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What are Taking Short Quick Breaths?

You may notice your dog taking short, quick breaths after exercising or when they are feeling hot. When there is no apparent reason why your dog is taking short, quick breaths, you need to take a few minutes and assess your dog’s overall condition. Pay close attention to how long your dog has been taking short, quick breaths and also any other abnormal behavior that your dog may be exhibiting to determine if an emergency trip to your veterinary clinic is necessary. 

If your dog has just been out running and playing and then comes in breathing fast, you should allow your dog time to calm down and monitor their breathing. If your dog has just been startled or surprised, you may notice a change in their breathing. Watch them to make sure that their breathing goes back to normal. Normal breathing rate for dogs is generally between 12 and 20 times per minute.

Possible causes of your dog taking short, quick breaths include:

  • Heart condition
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Respiratory infection
  • Heat stroke 
  • Asthma

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Why Taking Short Quick Breaths Occurs in Dogs

Heart Condition

When your dog’s heart is failing to pump enough blood to their organs, especially the lungs, it can cause less oxygen to circulate through the organs and lead your dog to breathe faster. You may notice that your dog has more difficulty breathing when they are lying down rather than when they are sitting up. You will be able to tell if your dog is lacking oxygen by looking at their gums or inside the lower eyelid, both should be pink. If the gums or inner eyelid have a bluish tint, your dog is lacking oxygen. 


When your dog is in pain you will notice them breathing much faster than normal. Dogs will generally hide pain, but they cannot hide the fact that they take short, quick breaths when feeling pain. Check your dog closely for any areas on their body that may be painful. Have your veterinarian perform a physical examination to determine the cause of your dog’s pain.


Just like with humans, dogs can suffer from allergies of all kinds. When your dog is allergic to something, they may gasp for air or take short, quick breaths. A serious allergic reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, can cause extreme swelling of the air passages and cause your dog to have difficulty getting oxygen. 

Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infection, including pneumonia, can cause your dog to not be able to breathe and pull in enough oxygen into their lungs. You may also notice your dog suffering from coughing, sneezing, lethargy, fever and/or eye and nasal discharge. 

Heat Stroke

Dogs that are exposed to high temperatures can suffer from heat stroke. Your dog will try to regulate their breathing by taking short, quick breaths. If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke take them to your veterinarian immediately. 


Most people do not realize that their dog can suffer from asthma just like humans. Asthma in dogs is caused by an environmental irritant and causes your dog to cough, wheeze and breathe by taking short, quick breaths. Sometimes they will breathe with their mouths open. You will need to get your dog to your veterinarian immediately.

What to do if your Dog is Taking Short Quick Breaths

When your dog’s breathing is in question, do not wait to take your dog to see your veterinarian. Many conditions that cause your dog to experience difficulty breathing can be life threatening if not treated quickly. Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any other symptoms that your dog is experiencing. 

Your veterinarian will observe your dog’s breathing and perform a physical examination. They will be looking for any potential causes of pain that may be causing your dog to take short, quick breaths. Other diagnostic tests will be ordered to look for infections, heart conditions, allergies or any other possible cause of your dog’s altered breathing. 

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of why your dog is taking short, quick breaths, they will discuss a treatment plan. When necessary, they will also prescribe medications. Be sure to follow dosing instructions as written for your dog.

Prevention of Taking Short Quick Breaths

While it may be difficult to prevent certain conditions, there are others that you can alter your dog’s environment and help them avoid certain allergens. If your dog has been diagnosed with allergies, remove any allergens that can cause an allergic reaction. Dogs that suffer from asthma will need to have a clean environment and avoid certain things such as fresh cut grass. 

Keep a close watch on your dog if you think you notice your dog’s breathing is altered. If their breathing does not regulate within a few minutes, their breathing worsens or there are other symptoms present do not wait, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Cost of Taking Short Quick Breaths

The cost to treat your dog will vary depending on their diagnosis. Dogs that suffer from asthma or allergies can be treated effectively for around $400. Heart conditions can be treated for $800 to $8000 depending on the severity of the condition. Respiratory infections and pneumonia can cost between $350 and $6000.

Taking Short Quick Breaths Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Plott Hound
5 Years
Moderate condition
-1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Rapid breathing

I live in central Georgia, near Atlanta. We're experiencing temperatures in the upper 80's. The pollen count is also high. In the past few days I've noticed that my dog is breathing at a quicker rate than usual. A week ago, I found a tick on his underside. It took a couple of days for him to stay still enough for me to remove it. He has also been reluctant to eat. He usually sits drooling, while I scoop his kibble. Recently, I've had to command him to eat. I'm concerned. Should I schedule a visit to the vet?

Yes! Could have lymes disease.

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4 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

stomach breathing
Rapid breathing

My 4 year old Irish terrier mix on occasion will breathe very rapidly with his mouth closed. Quick breaths and pretty significant movement coming from his whole abdomen. It truly looks like he is panting through his nose! While he can be an anxious dog, this issue usually happens when when he's resting, and often, though not always, after exercise. Aside from being pretty high-strung (he's often hyper-vigilant and reactive toward men), sneezing occasionally, and munching grass, he acts normally. Cheerful, energetic, and alert. There also have been a few, very sporadic incidents where he will take some very labored wheezy breaths for a few seconds and then everything is fine. As if he was hyper-ventilating. Vet check-up was normal, but we forgot to ask about the breathing. A vet-friend said his breathing looked abnormal to her.

Our one year old shepherd mix does this exact same thing .... once he settles in he does go back to normal breathing . Our dog is very anxious so I’m not sure if this is playing in to it as well ?

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Blue Heeler
9 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Short breath, lethargic

We have a blue heeler mix that is taking short quick breaths but not panting. We have made a vet appointment. She does appear to be in pain but I cannot pinpoint why. She is very lethargic but heart beat is normal and her nose is wet/cold. This is the second day it has been going on. She is an inside dog, her poop this morning was normal, she has had no access to poison that we are aware of and we have not put out any poison.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
There are many things that can cause rapid breathing, and it is good that she has an appointment. They may want to take xrays to see what is going on in her lungs, and they'll be able to determine the cause and what treatment she needs.

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Shih Tzu
11 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

short of breath

Hello. My shih tzu takes one very quick short breath every few minutes. It’s not all day everyday...a bit random and, otherwise, everything about him is normal. Should he go to the vet? I’m concerned it’s his heart (just a gut feeling). Thank you for your help. Sherilyn

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Gordon, I can't say for sure if he has a problem or not. If you think that this behavior is abnormal, and you are worried, it would be worth a visit to your veterinarian to make sure that everything is okay. They will be able to examine him, determine if anything is wrong, and continue with any treatment, if needed.

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