15 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Breathing Fast
Is your dog breathing faster than usual? Is it an indicator of something being wrong or is it normal? In this text we're exploring 15 possible reasons that could be behind your dog's fast breathing. Read further and find out more!
Dogs breath fast from time to time, nothing new there. But the question many dog owners ask is if it’s something they should worry about or not.
This article provides information about the dog’s respiratory system, normal and abnormal breathing and the possible causes behind the rapid breathing. Let’s get started!
Fast breathing is called dyspnea and can affect any dog, no matter what breed or what age it is. In order to understand what falls down under this category we have to begin by taking a look at how the respiratory system works and what the normal breathing rate is.
The Respiratory System
Dogs have pretty much the same respiratory system as people. The most important parts are the throat, the nose, the windpipe and the lungs. The process of breathing is known as the inspiration.
After the inspiration, the oxygen is transferred to the red blood cells which carry the oxygen to other parts of the body. At the same time, carbon dioxide is transferred from the red blood cells to the lungs and is carried out in a process called expiration, in other words the process of exhaling.
This is how the respiratory system should ideally work. Therefore, when a dog is breathing fast or with difficulty it’s a sign that something isn’t working as it should.
What’s The Normal Breathing Rate?
In order to determine what fast breathing is, you have to know what to compare it to. Of course, you’re able to tell that the breathing is faster than usual, but it’s still good to know how much faster.
So, the normal breathing rate is 10 to 35 inhalations and exhalations per minute. A panting dog can beat that rate by 10 times and inhale 100 to 350 times per minute! But…
Is All Panting Bad?
Not all panting is bad. Panting helps the body regulate the temperature, as fast breathing is usually followed by evaporation of water from the tongue, the mouth and upper respiratory tract.
Fast breathing is necessary in normal amounts because it enables air to circulate through the body most efficiently, as dogs don’t sweat the same way we do. This is why fast breathing helps the dog’s body to get back to a normal temperature, after exercise for example.
Therefore, we can put fast breathing under two categories: normal and abnormal.
Normal And Abnormal Panting
Normal panting usually occurs when the dog’s body is overheating and this is a completely normal and healthy reaction.
Abnormal breathing, on the other hand, can indicate a physical or an emotional problem.
How can you tell the difference?
If you’re not sure if the fast breathing is temporary or more serious, look out for these signs:
– Abnormal panting happens when your dog isn’t warm and doesn’t have the need for body regulation – It is a bit louder than normal panting, it sounds a bit different – Your dog seems to put in more effort into panting than usual
If you notice these signs and if your dog starts breathing fast in situations it normally doesn’t do that, you should take your dog to the vet and get a check-up.
15 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Breathing Fast
Now, let’s take a look at some possible reasons why your dog is breathing rapidly.
The more overheated the dog is, the heavier will the panting be. Other symptoms to look out for are high body temperature, abnormal thirst, glazed eyes, bright or dark red gums and tongue, increased pulse and heartbeat.
If the body temperature exceeds 109°F, the result is inevitably heatstroke. Heatstroke leads to body cells dying, brain swelling, seizures, ulcers and kidney damage caused by dehydration. All of this happens in a spam of a couple of minutes and it’s often too late to do anything.
This is why you have to do everything you can in order to prevent overheating. Read more on how to prevent heatstroke .
2. Breed Predisposition
Brachycephalic breeds, that is dogs with ”pushed in” faces, such as Pugs, Bowers or French Bulldogs are prone to fast breathing because of their breathing difficulties. Because of their genetic predispositions, they don’t pant efficiently and therefore run a higher risk of heatstroke.
It’s important to understand that these breeds have a different ”normal” breathing rhythm which you have to be aware of, in order to take the necessary precautions.
Fast breathing can indicate that your dog is feeling discomfort or that he or she’s under pain. If you notice fast breathing during odd times or without a reason, for example during night when it’s usually time for rest, a visit to the vet would be in order.
4. Heart and Lungs Diseases
An unwell heart isn’t able to pump blood around the body efficiently, which leads to a lack of oxygen. Therefore, your dog will increase the rate of respiration and try to compensate for the lack of oxygen. As you can guess, this will lead to fast breathing.
Other symptoms of heart diseases, besides fast breathing, are increased respiration, coughing, a tendency to tire faster etc. Monitoring your pet’s breaths per minute is necessary, especially when your dog is resting or sleeping.
As a consequence of heart diseases, blood pressure in the veins around the heart can become higher. Congestion of the lungs happen and when they’re no longer able to transfer oxygen to the blood, the lack of oxygen makes the dog breath fast and heavily.
5. Cushing’s Disease
Dogs with this disease, also called hyperadrenocorticism, have adrenal glands that are releasing too much cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that can create various symptoms if produced excessively, among others fast breathing.
Other symptoms are thirst, weight gain, urination, change in skin color to grey or darker, hair loss, bruising etc. Read more about Cusher’s disease and inform yourself.
When someone has anemia it means that their body is low on red blood cells and hemoglobin, necessary to transport oxygen to the body. Like with heart and lung diseases, a lack of oxygen leads to fast breathing.
Other symptoms of anemia are weakness, elevated heart rate, lethargy, mental confusion etc.
7. Laryngeal Paralysis
When a dog with this condition breathes in, the laryngeal cartilages don’t open as they should and make breathing difficult. As you can guess, this results in faster breathing than usual.
8. Behavioral Panting
Anxiety, stress, fear and different phobias fall under this category. Fast breathing is usually one of the signs that your dog is having some psychological problems. Some other signs are trembling, lip licking, yawning, hiding etc.
Fast breathing in these cases are normal and allow the dog to prepare for difficult situations IF they don’t last for too long. However if it becomes a chronic problem it’s probably something you should pay attention to.
9. Chest Traumas Or Accidents
Dogs that get injured, for example if they get hit by a car or get into an accident, usually breath faster than normal. Allergies, infections and electrical shocks lead to that as well.
This happens when dogs are under shock because their blood pressure and blood flow drop to very low levels, making the body’s need for oxygen much higher. As a result, dogs start inhaling oxygen faster in an attempt to compensate for the oxygen that’s missing.
10. Acid-base Disorders
Some chronic problems can result in changes in pH balance and lead to faster breathing than what’s normal. Kidney failure leads to to the same problems.
11. Feline Infectious Peritonitis
This chest form disorder is caused by a mutant form of corona virus. Excess fluid fill the spaces in lungs and make the dog unable to get enough air, which makes the breathing faster.
12. Blood Parasites
The most common one in dogs is Babesia canis. This blood parasite find its way to the dog’s body by the brown tick and can lead to anemia, and therefore fast breathing, as mentioned above.
13. Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
This is the Latin name for a channel in the embryonic pet that is connecting the vessels between the embryo and the mother. These channels should close at birth, but sometimes they don’t which results in this condition.
This prevents the dog from getting as much oxygen as it’s necessary. There are certain breeds that are more prone to this than others, such as Poodles, Bichons, Pomeranians, Collies, but it doesn’t mean that other dogs can’t suffer from this condition.
14. Lung Tumors
Lung tumors can make breathing harder, especially if they’re located between the lobes of the lungs. Coughing and panting are some of the symptoms of lung tumors.
15. Ingestion of Stimulants
It’s not a secret that dogs love chewing on all kinds of things, especially the ones they shouldn’t be touching. However, this can be very dangerous if they get a hold on something toxic, for example human medications or forbidden food and you will be able to tell that something is wrong by the fast breathing.
In order to prevent this, you have to teach your dog what’s forbidden and hide the things that could be dangerous.
Having listed all these possible reasons, the logical question is:
How Do I Determine Why My Dog Is Breathing Fast?
In order to determine what’s behind the rapid breathing, you shouldn’t put off the visit to the vet.
Once there, your vet will probably ask you different questions about your dog and will ask you to report the history of medical problems.
After that, the vet will probably search for unusual sounds with a stethoscope. That way he or she will be able to hear if there are some heart problems or weird lung sounds.
Besides the physical exam, X-rays are also recommended in order to see if there are some problems in the body, such as lung tumors or fractured ribs. Lab tests will be necessary if nothing else can point to the problem.
Last but not least, don’t forget the psychological aspects mentioned above and check for stress or shock. Your dog can’t tell you about its feelings, so you have to look for signs and do what you can to help your pet.
How Should Fast Breathing Be Treated?
If the cause is identified, the therapy will of course be much easier to determine. Depending on the reason behind it, an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory therapy will be recommended. Dehydrated dogs will get the fluid therapy as well.
Most importantly, whatever the cause, is oxygen therapy and rest. Most dogs are allowed to be at home while the treatment is going on, in a well-known and relaxed environment. However, in some cases when dogs must be monitored all the time, vet hospitals are the best solutions.
As we can see, fast breathing can be both normal and indicate some problems. If it’s in purpose of temperature regulation, fast breathing is completely healthy. However, if it occurs in unusual situations or during rest you should pay a bit more attention to your dog’s breathing.
Considering the fact that your dog isn’t able to tell you explicitly what’s wrong you have to monitor for signs and try to understand if your dog is hurt, under stress or something else.
Don’t ignore the signs if you notice abnormal panting, take your dog to the vet for tests in order to identify the cause, so that proper treatment can start.
To sum it up, fast breathing can be normal in some situations, but if it’s followed by other symptoms it should be looked into.
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