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).

Hyperventilation can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has hyperventilation or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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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

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Shih Tzu

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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7 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Hypoventalating

Trying to catch breath

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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7 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is okay. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment that might be needed.

Oct. 24, 2020

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Shepard Mix

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

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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1 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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