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My dog is breathing fast. Should I be worried?

My dog is breathing fast. Should I be worried?

If your dog is breathing fast, you'll understandably be concerned. Our Raritan, Somerset county vets explain what's considered fast breathing in dogs, describe symptoms and potential causes, and share tips on when to call a vet. 

Why is my dog breathing fast?

First, we should know what a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate for a dog is. They’d usually take between 10 to 35 breaths per minute when resting. When exercising, your pooch will breathe faster - perhaps by as much as 10 times, which means they’ll breathe in 100 to 350 times each minute.

Not all panting is bad, as it helps regulate your dog’s body temperature, cools him down and allows water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, the mouth and upper respiratory tract.

Because dogs cannot sweat like their humans, they need to breathe fast to allow air to circulate efficiently through the body. Fast breathing allows a dog’s body to get back to a normal temperature.

Causes of Fast Breathing in Dogs

Fast breathing in dogs may indicate a number of conditions, injuries or illnesses and should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some potential causes include:

  • Asthma
  • Breed characteristics (squish-faced breeds may be more prone to breathing problems)
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Trachea (windpipe) issues
  • Rhinitis (bacterial or fungal infection in the nasal chambers)
  • Pressure on the windpipe
  • Stiffening of airways
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Lung diseases such as cancer, parasitic infections or pneumonia
  • Compressed lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heatstroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Exercise

Symptoms of Fast Breathing in Dogs

While dogs normally pant after exercise or vigorous activity, your dog may be having difficulty breathing or experiencing respiratory distress if you notice any of these signs:

  • Using stomach muscles to help with breathing
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged or brick red gums
  • Drooling
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s a bit louder and sounds different than panting

What to Do If Your Dog is Breathing Fast

To determine whether your dog is breathing abnormally fast, count your dog’s respiratory rate while he or she is sleeping or resting.

Regardless of what’s causing the issue, these are all signs that your furry friend should see a vet immediately, as this would be classified as a veterinary medical emergency. If your dog is breathing fast but otherwise acting normal, you should contact your vet, who may suggest watching him for a few days and monitoring the respiratory rate to see if it returns to normal.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Fast Breathing in Dogs

The vet will perform a full physical examination to determine whether the problem is located in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or other area. A general health condition may also be causing an issue.

You will also be asked questions about your dog and any previous history of medical issues. X-rays may be taken to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues such as broken ribs or lung tumors. Organs will also be examined.

You and your vet can also look for signs of anxiety, stress or other psychological factors.

Treatment will be determined by the underlying cause. Your vet may prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids with calcium, or medication.

For stress or anxiety, special training with a certified dog behaviorist may be required. No matter the cause, rest and oxygen therapy will be needed. While most dogs will be allowed to be treated at home, some may need to be constantly monitored. Hospitalization may be the safest option for dogs with serious illnesses.

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 your dog is breathing fast or is displaying other concerning symptoms, contact our Somerset County emergency veterinary hospital right away.

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