Dog Breathing Heavy? – Here’s What You Need To Know


Do you find yourself concerned that your dog is breathing harder than normal when they’re resting? It can often be challenging to determine whether your dog is merely panting or if their rate of breathing is abnormally elevated.

When should you be worried about your dog’s fast breathing? We cover all these topics and more in this guide!

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog’s Heavy Breathing?

If your dog is breathing heavily with its mouth closed or partially open, then it can sometimes indicate a congestive heart problem that may require immediate medical attention. In other cases, respiratory issues, allergies, or bronchitis could be the cause.

According to the vets at Trudell Animal Health Center, here are the common causes behind a dog’s constant heavy breathing.

Breathing Heavy While at Rest

If Fido is sleeping and you can hear his heavy breathing, it is a red flag and pet parents should take their dog to the vet immediately. This type of breathing occurs in congestive heart failure. Your vet will recommend diagnostic tests, especially for certain dogs breeds prone to heart issues.

Heavy Breathing in Dogs with Pale or Bluish Gums

This is also very serious so please take your dog to the vet right away. Blue or pale gums with higher than normal body temperature could indicate that your dog is breathing but still isn’t getting adequate oxygen.

Fully or Partially Closed Mouth with Heavy Breathing

Dogs pant with their mouth kept open if they are overheated or exhausted. Panting with the mouth open is normal and helps your dog cool itself.

But, if your dog is breathing rapidly with its mouth closed or partially open can be a sign of a serious medical issue that needs your vet’s attention.

Cough with Heavy Breathing

Dog experiencing respiratory distress accompanied by bouts of coughing, or wheezing indicates an upper respiratory issue, kennel cough, or bronchitis. In the case of the latter, the dog’s normal temperature could be impacted.

Dog is Breathing Heavily with Signs of Distress or Pain

Please take your dog to the vet if your dog is breathing fast, and also showing signs of pain, refusing food, or tucking its tail between its legs. If your dog is breathing fast or open mouthed breathing or using its stomach muscles to breathe, then it is a sign that your buddy is uncomfortable due to an illness or injury like broken ribs.

Sometimes, stress, anxiety, or psychological factors too could cause distressed breathing or heavy breathing in dogs along with a rapid heart rate.

Snorting, Wheezing, and Retching while Breathing Heavy

This type of heavy breathing in dogs may be due to an allergy or chronic bronchitis, or even an upset stomach or poisoning. If your pet is vomiting and does not get better after a few hours, please call your vet as soon as possible. Diagnostic tests can show the exact cause of the breathe reluctance.

Brachycephalic Syndrome/Dog Breeds Prone to Breathing Issues

Some dog breeds tend to have breathing issues and respiratory distress due to their unique facial structures. Most dogs like Pugs, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers and other dog breeds with squashed-in faces have this pet’s condition. 

You must especially monitor such dogs’ breathing and have a vet diagnose the pet’s condition immediately if something seems off.

Also Read: Health Issues in French Bulldogs

How to Know if Your Dog is Breathing Too Fast? What is Abnormal Breathing for a Dog?

According to vets, an average healthy dog takes between 15-35 breaths per minute while it is relaxed or at rest. Anything above this rate means the dog breathing fast.

After exercise, your pet’s breathing rate could be slightly higher. This type of fast breathing is normal panting and this dog’s breathing is considered normal as it helps your dog cool down. After all; dogs do not sweat as humans do to cool themselves down.

But if your dog is at rest and breathing at a rate of more than 50 breaths a minute, with its mouth closed, then this dog’s breathing is considered too fast. Let your vet diagnose increased respiratory effort and trouble breathing with tests.

What Are the Treatments for Fast Breathing in Dogs?

According to the experts at Animerge Vets, there are several breathing fast treatments that could help dogs with rapid breathing. Before considering these rapid breathing treatments, your vet will want to run some tests along with a full physical examination to rule out the following issues which cause heavy breathing in dogs :

  • Asthma
  • Bacterial or fungal respiratory infections, pneumonia, and kennel cough can cause breathing fast while sleeping.
  • Broken ribs
  • Circulatory system issues.
  • Windpipe-related issues – tracheal collapse, pressure on the windpipe, etc.
  • Allergies – usually cause open mouthed breathing.
  • Smoke inhalation can impact normal breathing.
  • Parasites
  • Lung disease, lung tumors
  • Stress and other psychological factors

Once these tests detect the underlying issues, your doctor may recommend the following rapid breathing treatment as soon as possible:

  • Pain meds like NSAIDs, steroids, etc.
  • Prescribe pain relief intravenous fluids with calcium
  • Oxygen therapy for circulatory system issues.
  • Rest
  • Medicines for heart or other issues.
  • Anti-allergy medicines/antihistamines

Home Remedies for Dog Breathing Fast

Here are some precautions for pet parents to take to help a dog with fast breathing

  • Avoid humid environments. Keep your pet in a cool or climate-controlled environment. This will help keep your dog’s body temperature cool to prevent fast or heavy breathing.
  • Provide antihistamines if your dog’s fast breathing is caused by allergens.
  • Reduce exercise if your dog is engaging stomach muscles or showing signs of abnormal breathing. Some dogs breeds need to exercise in the cooler parts of the day.
  • Your vet may prescribe pain relief for the dog breathing fast. Administer them as advised.
  • If stress or anxiety are causing fast or heavy breathing in your pet, see a certified dog behaviorist. Certified dog behaviorist can help reduce anxiety-related dog’s rapid breathing and other psychological factors.
  • Use CBD oil supplements to reduce fast breathing in dogs.

If these remedies don’t help with your pet’s rapid breathing or pet’s breathing difficulties, please see a vet for a full physical examination and determine the underlying cause.

FAQs – Dog’s Rapid Breathing

How can I calm my dog’s breathing?

If your anxious pet’s normal respiratory rate is higher than usual, then you can take a slow, deep breath and blink your eyes while maintaining eye contact with your dog.

Wait for your dog to stop normal panting and when it does, give it a treat. Continue until your dog’s breathing is back to the pet’s normal respiratory rate.

What can I give my dog for upper respiratory tract infections?

Your vet might prescribe a course of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract issues. In some cases, oxygen therapy and pain relief intravenous fluids may be needed. This should slow down its rapid breathing. An accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause is needed to prevent breathing difficulties or breathing issues in canines.

What are the signs of heart failure in dogs?

Coughing when at rest, respiratory distress, rapid breathing, pale or bluish gums, and fast breathing (breathing abnormally fast) are an indication of heart failure in dogs.

What are the causes of dog fast breathing after surgery?

If your dog is breathing fast after surgery, it may be due to pain. The anesthesia may wear off and that can result in fast breathing using tummy muscles. Give it some time for a healthy respiratory rate to return.

What is a normal dog’s respiratory rate?

A dog’s respiratory rate is considered normal at 15-35 breaths a minute. Even lower rates are healthy respiratory rates as long as your pet is acting normal.

Conclusion – How to Help Reduce Pet’s Rapid Breathing?

No pet parent wants to see their dog suffer from pet’s breathing difficulties. If your dog breathing heavy and is engaging stomach muscles or is having general difficulty breathing, then it could be due to allergies, respiratory issues, injury, etc.

But if you see other signs on your dog’s body like pale gums or its normal temperature is impacted, then, it may be experiencing respiratory distress due to circulatory system lungs airway neck head issues. Diagnostic tests can help assess the reasons behind your pup’s fast breathing.

Please note that this article does not constitute medical advice and it is important to consult a vet for exact medical advice regarding pets breathe reluctance.

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