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What is Hyperventilating?

Your dog begins to pant rapidly. She may snort or seem to be inhaling too much air. On top of your own apprehension about what is happening, she also seems scared. What could be causing your dog to breath so rapidly? Is it even possible for dogs to hyperventilate? The answer is yes. Surprisingly, some of the causes are the same as those that cause hyperventilation in humans. They include:

  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Getting too excited
  • Stress
  • Other breathing difficulties

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Why Hyperventilating Occurs in Dogs

Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is characterized by increased acid production due to metabolism or the reduced excretion of acids. It is relatively common in dogs, and it is most often secondary to another more serious condition. Conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis, renal failure, or respiratory dysfunction and poisoning are primary conditions that contribute to metabolic acidosis, and each must be treated in order to restore the pH balance to appropriate levels. Treatments may include dialysis, medication, or the administration of oxygen. 

Getting Too Excited

Does your dog seem to hyperventilate any time you have company? Does she pant irregularly when she knows you are going to the dog park or out for a walk (activities that she regularly enjoys)? It is possible that your dog hyperventilates simply because she gets overly excited at the thought of doing something she enjoys. There is no treatment for this type of hyperventilation; however, your vet can prescribe medication if the hyperventilation presents a significant problem. Note that it is always best to rule out a respiratory ailment, heart problem, or other infection that could be causing the hyperventilation. 

Stress

While dogs can hyperventilate because of sheer happiness, they can also hyperventilate because of fear and/or stress. Thunder, fireworks, loud noises – all these can illicit hyperventilation in your dog. Usually, hyperventilation is not the only symptom your pet will exhibit when stressed.  Dogs exhibiting stress will often whine or cry, yawn repetitively, pace, tremble, or hide in addition to hyperventilating. Rarely, dogs experiencing stress will break housebreaking habits and lose control of their bladder or bowels. Stress can be caused by the aforementioned situations, but trips to the vet or dog groomer or strange visitors can also frighten your dog. Your vet can prescribe medications to help them deal with anxiety.

Other Breathing Difficulties

If all other possibilities for hyperventilation have been ruled out, it is possible your dog is suffering from other ailments such as overheating, pain, Cushing’s disease, anemia, or laryngeal paralysis. Overheating due to heatstroke can cause a dog to pant rapidly, imitating hyperventilation. Pain, like stress or excitement, can also cause excessive panting. Cushing’s disease causes the adrenal glands to excrete excessive cortisol, which can cause heart ailments. Brachycephalic dogs may also exhibit excessive panting or seem to be hyperventilating due to their elongated soft palate. Brachycephalic dogs should never be allowed to get overly hot or exercise excessively due to their abnormalities which already predispose them to breathing difficulties. 

No matter the cause of your dog’s excessive panting, you should always have her examined by a vet to rule out possible life-threatening ailments.

What to do if your Dog is Hyperventilating

All episodes of excessive panting should be treated as serious illnesses until your vet can rule out all possible causes of hyperventilating or excessive panting. If you suspect that your dog is panting excessively due to stress or excitement, try to remove the dog from the situation in order to help bring breathing back to normal. 

It should also be stated here that owners should do their best to contain their anxiety when they witness an episode of excessive panting or hyperventilating. Your dog will often mirror your behavior, and if he or she is already upset because of breathing difficulties, your nervousness will only exacerbate the problem.

Prevention of Hyperventilating

You may not be able to prevent all episodes of hyperventilation in your dog. Your dog may simply need anxiety medications for stressful situations, and your vet may recommend a “thunder vest” if medicine is not an option you want to take. You may have to condition your pet to deal with certain situations such as the vet or groomer. If you suspect your dog has gotten too hot, immediately bring her inside and allow her rest and drink water (be sure she does not drink excessively).

Cost of Hyperventilating

Depending upon the cause of your dog’s hyperventilation, treatment can be expensive. For instance, treating your anxiety in your dog is relatively inexpensive. Treating more serious diseases such as metabolic acidosis can be expensive ranging from $500 to $5,000. The national average for treating metabolic acidosis is $3,000.

Hyperventilating Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Willow
pit bull terrier
9 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Eye Discharge

I have had Willow just over a month now and I have noticed at random moments she will stop what she’s doing and begin to hyperventilate (like gasping for air with an awful noise to it). It doesn’t happen everyday but it happens enough now to where I’m getting concerned. When we initially got her looked at the doctor ruled that she was a healthy pup. Just want to know if I should be worried about this or not.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1097 Recommendations
There is a condition called a 'reverse sneeze' that may be what Willow is doing - you can look up a you tube video and see what this looks like and if it seems that it is what she is doing. If so, it is not life threatening, and can sometimes be related to allergies. If that is not what it seems that she is doing, since I can't see her, it would be best to video the episodes, and show it to your veterinarian to see if they can determine what the problem is, and how to treat it. Even if it is a reverse sneeze, if it is happening more frequently, she may need short term anti-histamine therapy to help resolve it.

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Bones
Jack Russell Terrier
10 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Bluish Tongue
Rapid breathing

Medication Used

Anti-inflammatories

My dog is waking up in the middle of the night and breathing so rapidly that his whole body shakes. His tongue gets a slight bluish tinge. His current medical conditions are stage 2 heart murmer, gum disease and arthritis. He is uncomfortable in general and we are now just waiting until his quality of life is too poor. What I would like to know, is the most likely causes and if there's any chance that he'll improve if we seek help for him. Why does it occur mostly at night?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations
This is concerning as Bones is unable to get sufficient oxygen into his bloodstream which is why he is turning blue, this may be related to his heart murmur and may be exhibiting symptoms of heart failure or arrhythmias. This is something you should visit your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian about since his heart may not be pumping blood efficiently at times leading to an increase in respiration as the body struggles for oxygen. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Nina
Husky and German She
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Breaths Faster At Rest
Breathing Difficulty

Medication Used

none

My husky/German shepherd mix dog Nina is 1 year old and seems to be hyperventilating it’s at different times. We just adopted her Saturday and she’s been up to date on all vaccines, she has been fixed on the 8th of this month and has had heart worm and flea prevention! It’s like she’s hyperventilating and it’s mostly through her nose she could be laying down or sitting up and she will do it! Should I be concerned?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations
Any conditions where it appears that a patient is unable to breathe or is struggling to breathe is concerning; since I cannot examine Nina I cannot determine the severity of this issue or give you an indication of any treatment. You should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Max
Labrador Retriever mix
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Wheezing
Shaking
hyperventilating

My dog is two years old and a labrador retriever/dauchound/pitbull mix. While my dog is sleeping, he hyperventilates and wheezes in his sleep. I was wondering what could be the cause of that? he only stops when i wake him up. Im concerned because this is a new thing.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1097 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Dogs do dream, I think. He may be having active dreams, or he may have a respiratory problem. If it is a new occurrence, and if you are concerned, it might be a good idea to have him examined to make sure that his cardovascular and respiratory systems are normal. if you are able to video the episodes, it will help your veterinarian to see the behavior and determine if it is a problem. I hope that all goes well for Max!

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JoJo
Golden Retreiver
7 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

I Don’t Have Money Right Now To Take Him To The Vet, Is There Something I Can Do At Home For Him? It Scares Me And I Feel Bad, He Does It At Night A Lot But Also During The Day And I Need Some Help

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations
There are various possible causes for this increased respiration effort; check JoJo’s gums, if they are white it means that he is anaemic and doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body and is a medical emergency at this stage. Other causes may be metabolic, respiratory disease, pain, heart failure among other causes. There is no at home treatment to help; whilst I sympathise with your financial situation, the longer you wait the more expensive the treatment bill will be. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aaha.org/pet_owner/lifestyle/cant-afford-critical-veterinary-care-many-nonprofits-can-help!.aspx

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