There are three main types of dog breathing problems that pet owners are likely to deal with, including labored breathing, rapid breathing, and panting. These types of respiratory issues in dogs can be the result of illness, disease or blockage by a foreign object. It's important to understand each type of breathing problem to know what to do to help your dog.
For reference, a healthy dog’s breathing is typically about 20 to 34 breaths each minute and it should not seem like a struggle.
1. Labored Breathing
The first of the three reasons why dogs may have trouble breathing is labored breathing. Also called dyspnea, labored breathing happens when dogs have to work very hard to breathe in, breathe out, or both. Labored breathing can be caused by several diseases, not limited to: nose disease, throat or windpipe disease, lung disease. It could also be caused by an injury or trauma, or a blockage by a foreign object.
Symptoms of labored breathing in dogs include noisy breathing, the belly or chest moving more than normal when your pup is breathing, breathing with their head lower than the rest of their body. Their nostrils could flare out, they may breathe with their elbows away from the body, or they may breathe with their mouths open.
2. Fast Breathing
Fast breathing in dogs, also called tachypnea, is a rapid breath unlike panting. It's the second most common dog breathing problems. Fast breathing could be the result of dyspnea (labored breathing) mentioned above, low red blood cells, low blood oxygen levels, or blood clots.
You will be able to tell the difference from panting because your pooch's mouth may be opened less than when they pant normally, or their mouth could be closed. Other symptoms you may notice are when each breath tends to be shallow rather than deep, and the rate of breathing is faster than usual.
While panting is a normal breathing function for dogs, there are times when panting is not is irregular. This type of panting accompanied by pain, fever, obesity, high blood pressure, excessive thyroid hormone, dyspnea (labored breathing), or tachypnea (fast breathing) is the third type of dog breathing problems that pet owners often encounter.
There is a need for concern if your dog's panting turns into unusually shallow breaths, excessively fast breathing, and a mouth that is more open than normal with an extended tongue.
By contrast, if your dog is simply panting to stay cool, you will likely notice his tongue is hanging out just a little and the mouth is open. If the panting is brief, there is likely no cause for concern.
Diseases that Cause Dog Breathing Problems
There are many types of diseases that can cause a dog to have trouble breathing. Disease of the nose, including the small nostrils, can happen due to a tumor, infection, or blockage by a foreign object. Disease of the windpipe or throat is caused by a long, soft palate, tumor, infection, blockage by a foreign object, or even if the windpipe has been previously damaged.
Lung diseases in dogs can be caused by heartworm, an enlarged heart, infection, heart failure, fluid in the lungs, tumors, trauma to the lungs including bruising or electrocution. The airways in the lungs can also be affected by allergies, tumors, and infections. Diseases of the pet's chest wall, diaphragm, and those that make the belly push against the diaphragm can also cause dog breathing problems.
Other diseases that can cause breathing problems in dogs include the canine distemper virus, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and kennel cough.
Blockage by a Foreign Object
Dogs can have breathing problems when a piece of a toy, food, or other object gets ingested by the dog. Once these objects are consumed and get stuck in their nose, mouth, or windpipe, their airway may become obstructed and they will likely to experience any of these breathing problems.
Other Reasons for Your Dog's Breathing Problems
Your pup may be experiencing breathing problems for reasons other than disease or blockage. The other most common are heat exhaustion or heat stroke that can have an impact on your dog’s breathing. Paroxysmal respiration, or what is commonly known as a reverse sneeze, can make you think that your dog is having problems breathing, when in fact, they may have just had something irritate their throat or soft palate.
You may begin to panic when you hear your dog reverse sneeze for the first time, but remain calm. For more information on reverse sneezing, read here. Dogs can also have a reaction to medication or bad quality dog food. Their reaction can present itself in any three of the aforementioned dog breathing problems.
How to Help Your Dog
Dog breathing problems due to labored breathing, fast breathing, or panting may be a symptom that there's a serious disease at play. If your canine is experiencing one or more of these breathing problems, there are a few things that you can try prior to bringing your dog in for medical attention.
Try getting your dog to a cool, dry place where they are comfortable. This will help them to calm their breathing if the problem is related to heat or overexertion. If the dog is reverse sneezing, give them room to breathe and offer them water. You can also gently massage their throat. Even though reverse sneezing in dogs sounds terrible, this problem will usually resolve on its own.
If your dog's breathing problems do not subside, you should take them to the veterinarian for an examination. The vet may suggest testing be done to accurately diagnose the issue. Different types of tests include: a physical exam, x-rays, blood work, urinalysis, and fecal testing. These tests will tell the veterinarian how to properly treat the dog. Common treatments for dog breathing problems include giving the animal oxygen, pet medication, removing any blockage by a foreign object, or surgery.
Other Common Questions About Breathing Problems in Dogs
If you still have any concerns about breathing problems in dogs, take a look at the following questions and answers.
What Are the Signs of Respiratory Distress in a Dog?
Be on the lookout for signs of respiratory distress, such as coughing, gagging after coughing, trouble breathing, fainting, blue gums, wheezing, nasal congestion, or exercise intolerance. Take your pooch to the vet if you notice these issues.
What Do I Do if My Dog Is Having Trouble Breathing?
As mentioned, start by ensuring your canine is in a cool, dry, comfortable place. Offer them some water. If the issues persist, call your vet. In the case of severe breathing problems, your vet may want to give your dog supplemental oxygen. They may also give him steroidal anti-inflammatories or other medicine to help him breathe.
Why Is My Dog Making Weird Breathing Noises?
There are many reasons your dog may be making weird breathing noises. Each sound will be slightly different, and vets can frequently tell the difference. It may be reverse sneezing, troubled breathing, or another issue.
How Do You Know if Your Dog Has Lung Problems?
Some signs of lung problems in dogs include breathing issues, reduced exercise tolerance, fainting with overexertion, loud breathing, and wheezing when exhaling. As these lung issues progress, your dog’s gums may also become bluish.
What Are the Signs of Your Dog Dying?
Breathing problems in dogs do not always mean your canine is dying. In most cases, there is still plenty you can do. That said, some signs your dog is approaching the end of his life include loss of appetite, lack of desire to drink water, loss of coordination, lack of enjoyment, lack of movement, incontinence, vomiting, extreme fatigue, confusion, and muscle twitching. If you notice these signs, consult your vet immediately.
To recap, dog breathing problems may present themselves in one or more of three ways, including: labored breathing, fast breathing, and panting. There are many causes for your pet's breathing issues, including diseases, infections, blockages, and more.
There are a few things that you can do for your dog should they exhibit signs of breathing problems, but the most important thing to do is to get them help if they continue to struggle or the breathing problem does not subside on its own. For additional information on these breathing problems causes, symptoms, and remedies, check out PetMD.
Talk to your veterinarian should you have any concerns regarding your dog’s breathing. Your veterinarian is able to provide a thorough exam, diagnosis, and possible relief to breathing problems.