Why Do Dogs Breathe Fast?

Why Do Dogs Breathe Fast?

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You can tell when your dog is working up a sweat or has finished a lengthy game of fetch by the way it breathes. That is entirely natural, but there are some circumstances that can make you wonder, such as when a dog was just lying down and you noticed heavy breathing in him. It is crucial to understand why this could occur and what actions you should take to address the issue if it is a problem.



First, we need to understand what a dog's normal respiratory (breathing) rate is. When at rest, they would typically breathe between 10 and 35 times each minute. Your dog will breathe more quickly when exercising possibly 10 times more quickly. Not all rapid breathing or panting is harmful; in fact, some of it can assist your dog stay cool, regulate his body temperature, and let moisture and heat to escape from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. However, some are brought on by specific medical illnesses such pneumonia, heart problems, laryngeal paralysis, and respiratory infections.


Smart (German Shepherd)

As a dedicated dog owner, who spend a lot of time staring at my adorable dog which only makes sense that sometimes I might wonder if Smart’s breathing is normal or not.

Being a German Shepherd, Smart likes to spend some of his day lounging around the house. At rest, he should be breathing easily through his nose with his mouth closed. If I were to count how many times he breathes (inhales and exhales) in minute, it would probably be around 10 to 35 times. Sometimes during sleep, he will be breathing fast while sleeping. He may also whimper, twitch, or growl as he sleeps, this made me wonder a lot. In response, I called out his name or wake him up and as long as he acts, I know it wasn’t a problem and subsequently I told myself this isn’t a cause for alarm. These actions are probably just a dream, not something scarier like a seizure in dogs. Also, many times if he goes outside and romps with my friends in warm weather, he may start panting with an open mouth and his tongue sticking out, I believe this is also Smart’s normal way cooling down.




From this point on, we'll discuss a few of the typical medical issues that could make your dog breathe quickly or otherwise irregularly. Be advised that not all potential issues are included here, and many disorders might present symptoms that are similar to these. If your dog has breathing issues, your veterinarian is the best person to identify and treat the problem.

  • Laryngeal paralysis

Because of its box-like form and sound-making role, your dog's larynx is nicknamed a "voice box." It's in the back of the throat at the trachea. When your dog eats and drinks, little muscles cover the tracheal aperture. They pull laryngeal flaps out of the way while the dog breathes to maximise tracheal airflow. If the nerves that regulate the laryngeal muscles are damaged, the laryngeal flap(s) can partially restrict the trachea. This produces resistance as air passes the faulty flap(s), reducing lung airflow.

  • Respiratory infections and pneumonia

Respiratory infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal (nose, trachea, airways, and lung tissue). Some infections produce inflammation in the trachea or bigger airways. Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Uncomplicated kennel cough causes a loud cough but normal breathing.

  • Tracheal collapse

The trachea goes down the neck and into the chest before separating into the main bronchi that lead into the lungs. The trachea delivers oxygen-rich air to lung tissue and carbon dioxide-laden air outside.

  • Respiratory infections and pneumonia

Respiratory infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal (nose, trachea, airways, and lung tissue). Some infections produce inflammation in the trachea or bigger airways. Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Uncomplicated kennel cough causes a loud cough but normal breathing.

Pneumonia causes fluid and debris to fill the alveoli (lung air sacs) Alveoli can't exchange CO2 for O2 as well. Low blood oxygen can cause quick or difficult breathing. Fever and lethargy are other pneumonia symptoms.

  • Lower airway disease

Several disorders can affect the lower respiratory tract, including bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive and chronic bronchitis. Some lower airway disorders are unknown, although obesity, infections, and environmental irritants can increase symptoms. Inflammation narrows lower airways. This hinders oxygen and carbon dioxide transport to and from the lungs. Lower airway illness causes dogs to cough.

  • Heat stroke

Humans sweat through skin glands to control body temperature when hot. Sweat evaporation cools them. Dogs sweat only through their paws. This doesn't cool them off enough, so they pant to dissipate heat.

A dog's body can't always cool quickly enough. Panting won't cool a dog's quickly rising body temperature in a hot automobile, even with the windows cracked. A dog can overheat when exercising on a hot day. You can't count on dogs to cease playing when they're too hot.

  • Heart Disease

The heart circulates oxygen-rich red blood cells throughout your dog's body. Pressure from the heart pushes oxygen-depleted cells to the lungs to refill with oxygen. Anything that affects your dog's heart is harmful.

Heart illness in dogs includes electrical irregularities (arrhythmias) and disorders that impair the heart's size and strength (i.e., valvular disease, dilated cardiomyopathy or heartworm disease in dogs). A malfunctioning heart is the result. Your dog will breathe faster when the heart isn't providing enough oxygen to the body. Congestive heart failure makes breathing harder when fluid collects in the lungs or belly.

  • Pain

Dogs can feel discomfort for several causes and are experts at hiding it. They sometimes vocalise pain or favour a limb. Dog discomfort can sometimes be subtle. Painful dogs pant or breathe quickly when resting. They may withdraw, conceal, hold their bodies strangely, or exhibit other abnormalities.

Several typical causes of pain include:

  • Orthopaedic issues such canine arthritis and canine hip deformity.
  • Dogs with digestive issues like foreign objects or pancreatitis
  • Canine dental illness, canine tooth abscesses, or senior dogs can cause mouth pain tooth loss
  • Illness or injury-related ear or eye pain
  • Recent surgery
  • Cancer

Concluding words

As you have probably gathered from this list, there are a variety of reasons a dog might be breathing fast and many of them can be quite serious or even life-threatening. If you are unsure if your dog is breathing normally, try to count his or her breathing rate (remembering that 10-35 breaths per minute is considered normal and anything over 40 breaths per minute is definitely a cause for concern). Also, consider taking a quick video of how your dog is breathing in case anything changes by the time you get to the vet. Most importantly, seek veterinary care promptly if you have any concerns about how your dog is breathing. You know your dog, so trust your instincts.

Dr Marvelous Ibiniyi, DVM

A pet enthusiast and young veterinarian in the making, who loves writing and giving educative information about pets especially dogs and cats. Dr Marvelous has a German Shepherd dog named Smart and likewise a Persian cat named Rolex.

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