Dog owners may sometimes notice that their dog is breathing more heavily than normal, and ask an important question, 'why is my dog breathing so heavily?'
This can be a cause for concern, as it might mean that the dog is having difficulty breathing.
In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why a dog might be breathing heavily and provide tips on how to help if your dog is having trouble getting enough air.
Common causes of heavy breathing in dogs
Unfortunately, there are many, many reasons why dogs breathe heavily, and most of them are actually normal reasons - warm weather, trying to cool down, and the like. (source)
That said, if you have a full medical history of your dog since birth, it can be easier for you to identify if it's unusual heavy breathing.
There are a few health problems that can cause labored breathing in dogs, including:
Allergies or asthma
Dogs with allergies or asthma may have difficulty breathing due to inflammation and swelling of the airways.
Bronchitis is an infection of the bronchi, which are the large airways that carry air to and from the lungs.
Bronchitis can cause coughing, chest congestion, and difficulty breathing.
Dogs with heart disease often experience shortness of breath as well as other symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.
Usually happens when your dog is outside in the sun, or in a hot environment for an extended period of time, without water or cooling down.
Pulmonary edema (fluid in lungs)
Pulmonary edema is a build-up of fluid in the lungs caused by heart failure or other medical conditions.
The usual substances that can cause this at home are raisins, rat poison, chocolate and even antifreeze.
Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)
This causes indirect suffocation and forces your dog to breath heavily to get the oxygen it needs.
Typically, your dog will show a yellow tinge on their ears, tongue and bellies.
RUSH THEM TO THE ANIMAL HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY.
How to help your dog breathe easier
If you think your dog might be having difficulty breathing, there are a few things you can do to help.
Keep your dog cool and hydrated in warm weather. Make sure they have plenty of water and shade to rest in.
If your dog is panting heavily, offer them small amounts of water or ice chips to lick.
Do not give them large amounts of water to drink all at once, as this could cause them to vomit or aspirate the fluid.
Elevate your dog's head if they are having trouble breathing lying down.
This will help keep airways open and make it easier for them to breathe.
Seek veterinary care if the heavy breathing persists or is accompanied by other symptoms!
When to take your dog to the vet
If your dog's heavy breathing is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should seek veterinary care immediately:
Coughing while breathing heavily
Wheezing, or looks like they're nearly out of breath all the time
Difficulty walking or standing
Swelling of the legs or abdomen
Vomiting and/or diarrhea
Pale gums or other signs of anemia
Unusual discharge from nose or eyes
The tips and insides of their ears are white, or yellow
coughing up blood or pinkish fluids
If you notice any prolonged symptoms of the above, please bring them to the vet clinic or animal hospital immediately.
How to tell if your dog is having a medical emergency
If your dog is having trouble breathing, it is always best to err on the side of caution and seek emergency veterinary care.
However, there are a few things you can look for to help determine if your dog is experiencing a true medical emergency.
If their gums are pale, yellow or bluish, this could be a sign of anemia or shock and requires immediate medical attention.
If they are vomiting blood or any other fluids that are pink in color, this could be a sign of internal bleeding and also requires urgent medical care.
If one or more of their legs appears swollen or bloated, this could be a sign of heart failure and fluid build-up in the lungs (pulmonary edema)
How can I prevent my dog from developing heavy breathing in the first place?
There are a few things you can do to help prevent your dog from developing heavy breathing, including:
Keep them at a healthy weight
Overweight dogs are more likely to develop respiratory problems.
Feeding them a balanced diet and avoiding table scraps
Table scraps can cause nutritional imbalances that can lead to health problems, or be toxic to them (especially when the food has garlic, onions, ginger and the like)
Provide plenty of fresh water and exercise
Dogs who get enough exercise and drink plenty of fresh water are less likely to develop respiratory problems.
Take them for regular checkups with the veterinarian
Regular vet checkups will help identify any potential health problems early on, before they have a chance to become serious.
What about heavy breathing in puppies?
Generally speaking, puppies tend to breathe a lot more than adults, and can be anywhere from 50 - 100% more than adults.
That said, if you do believe that your puppy is breathing heavily, unnaturally fast, then you should bring your puppy to the vet to have them checked out too.