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Why is my dog breathing fast but acting normal?

If your dog is breathing fast for no apparent reason, you're bound to be concerned. In today's post our Lisle vets explain fast breathing in dogs, describe symptoms and potential causes, and share tips on when to call a vet. 

Is your 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.

Keep in mind that 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.

Since dogs are unable to 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.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

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

If my dog is breathing fast what other symptoms should I watch for?

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 the following additional symptoms:

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

What should I do if my dog is breathing fast?

In order 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.

What will my vet do if my dog is breathing fast and shallow?

The vet will perform a comprehensive 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 for your dog's breathing difficulties 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.

Is your dog breathing fast for no apparent reason? Contact our Lisle vets right away to book an examination for your four-legged friend, or visit your nearest animal emergency hospital for urgent care.

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