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Why is my dog breathing so fast and shallow?

Why is my dog breathing so fast and shallow?

If your pup is breathing fast without apparent cause, it can be worrying. Today, our Sawtooth Animal Center vets share some reasons why your dog may be breathing fast but otherwise acting normal, and when it's time for your dog to see the vet.

What counts as fast breathing in dogs?

We must understand what constitutes a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate for dogs in order to be able to identify irregular breathing. When at rest, a healthy pet should typically breathe 15 to 35 times per minute. Of course, your dog will naturally breathe more quickly when they are exercising.

Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is resting is considered abnormal and worth investigating.

That being said, not all panting is bad or a sign of distress. Panting helps your pup to regulate their body temperature, cooling them down and allowing moisture and heat to dissipate from the tongue, the mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

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

How do I know if my dog is breathing too fast?

Just count your dog's respiration rate when they are sleeping or resting to find out if they are breathing excessively quickly. To get a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate, it can be a good idea to do this when you're not worried. Breathing rates are normal if they are under 30 and alarming if they are over 35.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Your pet's rapid breathing could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an illness, injury or other condition that should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Breeds of dogs that have "squished faces" or shorter snouts, like Boston terriers, Boxers, and Pugs, are more likely to have breathing problems, so pet parents should always keep a close eye out for any symptoms of respiratory distress.

Some potential causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Issues affecting Windpipe 
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Pressure on the Windpipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Lung Diseases (e.g. cancer)
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Effects from Medication 
  • Exercise

When should I be concerned about my dog's rapid breathing?

If your dog is breathing fast while at rest or sleeping, they could be exhibiting symptoms of respiratory distress. Contact your vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Engaging stomach muscles to help breathe
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick red gums
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Heavy, fast breathing (sounding different from their normal panting)

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

The veterinarian for your dog will examine your dog thoroughly to ascertain whether the problem is with the heart, lungs, airway, neck, head, or any other part of the body. Another reason for your pet's general health condition could be an underlying problem.

Any previous medical issues that your pet has experienced need to be disclosed to your vet, who may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-Rays to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues like broken ribs or lung tumors.

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

What are the treatments for fast breathing in dogs?

Treatment for your pup's fast breathing will be determined by the underlying cause. Pain relief, intravenous fluids with calcium, or other medications are some of the treatment methods available to help remedy your furry friend's problem.

If your pet's rapid breathing is caused by stress or anxiety, special training with a certified dog behaviorist may be required.

Whatever the reason behind your pet's breathing problems, oxygen therapy and rest will probably be required; some dogs may recover enough to be treated at home, while others may require more specialized care or hospitalization. In addition to assisting with at-home care, your dog's recovery will be supported by your compassionate veterinarian and veterinary team.

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 breathing? If your pup is breathing fast, contact our Bellevue vets right away to book an examination for your dog. Our compassionate vets are here to help your dog feel better.

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Sawtooth Animal Center Bellevue is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Bellevue companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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