What is Breathing Fast?
The usual breathing rate for dogs is between 12 to 20 times every minute; above that is considered to be breathing fast. It's typical for your dog to breathe fast when they're hot or after running. If your dog is breathing fast and you're not sure why, it is something you will want to investigate. There are a number of reasons why your dog may be breathing fast, including:
- Heart condition
- Pneumonia and respiratory infection
- Heat stroke
How serious fast breathing in your dog is will depend on why it is occurring. Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of your dog’s fast breathing and if possible begin treatment to resolve the underlying issue.
Why Breathing Fast Occurs in Dogs
Why your dog is breathing fast will depend on the reason it is occurring. For example:
Pain will often cause your dog to breathe faster than usual. While dogs are good at hiding pain, an increased rate of breathing can alert you to something causing your dog to hurt.
If your dog’s heart is not able to pump enough blood to his organs, including his lungs, less oxygen will make it to his organs, which will lead to faster, more superficial breathing.
In dogs that have a heart condition, they may breathe faster if they are lying down, while when sitting upright their breathing will slow down.
Pneumonia and respiratory infections
Should your dog be experiencing pneumonia or a respiratory infection, he may not be able to get sufficient oxygen to where it is needed in his body, leading to his breathing fast.
In asthma, irritants will lead to wheezing, coughing, and your dog breathing with his mouth open. In a severe attack, your dog’s airways will be swollen and thus constricted, which will lead to a lack of oxygen in your dog and his breathing heavy. Asthma may cause your dog to gasp and breathe fast in an effort to obtain air.
Heat stroke can occur when your dog spends significant time in high temperatures. As he gets very warm, he will try and regulate his body temperature by breathing faster.
What to do if your Dog is Breathing Fast
If you notice that your dog is suddenly breathing fast, you should look closely at his body for any injuries you might be able to see, as well as look closely at his mouth, eyes and nasal passages. You can also touch your dog’s stomach; should he pull away it may point to an internal injury.
If your dog is breathing fast and there is no obvious injury or if you notice a significant injury, you will want to make an appointment for him to be examined by your veterinarian to determine what is causing his heavy breathing. Your veterinarian will ask you about the symptoms you have noticed, when you first noticed them and what changes you have observed. Your veterinarian will look closely at your dog’s gums, as pale gums or gums that are blue/grey in color can point to a lack of oxygen. In dogs whose gums are black, you can look at the inside part of their lower eyelid; this will typically be pink, but will be blue if your dog is not getting enough oxygen. A lack of sufficient oxygen can point to heart or lung problems.
Should your dog have pneumonia or a respiratory infection, he may have a fever, be coughing and sneezing, appear lethargic, and have discharge from his eyes and nose. Infections that work their way into the lungs cause pneumonia. Antibiotics will likely be necessary should your dog be breathing fast as a result of an infection or pneumonia.
Heat stroke can also lead to your dog breathing fast. You will want to cool off your dog by applying a wet towel with cool (not cold) water to his body. Once his body temperature has decreased, it is a good idea to bring him to the veterinarian to confirm he is recovering.
Depending on what your veterinarian sees during the examination and based on the symptoms your dog is experiencing, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing. If your veterinarian noticed wheezing or crackling when listening to your dog’s lungs, he will recommend a chest x-ray to view the inflammation that is in his lungs. A tracheal wash can help determine what is causing the infection, as the fluid that is collected can be looked at closely under a microscope. Knowing the type of bacteria causing the infection will help with choosing the best treatment. Blood, urine and fecal samples may be taken. Should your veterinarian suspect heart disease, an electrocardiograph and echocardiograph may be administered.
Prevention of Breathing Fast
There are things that you can do to prevent some of the conditions that can lead to your dog breathing fast. When taking your dog outdoors, it is best to keep him on a leash so that you will be able to keep an eye on him and make sure he does not get into a fight with another animal or run in front of a moving car, possibly injuring himself. Heat stroke can be prevented by not leaving your dog in places where it is very hot and where ventilation is poor, ensuring that he has enough shade and water when outdoors on hot days and avoiding his participating in strenuous exercise when the weather is hot.
Should you notice that your dog is showing signs of a respiratory infection, you will want to take him to the veterinarian for treatment so that the infection does not worsen and turn into pneumonia, leading to breathing difficulties. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian, even when your dog appears healthy, are important so that your veterinarian can catch any health concerns before they become more serious. A nutritious diet and plenty of exercise are also key to your dog’s overall health.
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Cost of Breathing Fast
The cost of treatment for your dog’s breathing fast depends on the reason it is occurring. For example, should your dog develop pneumonia, the average cost of treatment is about $550, while treatment for heat stroke can average $5,000. Regardless of the condition, the cost of treatment will vary based on the location and its cost of living.
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