Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast

Have you ever wondered why your dog is breathing so fast when he is resting on his couch or when he is out for a walk? Is he having breathing difficulty or suffering from any health issue that needs your attention?

Below you will find some common reasons as to why your dog is running short of breath and panting non-stop.

Fast breathing can be a normal behavior for your dog to regulate his body temperature after exerting himself. It could also be an abnormal behavior as the result of emotional disorder (stress, anxiety or excitement) or an indication of some underlying health issue (heart or lung problem, milk fever or pain).

You see, the normal respiratory rate for any dog is between 30 and 40 breaths per minute when he is in a relaxed and calm state.

This breathing rate can easily reach up to 300 to 400 inhalations and exhalations per minute (which is almost 10 times his normal breathing rate) under certain circumstances, such as when he is exerting himself.

Should You Panic?

I would say it depends on the situation. 

You see, panting is not at all a bad thing for your dog as it helps to regulate his body temperature and is his way of cooling himself since dogs don’t have sweat glands like we do. He is using his tongue as a way to release moisture to cool down his body.

That is why you will often see that your dog breathes much faster after exercise as he is trying to get the heat off his body.

Usually this shouldn’t last for more than a few minutes and if you observe that your dog pants even when he is at rest and the breathing is shallow, it could be a sign of some potential health issue with your dog.

So how do you tell between Normal and Abnormal breathing?

Abnormal panting happens when:

1. You know that your dog doesn’t need to regulate his body temperature. This is typically the case where he is not involved in any physical exercise that might cause his body temperature to rise, and he is also not in an outdoor environment where the weather is extremely hot.

2. His breathing seems to be much louder than normal panting.

3. Your dog seems to be panting very regularly for no obvious reasons that you know of.

If you observe these signs happening to your dog. I would suggest that you bring him to a vet for a health assessment to ensure that there is no “hidden” medical problem.

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Let’s talk about some of the most common causes for dog panting behavior.

Shortness Of Breath Upon Exertion

It’s common to see your dog panting after playing some strenuous games or exercise.

Usually, he should be back to his normal breathing rate after 10 minutes of resting and for a dog with a good fitness level, this could even be shorter.

So do not get over concerned if you know that your dog’s panting is due to his physical workout unless that panting keeps persisting even after long resting.

Behavioral Breathing (Due to Stress Or Excitement)

This could be the case when your dog feels stressed, nervous, scared, excited or anxious. Just like your breathing will increase whenever you feel excited or nervous, the same goes for your dog as well.

You could also observe his body language such as if he is trembling, jumping on people, excessive barking or performing lip licking to know more about his emotional state.

To correct behavioral inducing panting, you should work on:

1. To address excitement, make sure that you have plans for some daily physical and mental simulation games to help him release his pent-up energy. This will keep him in low energy mode and stay calm.

2. To address stress and anxiety, you should start your dog on crate training. This will help him to see crate as a personal and secure place that he would want to go to whenever he feels stress or anxiety.

Crate will be his den where he knows that he will be safe from any danger or threat.

Heat Exhaustion

Overheating is going to be a life threatening condition that can happen to your dog if he is left dehydrated for a long period of time.

This can happen if he is trapped in an enclosed place such as in a closed car, or he is out for a walk or play on a very hot day and drinks little or no water.

Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting with high body temperature, excessive salivation, appearing of bright red gums and also an increase in heart beats.

If you see that your dog is panting non-stop with his mouth fully open and his tongue is being stretched out as far as he could and the tongue could even be swollen and drooling, it’s a sign that he is getting too hot and needs to cool down quickly.

What you can do is to put a cool towel or an ice pack on his groin area. That is an effective way to swiftly cool him down.

He Is In Pain

Pain is often another common cause for dogs to start panting. This is especially so for older dogs as they tend to suffer from arthritis.

Though it is not easy to identify if your dog sudden panting is the result of his pain, what you can do is to perform a visual inspection of your dog’s body, ears and paws to see if there are any open wounds or bleeding.

Of course, you can also keep a lookout on his body language (such as limping, enlarged pupils, reduced or loss of appetite, not able to sit still, persistent licking on joints or biting) to know more about his physical condition.

Milk Fever

Also known as Eclampsia, this usually happens on pregnant or nursing dogs. So if your dog is pregnant, she could be suffering from this disorder that triggers her breathing difficulty.

This condition happens when there is a sudden drop of the calcium levels in your dog’s bloodstream and the symptoms include increase in panting, inability to stand or walk and tremors.

This is a life-threatening condition and would need immediate treatment from a veterinarian.

Heart Or Lung Related Problem

Shortness of breath or persistent vomiting could be a symptom of heart or lung related problems such as heart valve diseases, congestive heart failure, heartworm disease and bronchitis.

This condition will affect the ability of the lung to absorb the oxygen and transfer to the bloodstream thus making your dog panting hard to get more oxygen into his lung.

Or it could be the case that the heart isn’t able to effectively pump blood around the body thus leading to the lack of oxygen in the body.

One of the common lung conditions known as Dyspnea which happens when there is fluid in or around your dog’s lung and is often an indicator of heart disease or failure.

You will find your dog’s breathing to be quite noisy, and he will be breathing with his mouth open (more like he is grabbing for air).

Your dog will be holding his neck and head low and not willing to lie down as he finds it’s hard for him to breathe in that position. He could also be coughing and feeling fatigue.

Also keep a lookout on his gum. If it turns bluish, that could be another indicator of dyspnea. Bring your dog to see a vet immediately.

One of the popular remedies that you can use at home to ease the lung discomfort for your dog (if the shortness of breath is caused by environmental factors) is to make use of an air purifier to increase the humidity of an enclosed area where your dog is hanging around.

Additional humidity can certainly help to improve any type of lung disorder and improve your dog’s breathing pattern.

You can pour some water to a standard little vaporizer and then add in 5 drops of lavender essential oil to it and that should get some more fluid to vaporize into the air.

You could also prepare drinks that are good to the lung for your dog to improve his lung functionality and regulate his breathing.

I love to prepare this drink for my dog which works great whenever he is having any cough that induces his fast breathing.

  • Brew some green tea (which is rich in antioxidant) and add 1 teaspoon of organic honey (rich in antibacterial to prevent infection)
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Breed Related Problem (Brachycephalic Breeds)

Certain breeds of dog (such as Bulldog, Pug and Shih Tzu) tend to have a higher likelihood of experiencing breathing difficulties as a result of their unique facial structure, such as having a short nose or flat face appearance.

You might see them breathing heavily during their sleep.

Their narrow windpipe often makes their breathing much more strenuous. That effectively means that they are more like breathing through a “straw”. 

Image yourself breathing through just one side of your nostril, would that make you breathe harder and faster?

So narrow airway could be one possibility that makes them exhibit a faster breathing pace at times.

Since your dog certainly can’t “tell” you why he is panting excessively, you would have to do your homework and ensure that his unusual panting behavior is not caused by some serious emotional or health issue.

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