goes beyond 106 degrees Fahrenheit, the internal organs can start to shut down. This condition is called heat stroke in dogs, and it is a life-threatening medical emergency. Some of the tell-tale signs of heat stroke are:If you notice any of these signs, immediately head to the veterinary clinic ASAP with the A/C blasting. You can quickly hose your dog down with cool water before jumping in the car but do not submerge your dog in water or use an ice bath as both could be dangerous.

7. Pain

The heart is one of the most important organs in your dog’s body because it pumps oxygen-rich red blood cells throughout the body. Pressure from the heart is part of what drives oxygen-depleted cells back toward the lungs in order to restock with the oxygen that a dog needs to survive. Anything that disrupts the heart’s function can be dangerous to your dog.Heart disease in dogs can be defined as anything from electrical disturbances (e.g., arrhythmias) to disorders that affect the size and strength of the heart’s chambers (i.e. valvular disease, dilated cardiomyopathy or heartworm disease in dogs). The end result is a heart that is not functioning correctly. When the heart isn’t distributing enough oxygen around the body, your dog will begin to breathe faster to try to compensate. As fluid pools in the lungs or abdomen due to congestive heart failure, breathing becomes even more difficult.Some other common symptoms of heart disease include:If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet immediately. Heart disease isn’t curable. But it can often be managed for a period of time with different medications to continue to allow your dog to have a good quality of life.

8. Cancer

Cancer in dogs can affect your dog’s breathing in a few different ways. If your dog has lung cancer in one of the lung lobes, inflammation and pressure from the tumor can cause coughing and trouble breathing. Cancer elsewhere in the body can metastasize (i.e. spread) to the lungs, which can also cause a dog to breathe more rapidly.Additionally, certain cancers can cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs (i.e. pulmonary edema) or around the lungs (i.e. pleural effusion). Pulmonary edema interferes with the dog’s ability to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, and pleural effusion prevents the lungs from fully expanding. Both of these conditions can lead to an increased respiratory rate or changes in respiratory effort.

10. Anxiety

Oxygen, which is vital for survival, is carried to the tissues on red blood cells. Thus, if a dog is anemic (i.e. has low red blood cell numbers) less oxygen can get to the tissues. When this happens, the dog may start breathing faster to try to compensate. Pale gums, lethargy, and weakness are other signs of anemia.A variety of conditions can cause anemia including:Anemia can be life-threatening. If you suspect your dog could be anemic, bring your dog to the veterinarian immediately for testing and treatment.

Talk to your vet

As you have probably gathered from this list, there are a variety of reasons a dog might be breathing fast and many of them can be quite serious or even life-threatening. If you are unsure if your dog is breathing normally, try to count his or her breathing rate (remembering that 10-35 breaths per minute is considered normal and anything over 40 breaths per minute is definitely a cause for concern). Also, consider taking a quick video of how your dog is breathing in case anything changes by the time you get to the vet.Most importantly, seek veterinary care promptly if you have any concerns about how your dog is breathing. You know your dog, so trust your instincts. I know it isn’t easy to be intently staring at your dog and trying to decide if you should call the vet or wait and see what happens. When in doubt, make the call. Maybe you will get the good news that your dog is fine. Or maybe your attention to detail will help your vet catch one of these conditions before it becomes more serious. Watching your dog’s breathing may even save his or her life!