30 Signs: Understanding Why Your Dog Breathes Fast

When you can see your pet’s panting or quick breathing, it can raise a red flag. Dogs have quicker breathing rates for a multitude of reasons, which include normal physiological responses to exercise and heat, alongside stress, anxiety, and underlying health conditions. Learning about the little details of breathing is the key for you to determine whether you are seeing a normal, temporary response, or if it is the time to consult your vet. In this article, we will discuss the main causes of rapid breathing in a dog, differentiate between normal and abnormal breathing patterns as well as give you some basic guidelines to help you decide when to seek the help of a specialist.

Dog is Breathing Fast

Understanding Canine Breathing

First, let me explain how a dog breathes so that we can delve into the reasons why a dog may breathe fast. Dogs inhale through their nose in the same way humans do and exhale through the nose, throat, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. However, unlike humans who primarily filter the air through the nose and breathe the main one via their mouth, dogs heavily depend on their tongue and mouth to regulate their body temperature. Panting or rapid open-mouthed shallow breaths is a natural cooling system that helps dogs release heat from their bodies.

How Do I Know My Dog is Over Breathing?

Knowing your dog’s normal breathing rate is important because it gives you a starting point to look for anything out of the ordinary. For example, the normal breathing rate for dogs varies with breed or is dependent on the size and activity level of your pet. The average respiratory rate of an adult healthy dog is 10-30 per minute. A puppy can ‘breathe’ as many as 15 or 40 breaths in a minute. In addition, smaller body sizes have a faster metabolism rate than their bigger counterparts. Moreover, you are supposed to pay attention to the depth of their breaths, in addition to any other visible signs of distress like coughing, wheezing, or gagging. Faster than a normal breath without exercise or hot reasons, you can assume it not okay.

Why is My Dog Breathing Fast?

Now that we have inter-related that basic fact about how dogs breathe let us go further in discussing normal and abnormal breathing patterns in dogs.

15 Normal Reasons for Fast Breathing in Dogs

Normal breathing in dogs is observed by smooth and steady breathing as the chest and abdomen move, which can be seen with no visible effort or strain. Breaths should not be very shallow or very deep and should be of constant rate. 

Normal Reasons for Fast Breathing in Dogs

1. Sleep

When dogs are asleep, their breathing rate gets faster in contrast to the time they spend awake. This happens due to the fact that during REM stage oxygen consumption increases and the gas, carbon dioxide is produced—it is also understood as “doggy dreams”. Therefore, there is no cause for worry if your dog appears to be breathing quickly while it sleeps. However, if it persists during their waking time, this may suggest an underlying problem.

2. Exercise

Dogs and humans both have a natural tendency to breathe more quickly during physical exertion. Their muscles need extra oxygen to burn calories and to cool the body by removing the heat that comes through exercise. As an example, if your dog has been chasing and catching the ball or frolicking around, they would probably be panting very heavily due to this extra oxygen demand. Nevertheless, make it a point to check the breathing rate of your dog right after exercise, because a high respiratory rate sustained for more than 10 minutes could be an indication of a medical problem.

3. Heat

Unlike humans, dogs do not possess sweat glands to keep cool. As an alternative to sweating, they inhale and exhale more rapidly to release heat from their bodies to stay calm. Your dog might breathe more rapidly if it’s hot or humid outside as its body tries to cope with heat. However, if excessive panting continues even during cold weather, this could be an indication of heat stroke, dehydration, or overheating.

4. Excitement or Stress

Much like us, dogs face the emotions of being excited or nervous, which results in a higher breathing rate. For dogs, either playing with their favorite toy, anticipating a walk, or being in unknown surroundings can create excitement and stress. As such, they may have breathing, which is fast and shallow. Usually, there should be a time when the level of awareness goes back to normal, as the stimulus is gone.

5. Anxiety or Fear

Since dogs can also suffer from anxiety and fear, this can lead to rapid breathing as well. In some cases, things such as separation from their owners, loud noises, unfamiliar environments, or other animals around may cause various anxieties among certain dogs. If panting persists even after any object that scares your dog has been put away; this means he may be suffering from an anxiety disorder that requires veterinary intervention.

6. Genetics

Some kind of dog, breeds have a fast rate of breathing due to their inherited characteristics.  Breeds such as Pug, Bulldog, and Shih Tzu (brachycephalic and flat-faced breeds) with shorter noses and smaller airways can exemplify this, which makes natural breathing difficult for them. Hence, they breathe through panting more frequently.

7. Pregnancy

During the period of pregnancy, the dog may experience an increase in breathing rate because of the added weight and pressure on the diaphragm. The puppies continuing to grow inside the mother’s womb results in it being impossible for her to have deep breaths, hence developing rapid and shallow breathing. If you find your pregnant dog panting abnormally, make sure to visit your vet so that he can prescribe the right kind of treatment.

8. Post-Birth

A mother dog may have an increased respiratory rate from the effort of labor and delivery after birth. The pups may continue to breathe fast even during nursing because the mother’s body is expending a lot of energy making milk for her puppies. Pay attention to your dog’s breathing rate after giving birth and consult your veterinarian if you see any changes to be sure everything has gone as expected.

9. Age

With growing age, a dog’s breath may tend to be faster. Similar to us, aged dogs might face greater difficulty in breathing as their lungs and other body systems become less strong. This kind of effect leads to an increase in the breathing rate especially while engaging in physical exercise or during moments of stress.

10. Elevation

If you live in a high-altitude region, the fastening respiration rate of your dog may be the result of reduced oxygen levels in the air. The dogs living at high altitude areas usually have faster respiration rates than those located at sea level. This may be an early adaptation to the environment and nothing to worry about until your dog usually comes with difficulty breathing.

11. Smoke Inhalation

The smoke from a fire, cigarette, or any other source in the respiratory system, leading to panting rapidly, may irritate dogs.  If you suspect that your dog had a smoke exposure, check their breathing rate and contact the vet immediately if it persists or if they seem to show any signs of distress.

12. Changes in Environment

Sudden changes in temperature or air quality may also trigger rapid breathing in dogs. Let us say your dog is familiar with living in a rainy and humid area, and then proceeds to visit a place that is cold and dry. He will likely experience an increased respiratory rate as his body tries to adjust to the new conditions. In addition, the smoke from wildfires and pollution can affect the dog’s breathing rate in the same way.

13. Growth stages

Growth Stages As puppies run through the stages of growth their bodies undergo many changes and one of them is an increase in breathing rate. Young dogs normally breathe faster than adult ones because they are still small and developing at a fast speed. This will normalize as they reach adulthood.

14. Recovery from Anesthesia

Following a medical procedure that requires anesthesia, dogs may breathe heavily upon waking up. However, this is normal due to the effects of anesthetic drugs that fade away completely in a few hours. Nonetheless, if your dog continues to struggle with breathing or shows any signs of distress it is paramount to report the situation promptly to your veterinarian wherever you are.

15. Certain Medications

Increased respiratory rate can also be caused by some drugs side effects. If a new prescription is given to your dog by the vet and its breathing starts changing, share this information with them. They may need to alter dosages or change types of medication.

20 Abnormal Reasons for Fast Breathing in Dogs

Normal respiration in dogs may involve panting rapidly when necessary; however, it is important to watch your dog’s respiratory rate and check for any alterations. A pet that breathes extremely faster than usual for longer times might be sick. Here are some potential health concerns that may cause your dog to breathe faster than usual:

Abnormal Reasons for Fast Breathing in Dogs

1. Respiratory Infections

Respiratory system infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and laryngitis among others are clinical cases that can cause difficulties in breathing for a dog. Additionally, bacterial and fungal infections affecting respiration can increase breathing rates due to the body’s struggle with bacteria/fungi causing disease. Signs of these diseases include coughs, sneezes lethargy fever, and strange respiratory patterns. It is crucial to consult a veterinarian immediately if there is suspicion of any kind of respiratory problem involving your pet for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

2. Anemia

A dog with this condition cannot produce and distribute enough blood cells to supply oxygen to all body regions. To compensate for low oxygen levels in the patient’s tissues, the body may attempt harder to bring in oxygen. Pale gums and fatigue are the most obvious symptoms. Additionally, your pet shows lethargy and drowsiness. In such cases, it is always prudent that you take him/her to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.

3. Heart Disease

Dogs with congestive heart failure may have fast breathing. The animal may have cardiovascular disease symptoms as coughing, poor breathing, and lethargy. A dog with a cardiac issue will breathe faster to compensate for less oxygen. This serious disease can result in death when left untreated.

4. Pulmonary Edema

It takes place when the fluids accumulate in the lung’s alveoli, thus your dog can’t breathe properly. This can cause fast breathing along with coughing and other signs like bluish-coloured gums and lethargy. It can be deadly if not identified and treated early. So consult your veterinarian immediately if you suspect this condition.

5. Pneumothorax

When pneumothorax occurs, it causes an accumulation of air between the chest wall and lungs hence leading to rapid breathing among dogs. It may be due to respiratory tract infections or trauma caused by abuse leading to this disorder. Fatigue, coughing, loss of appetite, and troubled breathing are some other symptoms associated with it. If you suspect pneumothorax in your pet, consult a veterinary immediately.

6. Insect Bites

Bee stings, spider bites and similar insect bites can produce a severe allergic reaction in dogs as well as quick breathing. Swelling, hives and redness usually show that an individual has an allergy from insect bite.  Some extreme hyperventilation cases maybe characterized with vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by rapid respiration.

7. Toxic Ingestion

Consumption of substances containing toxins such as anti-freeze and rat poison as well as certain types of plants may initiate fast breathing in dogs. Dogs breathe faster as their bodies try to expel harmful chemicals. Besides those, there is a broad range of other symptoms such as sickness, diarrhea, seizures, or loss of coordination.

8. Pancreatitis

It is an inflammatory disease of the pancreas, which is the organ that produces enzymes used in the digestive system. This inflammation manifests in different ways in dogs and causes rapid breathing, which is considered to be a sign of pain and distress. Along with deep and fast breathing, the affected dogs may show abdominal discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. These signs in aggregate accentuate the severity of the condition and the timeliness of veterinary care.

9. Kidney Disease

In dogs, kidney disease is typically defined as the loss of the kidneys ability to filter metabolic wastes from the blood. Such can cause the accumulation of toxins, which result in discomfort and sickness to the dog.  One of the symptoms of the disease, which manifests itself as rapid breathing, includes thirst, urination and weakness. Early diagnosis and treatment are of extreme necessity.

10. Fever

A fever is a common cause of fast breathing in dogs. When the body temperature rises above the normal range, it triggers an increase in respiration to try and regulate the body’s internal temperature. If your dog has a fever, it is important to monitor them closely and consult with a veterinarian if they show other concerning symptoms.

11. Heartworm Disease

It’s a fatal illness caused by parasitic worms, which live in the hearts, lungs, and blood vessels of infected dogs. Dogs with heartworm can feel difficulty breathing and their respiratory rates go up due to damage to lungs. Other symptoms include coughing, fatigue and weight loss. Preventive medication from your veterinarian must be used in order not avoid this malady.

12. Cushing’s Disease

This disease involves the overproduction of cortisol, the hormone responsible for metabolism regulation and balancing immune system functioning in the body. Excessive panting becomes one symptom when dogs have Cushing’s disease due to fat accumulations within their thoracic cavity. Other signs might include increased thirst/urination, alopecia along muscle weakness.

13. Hernia

In dogs, a hernia occurs when an organ or tissue bulges through a gap in the muscles. Such circumstances can create not just fast, but also irregular breathing, especially if the hernia occurs in the abdominal area and near the breathing organ. Besides the speedy breathing, hernia may have other symptoms as well such as pain and discomfort, changes in appetite, vomiting, problematic bowel movements, and enlargement of the abdomen. A hernia in your dog is an emergency and your vet should be your next stop.

14. Diabetes

When a dog’s body cannot control blood sugar, then one is suffering from diabetes. This situation can result in different signs, such as quick breathing and sweet-smelling breath, where the body attempts to balance the abnormal state. Other signs of diabetes in dogs can be increased thirst and urination, weight loss, lethargy and so on.

15. Trauma or Injury

The trauma of injury such as cracked ribs, lung damage, or chest trauma may cause intensified breathing in dogs. When a dog goes through such conditions, typically as intoxicated or drowning, the body can respond quickly with rapid breathing as a part of a mechanism to manage pain and discomfort, which is an indication of a serious underlying issue. Besides sympathetic breathing, other signs may include limping, trouble walking and standing, and visible injury effects.

16. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is a pathology where there is too much cortisol hormone, which is used to manage metabolism and the immune system. Dogs with Cushing’s disease may have panting and difficulty breathing because of fat deposits in their chest cavity. The other symptoms include increased urination and thirst, hair loss, and muscle weakness.

17. Nausea

It can result in quicker respiring rates particularly if your dog suffers from belly upsets. Additional symptoms that may accompany this include drooling, lip licking, and decreased appetite among other disorders too numerous to mention here. Whenever you notice any pain or vomiting together with fast breathing on your pet then you should promptly contact your vet for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

18. Lung Tumor

In extremely rare occasions, dogs can be affected by lung tumors, which can manifest as rapid breathing because of the tumor’s location. Other symptoms of this condition can be fatigue, coughing and severe shortness of breath. If you think your dog has a lung tumor, make sure you contact a veterinarian soon. Mainly, excessive breathing could be a depressing development demanding quick medical help.

19. Asthma

Just like humans, even dogs suffer from asthma that causes rapid respiration, wheezing coughs along with heavy breaths at times when affected by attacks. These attacks could originate from allergens or pollutants that affect them under given conditions where they live, play, or sleep. Treatments prescribed by a veterinarian are based on the prevention and management of symptomatic attacks, which will be given to dogs diagnosed with asthma.

20. Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is an infectious respiratory disease that affects mainly the upper parts of the airways in dogs making them breathe faster than their normal rate. This ailment comes about most often when many dogs are kept together in one place such as shelters, or kennels. Initially, it starts out as a dry and hacking cough but if not treated can lead to rapid breathing.

For more insights on understanding your dog’s health, especially if you’ve noticed your furry friend’s tongue feels unusually warm, check out Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Hot?, an in-depth guide that explores potential reasons and when it might be time to consult a vet.

Warning Signs of Abnormal Breathing

While fast breathing may be a normal response for dogs, certain situations warrant caution and require immediate medical attention. In case you observe any of the following warning signs coupled with your dog’s rapid breaths, contact your veterinarian without delay:

  1. Rapid breathing at rest or while sleeping
  2. Breathing with an open mouth
  3. Noisy breathing (wheezing, snoring, or raspy sounds)
  4. Difficulty breathing or persistent coughing
  5. Bluish gums or tongue indicating lack of oxygen
  6. Excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing
  7. Reluctance to drink, eat, or move
  8. Vomiting or regurgitation with difficulty breathing
  9. Collapse or fainting
  10. Visible injuries or trauma to the respiratory system.

How will the Veterinarian Diagnose the Reason for My Dog’s Fast Breath?

There is a wide range of tests that the veterinarian might carry out in order to understand why your dog is breathing faster than normal. Among these are the blood test, x-rays or ultrasound and sometimes bronchoscopy for more scrutiny into certain conditions. Furthermore, the vet will consider any previous medical history and exposure of dogs to environmental irritants/ allergens as well which may have caused the problem. Depending on his/her findings, the veterinarian shall design an appropriate treatment plan for each individual pet. Therefore, it is important to always recognize and treat rapid breathing early enough so that dogs can regain their healthy state of affairs.  Thus you should be keen on signs such as those mentioned above if you see them do not hesitate to contact a veterinary officer.

Ways to Assist a Dog with Fast Breathing

Once you comprehend the causes of fast breathing in dogs, your pet’s safety will be assured and you will be able to react quickly to any possible threats that may compromise their well-being.

Immediate Measures to Take:

If your dog is going through shortness of breath, you should try some actions to help them recover smoothly and manage any possible underlying conditions. To begin, ensuring your dog is calm and relaxed in a quiet area is critical.  If possible, try to find the cause of the fast breathing and remove it, for example, allergens or irritants. Also, provide your dog with sufficient fresh water to stay hydrated. In case the condition of your dog does not get better or if it gets worse you should contact your vet for further instruction and treatment options.

Breathing Exercises for Dogs

Breathing exercises could aid your dog relax, reduce anxiety, and improve respiration rates. Such breathing exercises usually involve deep inhaling with longer exhaling phases which are appropriate to it. Slowly encourage your dog to take deep breaths in and out under controlled conditions while giving them treats or praises as rewards for positive behavior. Inquire about specific respiratory activities intended exclusively for dogs from an expert in training such as a veterinarian.

Utilizing Calming Techniques

Apart from developing breathing habitations, different calming techniques may help dogs breathe fast. The approaches may include massage, aromatherapy, music therapy, or the use of anxiety-reducing products for example calming sprays with pheromones or anxiety wraps. Try various methods to discover the most suitable ones for your dog’s needs. Nevertheless, you should always visit your vet for a consultation before using any calming products to make sure that they are safe and that your dog is suitable to take them.

Preventive Measures and Wellness Care

Although fast breathing may be normal for a dog in some cases, there are instances where one needs to be cautious and seek immediate medical attention. If you see these warning signs accompanied by your pet’s fast respiratory rate, you need to get in touch with the vet:

  1. Regular check-ups: Make sure you have an annual check-up done by a qualified veterinarian so as not only to monitor the general health status of your dog but also to identify any issues early enough.
  2. Allergen avoidance: Keep away from anything that might cause allergic reactions like pollen grains, mold spores or dust mites.
  3. Vaccinations: Always ensure that your dog has received all the necessary vaccinations, which can help in preventing some diseases affecting its respiratory system.
  4. Clean & Safe Environment: Regularly sanitize and vacuum cleaners at home to eliminate any substances, which can provoke breathing complications within it.
  5. Avoid stressful situations: Please try to reduce the level of stress they are facing hence they might suffer from respiratory problems too.
  6. Proper nutrition: Ensure you feed the animal well-balanced foodstuff that will help them maintain their body weight and hence prevent common strains on their respiratory system.

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding and monitoring your dog’s breathing pattern can be central in keeping their health intact. Fast breathing could occur normally in dogs as a response to various stimuli but may also be associated with underlying health problems requiring immediate veterinary attention. By recognizing unusual breathing signs, providing immediate help for dogs in distress, and making use of preventive wellness measures, owners will ensure that pets grow up healthy and happy. Therefore, please consult your veterinarian whenever you are not sure about the best approach to support your pup’s well-being.

Note: This post provides information only and is not meant to be used for diagnosing animals. To get an accurate diagnosis for your pet’s condition please make an appointment with your local vet.

References

For further reading and in-depth understanding, the following resources and references provide extensive information on canine respiratory health, signs of distress, and preventive measures:

  • Kennel Cough in Dogs, American Kennel Club”.
  • “13 Signs Your Pet Needs Emergency Care, American Veterinary Medical Association”.
  • “Respiratory Distress in Dogs, PetMD“.
  • “Canine Respiratory Infections.” VCA Hospitals”
  • “Respiratory Disease in Dogs and Cats, MSD Veterinary Manual”.

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