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Dog breathing heavy - Excessive Panting in Dogs

Have you been watching your dog and realized that they seem to be excessively panting even while they are sitting down and relaxed? In this blog, our North Asheville vets discuss some common reasons why your dog may be breathing heavy and what symptoms signal the need for veterinary attention.

Heavy Breathing in Dogs

If you are watching your dog and wondering whether they are breathing heavy or not then you should be aware of what rate of breathing is normal. On average a healthy dog will take between 15 to 35 breaths per minute when they are resting. If your dog is exercising then you can expect breathing that is more rapid and heavy. If you are noting breathing that is more than 40 breaths a minute then you should contact your vet as this rate of breathing is too quick.

While heavy breathing is not always going to be a concern considering heavy breathing in dogs is used for a variety of purposes such as cooling themselves down, regulating their body temperature, and letting heat and water evaporate from their mouth tongue and upper respiratory tract.

Another thing to keep in mind is that dogs are unable to sweat to cool themselves off, instead, they have to breathe faster in order to let air circulate in their bodies. Heavy breathing in dogs is how they get their body temperature back to normal.

Common Symptoms of Heavy Breathing in Dogs

One of the ways to tell if your dog is breathing heavy is by counting how many breaths they take for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 may be a cause for concern and is worth contacting your vet over. If you speak with your vet they will also be able to confirm your dog's breathing rate as they would have that information from any previous examinations they have had.

Some Reasons Why Your Dog May Be Breathing Heavy

If your dog is a brachycephalic dog breed that has a seemingly squished face such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs then they will be more likely to develop breathing issues such as heavy breathing and should always be closely monitored by pet owners for signs of increased respiratory effort.

While these concerns are more likely in short-faced breeds, it is possible for any breed to experience heavy breathing. No matter what breed your dog is, panting or heavy breathing could be a sign that your pup is experiencing an illness or injury that requires urgent veterinary care. A few of the common causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:

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

What Are Some Concerning Symptoms of Heavy Breathing in Dogs?

If your dog is sleeping or has been resting and you notice that they are breathing heavy, they may be experiencing respiratory distress. If you are witnessing any of the following symptoms in your dog you should immediately contact your vet, they will inform you of the steps you should take until you reach the animal hospital.

  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or sounds unusual
  • The heavy breathing started suddenly
  • Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick red gums
  • Out-of-character drooling
  • Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)

How is Heavy Breathing in Dogs Diagnosed?

When you bring your dog to the vet to have their heavy breathing diagnosed they will look into various potential causes such as heart concerns, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. The condition of your pup's overall health could also be causing the problem. 

Your vet will ask you about any previous medical issues that your dog has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues such as lung tumors or broken ribs.

The veterinarian will also watch your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing the fast breathing.

How is Heavy Breathing in Dogs Treated?

If your dog is experiencing heavy breathing the treatment will ultimately depend on the underlying cause. Your vet might prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help restore your dog to good health.

If your pup's heavy breathing is the result of anxiety or stress, your vet may recommend special training with a certified dog behaviorist.

Rest and oxygen therapy will likely be needed to start your dog along the road to healing. While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some severe cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing, and to treat the underlying health condition.

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 showing concerning signs of heavy breathing? Contact our vets in North Asheville immediately to have your dog treated.

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