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Excessive Panting in Dogs

Excessive Panting in Dogs

If your dog seems to be breathing much faster than usual it can be quite concerning. Today, our St. Louis vets talk about excessive panting in dogs, why they do it and it it may be a concern.

What happens when dogs are panting?

The only way to know if your dog is breathing fast is to know what their normal rate of breathing is. An average healthy pet should take between 15 to 35 breaths per minute when resting. If your dog has been playing or exercising, this rate could be much quicker.

Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest, is considered abnormal and worth investigating.

It is important to keep in mind that panting does not always mean that something is wrong. Panting uses saliva and moisture to help your pup regulate their body temperature.

So which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves by panting? It's evaporation! Panting helps with cooling them down by allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, the mouth, and the upper respiratory tract.

Unlike people, your pup doesn't sweat to cool down, instead, they need to breathe fast to allow air to circulate efficiently through the body. Rapid breathing allows a dog’s body to get back to a normal temperature.

Signs of Excessive Panting in Dogs

Heavy panting in dogs can be identified by monitoring their respiratory rate while they are sleeping or resting.  It can be a good idea to do this when you are not concerned, to have a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 is a cause for concern.

Why Your Dog May be Breathing Fast

If your dog has rapid breathing they may be experiencing a serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.

Dog breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts such as  Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs are more prone to breathing issues and require constant monitoring to ensure no breathing issues occur.

Excessive panting in older dogs may be caused by a number of health concerns including laryngeal paralysis, pyothorax, lung tumors, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Some of the typical causes of heavy panting in dogs include:

  • Asthma
  • Breed Characteristics
  • Kennel Cough
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Windpipe Issues
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Pressure on the Windpipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Parasites
  • Pneumonia
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Hernia
  • Heat Stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Exercise

When is Heavy Breathing in Dogs a Concern?

If you notice rapid panting in dogs when they are sleeping, it could be experiencing respiratory distress. Contact your vet if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Engaging stomach muscles to help with breathing
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting

Diagnosing Rapid Breathing in Dogs

Your pup's vet will perform a full physical examination to determine whether the problem is located in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. There may be an issue with your dog's health which is leading to a symptom of excessive panting.

Your vet needs to know about any previous medical issues that your pet has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs, and abdomen for issues such as broken ribs or lung tumors. 

Your vet may also consider possible psychological reasons behind your dog's excessive panting such as anxiety.

Treatment Options For Excessive Panting in Dogs

When it comes to treating rapid breathing in dogs, your vet will need to consider the possible underlying cause and treat it appropriately. Your vet may prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids with calcium, or other medications.

If your pet's rapid breathing is caused by stress or anxiety, special training with a certified dog behaviorist may be required.

Regardless of the cause of your pet's breathing difficulties, rest and oxygen therapy will likely be needed.

While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some serious cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing, and to treat the underlying cause. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog seems to be breathing much faster than usual, contact our St. Louis vets right away to book an examination for your dog.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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