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What is Breathing Fast While Resting?

Many factors control fast breathing in dogs, and sometimes the underlying problem can be life threatening, especially when your dog is at rest.  Excessive and rapid breathing while resting is called tachypnea and may be a symptom of the following medical conditions:

  • Heat stroke
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Heart failure
  • Anemia
  • Onion poisoning

The severity of your dog’s tachypnea will depend on the underlying condition causing him to breathe fast.  It is important to bring your dog to the veterinarian to determine how serious the threat is and how to treat rapid breathing best.

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Why Breathing Fast While Resting Occurs in Dogs

There may be several reasons why your dog is breathing fast while at rest.  If he has just finished playing hard and is taking a rest, it is normal for him to pant or breathe rapidly for a few minutes.  However, if he does not settle his breathing or breathes fast without exerting himself, there may be an underlying medical reason.

Heat Stroke

Dogs do not have sweat glands and use their breathing as a means to cool themselves off.  When they become overheated, they will breathe rapidly and excessively. Signs of heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, include elevated body temperatures of 104F or higher, drooling, weakness, and seizures. Dogs who have flat faces, such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Bull Mastiffs are at increased risk of heat stroke because they cannot pant as effectivity.  

Fluid in the Lungs

Rapid breathing in your dog may also indicate he has fluid in his lungs.  Though a small amount of fluid is usually present in a dog's lungs, excessive build up can become a serious health concern and may indicate other underlying medical conditions.  Other symptoms, such as blue-colored gums, low body temperature, and difficulty breathing may also accompany fast breathing.    

Heart Failure

Rapid breathing may be a response to congestive heart failure.  When a dog's heart starts to fail his body is not circulating enough oxygen, and rapid breathing develops to counteract the lower levels of oxygen in circulation.  Breathing will be labored as well, and your dog may show an increased intolerance for exercise.


Anemia can occur when your dog's immune system attacks red blood cells as if they are a foreign threat.  A lower red blood cell count means less oxygen is in circulation, and your dog's body may react by increasing respiration.  Other common symptoms of anemia include weakness, jaundice, pale gums, and lethargy.  Certain breeds are predisposed to develop anemia, such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, and Shih Tzus.  Additionally, tick-borne infectious diseases have been associated with immune-related anemia.    

Onion Poisoning

A dog's diet plays a huge role in their health and feeding him table scraps meant for human consumption can have negative impacts.  Onions, when consumed in quantity, can cause fast breathing in your dog. Your dog may also excessively salivate, vomit, or have diarrhea. Garlic is an even more potent a poison than onions and should be avoided as well.

What to do if your Dog is Breathing Fast While Resting

It is critical that you seek medical help if you have determined your dog is not breathing fast due to recently exerting himself and that he may be suffering from a medical condition.  Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency care.  If you believe your dog is experiencing heat stroke, take him to the hospital immediately.  While in transport, make efforts to cool your dog down using a wet, lukewarm towel and moving air.  If possible, record your dog's temperature every five minutes while in transport.  

Once at the hospital, the veterinarian will work to stabilize your dog's respiration and lower his body temperature.  In severe cases, your dog may have to be intubated to assist with respiration and fluid therapy is administered for stabilization.  Antibiotics may be given to prevent sepsis from bacteria if your dog is vomiting or has bloody diarrhea.  Heat stroke is a serious illness that requires immediate, early, and aggressive treatment to save your dog from organ and system failure.

Even if you do not suspect heat stroke, you should still take your dog to the veterinarian to determine why your dog is breathing fast.  Your vet will perform a physical examination and ask you when you first noticed signs of rapid breathing.  The vet will also ask for a full medical history including your dog's diet and any medications he is taking.  

Your veterinarian will listen to your dog's heart and lungs.  The vet may order chest X-rays if he suspects heart or lung issues as well as an electrocardiogram to measure the electrical activity of your dog's heart.        

If you suspect or know your dog has eaten onions or garlic your veterinarian may induce vomiting in your dog or administer charcoal for absorption.  In severe cases, your vet may provide oxygen therapy and a blood transfusion to make up for the reduction of red blood cells as toxicosis from onions can cause anemia.

Prevention of Breathing Fast While Resting

You may not be able to prevent heart failure in your dog as he ages, but it is important to recognize the early signs of failure so you can make lifestyle adjustments and prevent further complications.  Heat stroke, on the other hand, is entirely preventable.

Heat stroke can quickly escalate and be deadly for your dog.  To prevent suffering from heat stroke, make sure your dog has adequate water and shade while outside and only exercise him during the cooler parts of the day.  Closed in vehicles, even with windows cracked, can become extremely hot.  Never leave your dog alone in a closed vehicle.

Dog food is designed specifically for your dog, while your leftovers were made for human consumption.  Be extremely careful when feeding your dog table scraps as onions and garlic are toxic to your dog.  Though dogs do not like the taste of onion and garlic plants, keep the raw food items out of reach.  Over consumption of either can become deadly when consumed.

Cost of Breathing Fast While Resting

The cost of treating fast breathing in your dog depends on the underlying medical condition.  For example, it can cost around $950 to treat onion poisoning whereas it can cost around $5,000 to treat heat stroke.

Breathing Fast While Resting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Poodle mix
4 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Rapid breathing

in the morning she was limping and panting but there is no sign of something being broken and now she's resting and breathing really fast. I don't have an I deal on what it could be its not hot over here.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
284 Recommendations
Thank you for your email - I'm sorry that Nena isn't feeling well! Without examining her, I can't diagnose what might be going on with her, but if she was limping, panting can be a sign of pain, anxiety, or an increased temperature. She should be seen by her veterinarian today to have her examined, find out what is wrong with her, and get pain medications or other medications that she may need, depending on what they find. I hope that she is okay.

Hello, my 12 year old Minature Schnauzer has an over size liver and arthritis. We got all the test done for her at the vets office and every single one of them came back normal. The vet couldn’t figure out why it was abnormally big. She is on arthritis medication as of right now and is getting slower with her age. Yet for the past couple nights I’ve noticed that her breathing has increased dramatically. She is panting a lot as well. What should I do? Again I know she’s older but I don’t know what this sign means. She still comes as I call and walks good (with medication) it’s just her heavy breathing.

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Australian Shepherd
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Rapid breathing
stuffy nose

Our dog is has a very stuffy nose and is breathing very rapidly while resting. About 3 months ago we took her to the emergency vet and they did X-rays and blood pannel and treated her for phemonia she was not getting better so we got a different antibiotic and she became better while now it’s happening again

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
If Maya is showing symptoms similar to the pneumonia she suffered from a few months ago, you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination and possibly have a sample checked for culture and sensitivity to identify the infection so that the most appropriate antibiotic can be prescribed (if applicable). Given Maya’s history, I wouldn’t wait for the symptoms to progress. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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