Taking Short Quick Breaths in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog taking short quick breaths?

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Why is my dog taking short quick breaths?

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

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. 

Pain

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.

Allergies

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. 

Asthma

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.

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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 signs 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.

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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 signs present do not wait, seek veterinary attention immediately.

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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.

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Taking Short Quick Breaths Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Golden Retriever

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Three Months

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14 found helpful

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14 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

He has been taking short sharp breaths for most of the day and still at 3am. He has vomited too, he won't settle to sleep either. He will eat, play, poo is normal and has a temperature of 38.14. It cannot be heat stroke as it is-11 outside and 18 inside.

Feb. 12, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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14 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. Given his age and symptoms, an emergency vet visit would be best. There are several possibilities here including pneumonia, heart disease, a viral infection etc. and it is important we have him seen. Normally, a dog should breathe no more than 30 times a minute when resting. Anything more than this means they may not be getting enough oxygen and we need to intervene.

Feb. 12, 2021

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Bijon shitzu/lab

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Eight Years

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16 found helpful

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16 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Quick Breaths

My dog has been breathing like she's pumping a tire when she sleeps and I'm rather worried

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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16 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dogs can develop problems with their heart and lungs, and you may be noticing the first signs of something occurring. If you are just noticing this, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can listen to her heart and lungs, and take an x-ray if needed. They will be able to let you know if anything is going on that you need to be worried about. I hope that all goes well for her!

Sept. 30, 2020

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