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Why is my dog breathing so fast?

As a dog owner, you've likely noticed your furry friend breathing rapidly at times. This behavior can be perfectly normal or a sign of something more serious. This post will discuss why dogs breathe fast, what constitutes normal and abnormal breathing, and when you should seek professional help.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Dogs may breathe rapidly for various reasons, including:

  • Excitement or exercise: Your dog might breathe faster than usual after a vigorous play session or a brisk walk. This is a normal response to physical activity.
  • Fear, stress, or anxiety: Situations that cause stress or fear, such as loud noises or unfamiliar environments, can lead to rapid breathing.
  • Heat: Dogs pant to cool themselves. Panting is one of the most effective ways for a dog to regulate its body temperature. However, heavy or rapid breathing can be an early sign of heat stroke requiring immediate attention.

How fast should a dog breathe?

A healthy dog typically takes 15 to 30 breaths per minute while resting. Puppies may breathe slightly faster. To check your dog's breathing rate, count the number of breaths in 15 seconds and multiply by four. If your dog's resting respiratory rate exceeds 30 breaths per minute, it may be time to consult a veterinarian.

Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping

Seeing your dog breathe fast while sleeping can be concerning. Rapid breathing during sleep might be due to dreams, much like humans; however, if your dog consistently breathes fast while at rest, it might indicate an underlying health issue.

Signs of Respiratory Distress in Dogs

Your pet's rapid breathing may indicate that your pup is suffering from an illness or injury that should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog 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.

It's crucial to distinguish between normal panting and signs of respiratory distress. Look out for these symptoms:

  • Labored breathing: Difficulty in breathing, often accompanied by unusual sounds like wheezing.
  • Shallow breathing: Short, rapid breaths that don't seem to provide adequate ventilation.
  • Gums or tongue turning blue: Indicates a lack of oxygen and requires immediate veterinary attention.
  • Coughing or choking: Persistent coughing or sounds of choking.
  • Restlessness: Inability to settle, often due to discomfort or distress.

When to Seek Professional Help

Rapid breathing can sometimes indicate serious health issues such as:

  • Heats stroke: If your dog is panting heavily in hot weather and showing signs of distress, immediate action is required.
  • Heart disease: Rapid or labored breathing can be a symptom of heart problems.
  • Respiratory infections: Conditions like pneumonia can cause rapid, shallow breathing.
  • Pain or trauma: Injuries or internal pain may increase breathing rates.
If your dog is breathing fast but acting normally, it might not be a cause for concern. However, if other signs of distress accompany rapid breathing, seeking veterinary advice is essential.

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

Your dog's veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to identify whether the issue is related to the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another part of the body. Your pet's overall health condition may also be a contributing factor.

The vet must be informed about any past medical problems your pet has had and may suggest diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, to examine the heart, lungs, and abdomen for such problems as broken ribs or lung tumors.

The vet will also assess your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing rapid breathing.

What are the treatments for fast breathing in dogs?

If your dog is breathing rapidly, the treatment will depend on its reason. Your veterinarian may recommend pain relief, intravenous fluids with calcium, or other medications based on the underlying cause.

If stress or anxiety is causing rapid breathing, seeking the help of a certified dog behaviorist for special training may be necessary.

In any case, rest and oxygen therapy will likely be part of the treatment. While most dogs can be treated at home, in severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor and treat the underlying cause of the rapid breathing.

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 pup's breathing? If your dog is breathing fast, contact our North Fort Myers vets right away to book an examination for your dog. 

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