Shortness of breath or laboured breathing in dogs is known as dyspnea. Breathing heavily is one way dogs regulate their body temperature, as it allows them to cool down and release water and heat from their body.

It could also be because of excitement, stress, fear, or exercise. Breeds of dogs with short snouts, like Boston terriers, bulldogs, and pugs, are prone to heavy breathing than other dogs. Heavy breathing could be a sign a dog may suffer a heatstroke or may have consumed a toxic substance or could be in pain because of an injury.

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

You could measure your dog’s breath per minute to tell if it is having trouble breathing or breathing too fast. Dogs normally breathe between 15 to 35 breaths per minute if they’re healthy.

If your dog has not been exercising or the weather isn’t warm, your dog might have a breathing problem. Also, if they look like they’re choking while also making loud noises like snorting or rasping, or you can see their nostrils moving or their mouth wide open like in a grin, your dog might be having breathing difficulties.

Common causes of heavy breathing in dogs?

Your dog breathing fast could result from respiratory issues or an injury that would require you to take it to see your vet doctor. Excessive and rapid breathing while resting is called tachypnea and could be a medical condition symptom based on how severe the heavy breathing is.

Chronic illnesses like heart failure, Cushing’s syndrome, or respiratory disorders can all cause heavy breathing or panting in dogs. Heavy breathing could result from any of:

  • 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
  • Anaemia
  • Nausea
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Medication

You taking your dog to the vet would help determine the underlying medical condition causing heavy breathing in your dog and how best to treat such a condition.

How to know if my dog is having a heat stroke?

Dogs aren’t like humans, as they only have sweat glands in their feet and around their noses, making it harder for them to withstand high temperatures. They mostly rely on breathing (panting) to regulate their body temperature during warm weather.

You could easily tell if your dog is suffering from a heat stroke when there is excessive panting and drooling. Your dog might be experiencing a heat stroke if it can no longer regulate and keep its bodily temperature cool. Often coupled with vomiting, weakness, and seizures.

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Heat strokes are of two kinds: exertional and non-exertional.

Exertional happens on sunny days when your dog hasn’t had the chance to get used to a sudden change in temperature.

Dogs can take as long as 60 days to get used to a major change in temperature. A heat stroke could happen while exercising your dog during this period.

The second is a lot more common, as it usually happens when a dog is left in a parked car with the windows rolled up. Exposing a dog to a sudden rise in temperature without your dog having access to good ventilation or water to help regulate their body temperature could lead to a heat stroke. Asides from a rolled-up car, a dog could also have a heat stroke in a garden with no shade or a sweltering room.

If your dog is suffering from a heat stroke, ensure you contact your vet doctor immediately for advice on what to do as it could lead to the death of your dog.

Your vet will most likely give you instructions on how to cool your dog down, such as; using moving air and a lukewarm wet towel on your dog’s nose and paws as you head to the vet clinic. On getting there, your vet would try to cool your dog gradually and might place your dog on a drip in order to replace any lost fluids and minerals.

What should I do if my dog is having breathing problems?

If you’ve been able to determine that your dog is breathing heavily because of a medical condition or heat stroke, seek emergency medical care immediately!

Treatment for breathing problems in dogs?

Your vet will perform a physical examination on your dog, may order an x-ray, listen to your dog’s lungs and heartbeat, and ask when you first noticed signs of rapid breathing. You would also be required to provide a complete medical history of your dog, any medication your dog is on currently and your dog’s diet.

Depending on how severe what is causing your dog’s breathing problem is, your dog might be placed on admission at the vet clinic until it is under a stable condition. The vet would give your dog oxygen so it could breathe easily and would also require your dog’s activity to be limited until the breathing problem has been solved or is under control.

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

If you can’t find any obvious reason for a sudden change in your dog’s breathing, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Once you notice your dog breathes fast suddenly, without you having exercised it, it being excited or because of the weather being hot, ensure you visit the vet immediately.

Your dog’s tongue or gum could also let you know if your dog is having difficulties breathing. A purple, white or blue tongue or gum should be treated as urgent.

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