Excessive Panting in Dogs

It can be difficult to tell if your dog is panting normally or if it is excessive, that's why it's important to know the signs something could be wrong. Here, our Edgewater vets will explain excessive panting in older and younger dogs.

Why is my dog breathing fast?

To detect abnormal breathing, we must first understand what a healthy respiratory (breathing) rate for a dog is. When sleeping, a healthy pet should take 15 to 35 breaths per minute. (Of course, your dog's breathing rate will naturally increase while exercising).

Any breathing rate greater than 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered abnormal and should be investigated.

However, pet parents should keep in mind that not all panting is bad. Panting assists your dog in regulating their body temperature by cooling them down and allowing water and heat to evaporate from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract.

Unlike humans, your dog does not sweat to cool down; instead, they must breathe quickly to allow air to circulate efficiently through the body. Rapid panting in dogs allows their bodies to return to normal temperatures.

How To Tell The Difference Between Panting and Excessive Panting

Simply count your dog's respiratory rate while they are sleeping or resting to see if they are breathing abnormally fast. When you are not concerned, it is a good idea to do this to gain a clear understanding of your pet's normal respiratory rate. Anything less than 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, while anything more than 35 is cause for concern.

Reasons Why Dogs Pant Excessively

Your dog's rapid breathing could be an indication of an illness or injury that needs to be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dog breeds with ‘squished faces' or shortened snouts, such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, are more prone to breathing problems and should be closely monitored by pet parents for any signs of breathing problems.

The following are some possible causes of fast or heavy panting in dogs:

  • 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 Excessive Panting An Emergency

If your dog is breathing fast at rest or breathing fast while 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 Excessive Panting

Your dog's veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination to determine whether the problem is in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or elsewhere. Your pet's overall health condition could also be a factor.

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 dog's vet will also look for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing fast breathing.

Treatment Options

Treatment for your dog's fast breathing will be determined by the underlying cause. Your vet may prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids with calcium, or other medications.

If your pet's rapid breathing is due to stress or anxiety, specialized training with a certified dog behaviorist may be necessary. Rest and oxygen therapy will most likely be required regardless of the cause of your pet's breathing difficulties.

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.

Is your dog panting excessively? Contact our Animal General vets today for a consultation.