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What are Breathing Difficulties?

Difficulty breathing is a sign of a labored respiratory system. Your dog’s health depends upon the respiratory system to take in oxygen and deliver it to the red blood cells and throughout the body’s organs. The causes for breathing difficulties are varied, and dogs of all ages, breeds, and both sexes are susceptible; however, specific breeds and types of dogs are more susceptible to suffer particular underlying causes of breathing difficulties.

Very large and giant breeds of dog are more likely to experience cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. Small, toy breeds, such as the Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, and Pomeranian, are most likely to suffer from tracheal collapse. While small breeds, such as Maltese, Italian Greyhound, and Poodle are predisposed to tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and chronic mitral valve disease. Short-faced breeds of dog, such as bulldogs, are more likely to have congenital breathing difficulties due to narrowed nostrils and elongates soft palates, as well as tumors in the lungs and near the heart.

Rapid breathing or panting can also be normal reactions to exertion or heat; if you suspect this to be the case, let your dog rest and cool off to see if her breathing returns to normal.

Dyspnea, or troubled breathing, and tachypnea, or rapid breathing, panting or coughing can all be signs of serious underlying problems and should be considered medical emergencies if they persist.

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Breathing Difficulties Average Cost

From 61 quotes ranging from $500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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Symptoms of Breathing Difficulties in Dogs

Dyspnea (Troubled Breathing)

  • Visible movement of chest and stomach during breath
  • Flared nostrils during breath
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Head held low and extended; elbows bowed out

Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing)

  • Breathing more quickly than normal, with a closed mouth

Panting

  • Breathing more quickly than normal, with an open mouth
  • Shallow breaths
  • Tongue hanging out
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Causes of Breathing Difficulties in Dogs

Dyspnea

  • Foreign object stuck in throat
  • Elongated soft palate
  • Small nostrils
  • Ascites, or fluid in the belly
  • Bloat, or air in the belly
  • Enlarged liver
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Tumors
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Injury to chest wall
  • Reaction to toxin from tick bite
  • Reaction to toxin from Botulism
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary edema, or heart failure with fluid in the lungs
  • Blood in the chest surrounding lungs
  • Bleeding into the lungs
  • Pneumonia
  • Infectious tracheobronchitis, or a kennel cough
  • Heartworm infection

Tachypnea

  • Anemia, or low red blood cell level
  • Hypoxemia, or low blood oxygen level
  • Asthma
  • Tumors
  • Pulmonary edema, or heart failure with fluid in the lungs
  • Bleeding into the lungs

Panting

  • Pain
  • Reaction to certain medications
  • Elevated body temperature due to external temperature, fever, or exertion
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Diagnosis of Breathing Difficulties in Dogs

Difficulty breathing should be considered an emergency, and you should take your dog in for veterinary attention as soon as you determine there to be a problem. As there are so many possible causes for your dog’s difficulty breathing, it is important for you to give a thorough account of the symptoms and their onset, as well as any recent incidents that may be related.

The veterinarian will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination that will include detailed observation of your dog’s breathing and listening to her chest and lungs. The veterinarian will press on your dog’s windpipe to try and induce coughing, in order to observe the cough. Depending on the severity of your dog’s difficulty breathing, oxygen may be administered at this time in order to stabilize your dog before additional tests can be conducted.

Your dog’s blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels will be tested in order to determine the severity of your dog’s breathing difficulty. A urinalysis, complete blood count, and chemical blood profile will be taken in order to identify possible causes such as anemia, infection, presence of heartworm or toxin, or impaired organ functionality.

Further testing will depend upon the area of concern, with x-rays and ultrasounds being utilized in order to examine the condition and function of the heart, lungs, and abdomen; extraction of any fluids built up in the chest, lungs or belly for clinical evaluation; and/or an electrocardiogram to measure the heart’s electrical activity; an endoscope to visually examine your dog’s nose and airways.

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Treatment of Breathing Difficulties in Dogs

As there are many varied causes of breathing difficulties, there are many options for treatment that will depend upon the diagnosis. Often treatment will involve continued oxygen therapy to stabilize your dog while the primary cause of the breathing difficulty is addressed. If any fluid has accrued in the lung(s), it will need to be drained with a needle in a process called thoracentesis. Diuretics may be used in order to treat heart failure. It is important to seek treatment right away because the sooner your dog can receive oxygen therapy, the sooner you can prevent and reverse poor functioning and possible damage of organs from lack of oxygen.

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Recovery of Breathing Difficulties in Dogs

Carefully following the veterinarian’s specific recovery instructions is paramount, and these will vary depending on your dog’s diagnosis. When you are able to bring your dog home, you will need to manage his activity until the veterinarian determines he his healthy enough to return to normal activity. This may involve cage rest, decreasing access to the outdoors and limiting stimuli. Designing a comfortable and relaxing environment will improve your dog’s road to recovery. With some diagnoses, this may be a temporary measure; however, with others, this new limited activity routine may be necessary throughout your dog’s life. Continue to monitor your dog’s overall health and breathing, making sure to consult the veterinarian if breathing problems resurface.

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Breathing Difficulties Average Cost

From 61 quotes ranging from $500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,200

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Breathing Difficulties Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chihuahua

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Hi there! My dog is 15 and blind. I adopted her at 12 and blind and she’s been amazing. She had a mammory gland a year ago she got removed but she had more growing. It grows almost every day but she is so happy and eats and is the same. About 4 days ago she started breathing heavy in and out of the nose and still is. I’m concerned but she’s still acting normal and eating.

March 1, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is possible the new mammary growths are cancerous and that they have spread around the body; possibly to the lungs. This can lead to fluid build up within the lungs and large masses can cause compression of organs and less space for oxygen exchange. Though she seems otherwise well (which is good), she likely feels breathless and may have lower energy levels than we would expect. She does need to see a vet who can examine her and determine if she may benefit from medicine such as anti inflammatories or medicine to remove any fluid build up.

March 1, 2021

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Rottweiler

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

My boy is panting while just standing up. When he's a sleep/laying down - no panting. It's just when standing up and also when he's walking. The panting stops a few minutes after he lay himself down, no cough, no blue signs in mouth, no fluid in lungs, no fever He drinks, he eats, welcomes you at the door when coming home and looks for a toy to greet you. Normal in any conditions just the panting and also heart racing in this condition, show no pain. I suspect his suffering arthritis and some kind of hip dysplasia. And also shivers in his back legs and have done that a few years.

Jan. 13, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello so sorry to hear your dog is having issues. It would be best for your vet to see him. This panting and heart racing can be a heart disease or him being in pain. They can prescribe him medication to help him feel much better.

Jan. 13, 2021

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Chiweenie

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing, Rapid Breathing, Weak, Burning Up,

What would cause her to have a hard time to breathe

Dec. 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Her symptoms are very concerning and she should see a vet right away. There are several possibilities including pneumonitis, bronchitis, heart disease etc. The vet can check her all over and will listen to her heart and lungs. They may also do a chest xray. Once we know what is going on, we can start her on the best treatment.

Dec. 30, 2020

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long haired Terre

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a few weeks old

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Having Hard Time Breathing Whezzing Like

My older dog attacked her hot her nose n eye as far as I can tell

Dec. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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3 Recommendations

You say she is having a hard time breathing? I would be concerned there has been a penetrative injury e.g. a bite to the windpipe or lung area. It may also be due to stress or pain. I'm sorry this has happened and she needs to see a vet to be checked. She likely needs antibiotics and pain relief.

Dec. 4, 2020

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Mutt

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Twelve Years

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Unknown severity

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4 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Hello. My 12 y/o dog(lab/retriever/collie mix)has been breathing heavily, panting, wheezing, as well as having several large (probable) limpomas on her chest & sides. Could these be related to each other? My regular vet can not fit us in their schedule and several others that I contacted aren't taking new patients. What should I do?

Oct. 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I don't know that the possible lipomas and the breathing and wheezing problems are necessarily related, but I do think that she needs to be seen as soon as possible for this breathing issue. If your veterinarian cannot see her, there is likely a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic in your area that will be able to look at her. They will be able to listen to her heart and lungs, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her if needed. I hope that she is okay.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Tommy

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Shih Tzu

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Losing Weight
Panting Mouth Opens
Tongue Hangs Out
Breathes Fast
Licking And Loud Swallow

My shih tzu of 13 years old started panting with tongue hanging out. He breathes fast at 40-46 times. He kept panting and making clicking sound. This is the 2nd time this happened. Lately he has been licking and swallowing loudly.

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Doug

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Great Dane

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9 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Panting
Panting. Diarrhea. Dry Nose.

My Great Dane seems to be panting/hyperventilating, he has had diarrhea, and has a dry nose. I don't know what to do!? He hasn't been acting out of character, he just seems to not be able to breath right.

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Hadley

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Shitzhu/Bichon

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7 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic
Slight Loss Of Appetite
Short, Shallow Breathing
Rare, Spontaneous Dry Cough
Slightly Increased Heart Rate

Hadley is usually a very happy, highly energetic puppy, but as of two days ago she's become very inactive and doesn't want to do anything. When I did get her to play normally she acted like her old self but made a dry cough/vomiting noise and calmed down.

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Mitzy

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mongrel

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Strange Breathing Noises

I have an 11 year old Labrador/Border Collie/German Shephard cross. Back in October she was treated at the emergency vets, for three nights, for pancreatitis. She's currently being investigated for Cushing's Disease which the specialist thinks was the cause of her pancreatitis. Since picking her up from there I noticed her making an, almost snorting-like sound. As it was only happening every now and then I just thought it was to do with the trauma of what had happened (she was very ill). However recently, the sound has became more frequent, almost sounding like Darth Vader breathing. Two vets have said her lungs and heart sound good and fine, but our main vet still wanted me to send her a video of the noise, which I did two days ago and am awaiting a response. She seems otherwise fine, her appetite is all the time, she's drinking normally and is otherwise okay despite her being an old lady. Her arthritis has been playing her up but yesterday started her on Nutriquin joint supplements. If it isn't her lungs and heart I'm thinking it's something to do with her nasal passage? It's really bothering me. She's been in the wars the past few months with tests and treatment. Other than the supplements, she's not on any other medication as of yet.

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Bearr

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Black Lab Mix

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13 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Heavy Breathing
Potting

I have a 13 year old black lab border collie that just started having breathing issues. Heavy breathes for about 10 seconds with maybe a cough or two and then it goes away. On two occasions Bearr pottied right after the breathing issue. I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

Breathing Difficulties Average Cost

From 61 quotes ranging from $500 - $5,000

Average Cost

$1,200

Protect yourself and your pet. Compare top pet insurance plans.

Compare Pet Insurance & Wellness Plans

Save up to $273 per year

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