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Help! Why is my dog breathing fast but acting normal?

You've just observed your dog breathing rapidly without recent exercise or play. Should you be worried? In this article, our Mount Vernon vets explain why dogs may quickly breathe and when you should contact a veterinarian.

Why is my dog breathing fast? Is something wrong?

To spot abnormal breathing in your dog, you must first grasp what constitutes a healthy respiratory rate. A healthy dog typically maintains a resting breathing rate of 15 to 35 breaths per minute. During exercise, your dog will naturally breathe more rapidly. Therefore, any resting breathing rate exceeding 40 breaths per minute warrants investigation, as it is considered abnormal.

It's crucial to recognize that panting doesn't always indicate a problem. Panting serves as your dog's mechanism for regulating body temperature, facilitating the cooling process, and allowing water and heat to evaporate from their upper respiratory tract, tongue, and mouth.

Dogs cannot rely on sweating to cool down; instead, they rely on rapid breathing to promote air circulation throughout their body, assisting them in returning to a normal temperature.

How can I tell if my dog is breathing too fast?

To tell if your dog is breathing abnormally fast, count your dog's breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. (You may even want to do this when you are not concerned about understanding your pet's normal respiratory rate clearly). Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal; anything above 35 may cause concern and is worth contacting your vet. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

Brachycephalic dog breeds, like Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, have 'squished faces' or shortened snouts, which increases their risk of developing breathing problems. Pet owners should closely monitor these breeds for signs of increased respiratory effort.

However, breathing difficulties are not limited to short-nosed breeds. Regardless of your dog's breed, rapid breathing may indicate an underlying illness or injury requiring immediate veterinary attention. Some potential causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Exercise
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Windpipe Issues
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Pressure on the Windpipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Pain
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Medication

When should I contact my vet about my dog's breathing? 

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

  • Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums
  • Reluctance to drink, eat, or move
  • Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
  • Out-of-character drooling
  • Heavy, fast breathing that's louder or different sounding than normal panting

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

Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination to identify the root cause of your dog's breathing problem, whether it originates from the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or any other area. Additionally, your pet's overall health will be assessed to determine its potential contribution to the issue.

To gather essential information, your vet will inquire about your pup's previous medical history and might suggest diagnostic tests like X-rays to assess the heart, lungs, and abdomen for conditions such as lung tumors or fractured ribs.

Furthermore, the veterinarian will monitor your dog closely for signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that may be responsible for the rapid breathing.

How is fast breathing in dogs treated?

The best treatment for your dog's breathing difficulties depends on identifying the underlying cause. Your vet may recommend pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to restore your dog's health.

If stress or anxiety is the reason behind your dog's rapid breathing, consider specialized training with a certified dog behaviorist.

Starting your dog on the path to recovery will likely involve rest and oxygen therapy. While many dogs can be treated at home, severe cases may necessitate hospitalization for monitoring and treating the underlying health condition affecting their 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 dog's fast breathing? Contact our vets in Mount Vernon  for urgent vet care for your pup.

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Northwest Veterinary Clinic of Mount Vernon is accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about the health of Mount Vernon cats, dogs, and horses. Get in touch today to book your animal's first appointment.

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