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Dog Breathing Fast

You've just observed your dog breathing rapidly without recent exercise or play. Should you be worried? In this article, our Los Angeles vets explain why dogs may quickly breathe and when you should contact a veterinarian.

Why is my dog breathing so fast? Is something wrong?

To spot abnormal breathing in your dog, you must first grasp what constitutes a healthy respiratory rate. A healthy dog typically maintains a resting breath rate of 15 to 35 breaths per minute. During exercise, your dog will naturally breathe more rapidly. Therefore, any resting breathing rate exceeding 40 breaths per minute warrants investigation, as it is considered abnormal.

So why is my dog breathing fast but acting normal?

It's crucial to recognize that panting doesn't always indicate a problem. Panting serves as your dog's mechanism for regulating body temperature, facilitating the cooling process, and allowing water and heat to evaporate from their upper respiratory tract, tongue, and mouth.

Dogs cannot rely on sweating to cool down; instead, they rely on rapid breathing to promote air circulation throughout their body, assisting them in returning to a normal temperature. This is why you may sometimes see your dog experience fast or heavy breathing.

While this is normal, you should always look for the signs of heatstroke. These signs include heavy breathing, lethargy, vomiting and drooling. If you witness these signs, please contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital right away.

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 about clearly understanding your pet's normal respiratory rate). Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal; anything above 35 may cause concern and is worth contacting your vet. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.

Why is my dog breathing heavy and fast?

Brachycephalic dog breeds, like Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, have 'squished faces' or shortened snouts, which increases their risk of developing breathing problems. Pet owners should closely monitor these breeds for signs of increased respiratory effort.

However, breathing difficulties are not limited to short-nosed breeds. Regardless of your dog's breed, rapid breathing may indicate an underlying illness or injury requiring immediate veterinary attention. Some potential causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Exercise
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Respiratory Infection
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Heat Stroke
  • Nausea
  • Medication

My dog is breathing fast and shallow, even at rest or sleeping. What do I do?

If your dog shows signs of fast breathing or any other indication of breathing difficulties, please contact your vet immediately. This could be a sign that your dog is in respiratory distress.

Some of the signs that your dog needs immediate emergency veterinary care include labored breathing, blue gums and open-mouthed breathing.

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

Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination to identify the root cause of your dog's breathing problem, whether it originates from the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or any other area. Additionally, your pet's overall health will be assessed to determine its potential contribution to the issue.

To gather essential information, your vet will inquire about your pup's previous medical history and might suggest diagnostic tests like X-rays to assess the heart, lungs, and abdomen for conditions such as lung tumors or fractured ribs.

Furthermore, the veterinarian will monitor your dog closely for signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that may be responsible for the rapid breathing.

How is fast breathing in dogs treated?

You should seek veterinary care immediately if your dog has difficulty breathing or their gum and tongue color changes to a dusky gray or blue.

Once you arrive at the veterinary hospital, your dog may be given oxygen therapy. For this treatment, your dog will be placed in an oxygen chamber or given nasal oxygen. The team will carefully cool your dog off if the rapid breathing is related to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. If your dog has difficulties relaxing, the vet may give them a mild sedative.

Your vet will then perform diagnostic tests to assess your dog's condition and identify specific problems. Further treatment will depend on the cause of the rapid breathing and may involve medications and/or surgery.

Seeing your dog breathing fast or with difficulty can be concerning, even more so if the difficulties seem to be unrelated to anything. Respiratory distress is a true medical emergency. If you are at all concerned with the way your dog is breathing, seek veterinary attention immediately.

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 fast breathing? Contact our vets in Los Angeles  for urgent vet care for your pup.

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