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Heavy Breathing in Dogs

Heavy Breathing in Dogs

While we know that dogs will breathe fast and pant when playing, it can be concerning if they are still breathing heavily when resting. Our Lacey veterinarians share some potential causes of heavy breathing in dogs and signs that you should bring them in for an examination. 

What is too fast or too heavy for breathing in dogs?

If you are wondering what is considered abnormal for a dog's breathing rate then you will be to understand what is completely normal. While they are expected to breathe fast while moving around, the healthy average breathing rate for dogs that are resting is around 15 to 35 breaths per minute.

If you notice your dog is breathing rather quickly and note 40 or more breaths a minute then you should really consider bringing them to the nearest emergency veterinarian service.

Although we say that fast breathing is not ideal, there are certain circumstances in which it is completely normal for them to breathe faster or heavier than normal. 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 the 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.

What are the signs that my dog may be breathing too fast?

To determine whether your dog is breathing abnormally fast, simply count your dog’s respiratory rate while they are sleeping or resting.  It can be a good idea to do this when you are not concerned, to have a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate.

Typically any breathing rate up to 30 breaths a minute is considered completely normal and if you note 35 or more breaths per minute then you should contact the emergency vet in Lacey.

What is the reason for heavy breathing in dogs?

If your dog is breathing fast and heavy then it could be a sign that they are suffering from a serious condition or illness and should be seen by the nearest emergency vet.

If you have a breed with what is considered a 'smushed in' face, while cute, they are prone to breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of breathing difficulties.

Some potential causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include asthma, breed characteristics (such as a short nose), kennel cough, laryngeal paralysis, windpipe issues, respiratory infections, a collapsed or compressed windpipe, stiffened airways, smoke inhalation, lung diseases such as cancer, parasites, pneumonia, hernia, heat stroke, nausea, pain, reaction to medications, or exertion from exercise. 

When is heavy breathing in dogs considered an emergency?

Any dog that is sleeping while showing signs of quickened breathing could be experiencing what is known as respiratory distress. Contact your nearest 24-hour vet in Lacey if you notice the following symptoms:

  • 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 is heavy breathing in dogs usually diagnosed?

When you bring your pup into our animal emergency hospital after you've witnessed heavy breathing, the vet will thoroughly examine your dog to determine whether the problem is located in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. Your pet's overall general health condition may also be causing an issue.

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.

Are there any treatment options for dogs that are breathing heavily?

The treatment for your dog will vary depending on what your vet has determined the cause to be. 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.

While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some serious cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing and 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.

If you are worried that your dog may be breathing too fast, contact our emergency vet clinic in Lacey right away.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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