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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

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Hyperventilating Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Shepard Mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing/Hyperventilating, Concave Chest

My dog was significantly throwing up for a few days (July 16-20). She visited the vet on 7/24 & a follow up on 7/31 and got anti-nausea meds which helped her stop throwing up, however, she still hasn’t eaten much and is starting to have diarrhea again. She just today has started to exhibit breathing problems.

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

So sorry to hear about your dog. If he is vomiting while taking nausea medication, there is something very severe going on. I commonly see dogs with obstructions continue to vomit despite nausea medication. It sounds like your dog needs bloodwork and x rays.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Shih Tzu

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hyperventilating, Pacing

My dog is an elderly shih tzu mix (not sure exactly how many years because he's a rescue). He is blind and has arthritis in his back legs, but these are his only known health conditions. He is panting excessively and pacing around like he is stressed out, but there are not obvious external stimuli that would make him stressed. We have given him food and water. He is in air conditioning so he shouldn't be overheated. Is there anything that could be causing him to act like this?

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello Your pet could be panting because he is painful or uncomfortable. If he is older with arthritis, he may be in pain. Some pets that have arthritis are on joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, or an anti-inflammatory. I recommend consulting with your veterinarian about your concerns. Good luck.

July 26, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Quivering

My dog ran in to me and was quivering we don’t know what is going on. We don’t know if this is serious or not.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello Pets can quiver or shake because they are painful, or uncomfortable or cold. I recommend continuing to monitor him and if you continue be concerned, you can take him to a veterinarian soon.

July 26, 2020

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Quinn Ann

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Pit Bull, Boston Terrier, Chihuah

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hyperventilating, Drooling

My dog Quinn hyperventilates out of the blue. Today she started and it was loud and she was drooling. It scared me. Since i adopted her 4 months ago she has only done it maybe 5 times and this was the first time she drooled. What should i do?

Sept. 11, 2018

Quinn Ann's Owner

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Lola

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Miniature Pinscher

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Hyperventilation

Hello. I have a miniature pinscher who just turned a year old. She will randomly have trouble breathing, like she is hyperventilating. It is usually completely at random and out of nowhere. Sometimes when she is sleeping too. Any ideas?

July 31, 2018

Lola's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It is possible that Lola has a problem with her heart, lungs, or throat, or she may be having a syndrome called 'reverse sneezing'. If you aren't sure, it may be a good idea to video the episodes and have her examined by a veterinarian to see what the cause might be and if it is a problem for her.

July 31, 2018

My dog rocco pitbull 92lbs has a 1 to 4 bad to abscess teeth he is 12.5yrs old and he is fine just very tierd acting most the time but when visitors or just anything that gets him excited. He sames to hyperventilate to the point hes white gums he settles down after a goon solid min or to of hyperventilating my question is can tooth pain cause this if tooth is really bad I taking him to specialist and few vets and be3n told iys not chf and thats hes in prefect health be sides that blood work u name it hes had it tested wants to see about cat scan etc told me could be in his brain a disorder isnt a tooth more likely need help everyone i talk to cant tell me anythi g but good luck and think about putting him down and I cant bring myself to do that

Sept. 23, 2018

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Chocolate

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Labradoodle

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9 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Coughing
Choking
Shaky
Hyperventilate

My puppy tends to hyperventilate a lot, it's usually at night and scares us because we think he's choking. However usually with a few hugs he's better, could it be because he's scared. And it usually happens after he eats too. It worries me because he's still a puppy, is this serious?

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kona

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Mix

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9 Months

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1 found helpful

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Hyperventilate Or Heavy Breathing

excited puppy plays so hard seems to almost hypervent wont stop to drink etc til play is over i get worried heart go so fast etc shes havn fun but is she at risk > i cool her down gv her water but she just goes right back even faster i want her to play n be happy but how do i know her limit she strong healhy etc could she have stroke or heart atack or over heat ?

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Stug

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

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6 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

My six year old staffie died during Divalli. The fireworks and bombs, which he was terrified of, made him hyperventilate so much that he literally dropped down dead. I had sedated him with the highest dose of Alzam recommended. I tried holding him and comforting him and played music and leaving all the lights on, nothing helped. Can you explain what happened to him, was it a heart attack or too much oxygen in his body?

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Eleanor (Ella)

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Brittany (Spaniel)

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Itchy Skin
Swollen Joints
Hot Spots On Feet
Rash On Stomach That Comes And Goes

I have two Brittanies. The 6 year old has had swollen joints in her ankle since she was five. Her ankles are about 3 times the size as my other Brittany's. She also has had a history of sneezing a lot so vet suspected seasonal allergies, but gave no treatment. Now all of a sudden the rest of the symptoms have popped up and the most concerning being she hyperventilates about 5 times a day. It doesn't seem to have a trigger because each time she was doing something different when it happened. Very concerned.

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Bruno Peter Rodriguez

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Yorkie

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6 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Hyperactivity
Breathing Difficulty
Panting

hello, my yorkie is 6 years old and hyperventilate when i take him out for a walk or when i take him to the park. i dont take him out during the winter but i try in the summer but hwen i do he start to breather really fast and at times when he is breathing to fast he makes a sound to where he might throw up. i have tried put him in the shade, carrying him, giving him water or put some water on him cause he tends to heat up. i try just sitting there to let him know there nothing wrong and i am calm so he can be too. but once i leave the park and carry him he tends to relax more but yet still breath really fast. i just want to know what i can do to help him cause i am scared he might have a heart attack or a heat stroke. sometimes his breathing is so loud that i know it bothers people around me.... i just want to help my puppy so he can play and run like a normal dog in the park.

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