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Why is my dog breathing fast?

We may notice that our dog is panting or breathing fast after they get excited or after playing, but what about when they have been resting? Today our Rockland County vets discuss some reasons why your dog may be breathing fast and when you should be concerned.

Why is my dog breathing fast? 

To know what is unusual when it comes to your dog's rate of breathing you will need to be aware of what is normal for them. While resting a normal healthy dog will take an average of 15 to 35 breaths per minute with this rate increasing if they begin to move around.

If you spot any rate above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is resting then you should contact your vet immediately.

That said, it's important for pet parents to keep in mind that not all panting is bad. Panting helps your pup to regulate their body temperature, cooling them down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, the mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

Unlike people, your pup doesn't sweat to cool down, instead, they need to breathe fast to allow air to circulate efficiently through the body. Rapid breathing allows a dog’s body to get back to a normal temperature.

How fast is too fast for my dog's breathing?

The easiest way to determine what is normal for your dog you can count their breaths while they are sleeping or if they have been laying down for an extended period of time.  It can be a good idea to do this when you are not concerned, in order to have a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. If your dog is having less than 30 breaths per minute that would be considered normal while anything above 35 is a cause for concern.

What are some of the causes of fast breathing in dogs?

Typically if a dog is breathing fast during rest it would indicate that they are experiencing an injury or illness and should be evaluated as soon as possible.

Dogs breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts such as  Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs are more prone to breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of breathing difficulties.

Some of the common causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • 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
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Exercise

When is it time to worry about my dog breathing fast? 

If your dog is breathing excessively fast during rest or sleep it is referred to as respiratory distress and your dog will need to be examined immediately. Contact your vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • 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, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting

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

The veterinarian will perform a full physical examination on your dog to determine whether the problem is located in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. They will also be able to determine if your dog's overall health is a cause of the rapid breathing.

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 fast breathing.

How is fast breathing in dogs treated?

The underlying cause of the fast breathing will determine the route that your dog's vet takes with treatment. 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.

In most cases, the dog will be able to be treated in the comfort of their own 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.

Has your pup started to breathe fast even when they are not playing? Contact our Rockland County vets right away to book an examination for your dog.

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At Rockland Veterinary we are passionate about animals and enjoy helping cats and dogs feel well. Contact our vets in Hudson Valley, North Rockland or Pomona today to schedule your furry companion's first appointment!