15 causes of shortness of breath in dogs

There are several potential causes of shortness of breath in dogs and not all forms of shortness of breath are created equal. There is shortness of breath and then there is shortness of breath . Panting can be considered normal in specific circumstances, but can also occur in certain medical conditions.

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As dog owners, it is important to learn how to recognize the signs of problematic shortness of breath so that the underlying cause can be overcome quickly by a veterinarian. Some forms of shortness of breath can also signal a life-threatening situation that requires urgent care.

First of all, what exactly is shortness of breath in dogs? Panging is described as rapid breathing with an open mouth in dogs. The dog’s lips are often pulled back when the dog inhales, and the nostrils tremble slightly as the dog exhales. During shortness of breath, the tongue is known to protrude. Panging is often accompanied by audible breathing sounds, although breathing sounds should not be excessive.

The context in which shortness of breath occurs and the accompanying body language can help dog owners understand the root cause. However, since shortness of breath can in some cases be caused by medical problems, it is best to have the dog evaluated by a veterinarian when in doubt.

Did you know?

According to Ducan’s Pet Physiology, when dogs breathe, their respiratory rate increases to 200 to 400 breaths per minute!


1. A dog short of breath from a burning sensation

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It is quite easy to recognize this form of shortness of breath, as it is often observed during the warm and humid summer months, when Rover is outside in the yard (it is possible to lie on the cool floor while relaxing and watching the children play). To better understand this form of shortness of breath, it helps to get an idea of ​​what exactly happens in a dog’s body when it warms up.

Like us, our dog’s bodies are specifically designed to maintain an ideal internal core temperature. It is courtesy of the dog ‘s anterior hypothalamus , a special area of ​​the dog’s brain that acts just like a good thermostat to keep the dog’s body temperature within optimal limits. The body’s goal is to achieve balance – in a state of homeostasis.

If the dog’s temperature rises, special measures are taken so that the body is cooled effectively (by shortness of breath) and if the dog’s temperature drops, special measures will be taken so that the dog’s body is effectively warmed (albeit trembling). ). This important phenomenon is called ” thermoregulation”. By panting with the mouth open, dogs cool with gentle evaporation, as the moist surfaces of the mouth help to lower the dog’s core temperature.

Dogs are more likely to feel warm than humans for several reasons. First, their bodies are covered with fur, and second, dogs tend to have a naturally higher temperature than humans (101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit versus 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in humans). See your veterinarian if your dog’s temperature is higher than normal. On a hot and humid day, this may be indicative of heat stroke.

Dogs that suffocate from the heat will usually look for ways to cool off, such as sleeping on a tiled floor, looking for shade, or sticking their head out the window if they are riding in a car.

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The accompanying body language of a dog that is slightly hot is generally calm. The ears and face are relaxed, the eyes look soft, while the tongue hangs freely – either straight or sideways. See your veterinarian if your dog is short of breath and seems to be feeling uncomfortable.

2. Canine shortness of breath from exercise

Panning during or after training is a form of overheating, which takes place internally, but there may be an external factor when playing, if the dog has trained in warm weather or in a place with little ventilation.

In this scenario, the contraction of the dog’s muscles is what generates the heat. The context in which this form of shortness of breath takes place is quite obvious: the dog played with other dogs in the dog park or enjoyed a fun game of denunciation with the owner.

Dogs that suffocate from exercise will not look tense and will look calm. Their tongue falls free from the effect of gravity. The lips are kept slightly tucked in, relaxed down, relaxed. The nostrils tremble as slightly as the dog exhales.

These dogs often have a happy, almost satisfied look on their faces. Come to think of it, it’s only natural for dogs that exercise to feel happy while getting what they love, do the most, and that is to run, explore, and play.

3. Canine shortness of breath from emotions

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Dogs are emotional beings and getting heightened emotion can also cause some breathless episodes. What triggers this form of shortness of breath is often the concomitant rush of adrenaline, which again brings the dog’s body out of homeostasis. With an increased heart rate and respiratory rate, the dog’s body tries to return to normal.

Emotions that can trigger this function in dogs include negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and fear, but also happy emotions such as excitement and anticipation. Paying attention to the context again is important.

If your dog starts panting during a thunderstorm, chances are your dog is stressed by this event. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety are also known to suffocate when their owners show an early warning before leaving (picking up keys, putting on shoes) and the condition often continues after the owners leave home. It is known that many dogs behave in this way in the vet’s office.

Then you have those happy dogs who gasp when they see the leash and plan to go for a walk, drive a car or greet their owners when they get home.

In addition to the context, the accompanying body language of the dog may provide some information about what may be happening in the dog’s mind. In general, in dogs that are stressed or in a state of fear, the retraction of the lips is quite noticeable, and the dog’s teeth will be more visible.

When there is tension, the ears may be placed back, the pupils of the eyes may appear dilated, and there may be tension in the face. On top of that, the tongue no longer sticks out in a relaxed state due to gravity, but it is quite tense (after all, the tongue is a muscle!) With curved edges in what is known as a “spatula tongue”.

4. shortness of breath from problematic breathing

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Some medical conditions can also cause shortness of breath in dogs. In particular, dogs suffering from certain respiratory or cardiovascular disorders may suffocate as a manifestation of difficulty breathing.

The dog may look anxious or in trouble. The dog can breathe with his mouth open and his neck extended. Dogs in respiratory distress may also have trouble lying down in certain positions and may prefer to sit, lie on their stomach (sterile lying down), or stand with their elbows wide apart.

A medical condition that interferes with a dog’s ability to breathe effectively is called laryngeal paralysis . In this condition, the muscles that normally pull the dog’s airways do not function properly, leading to increased episodes of shortness of breath (often out of context, such as when the dog is cool and calm), shortness of breath, and soreness.

As the condition progresses, affected dogs need to work harder to breathe. Breathing becomes louder. Affected dogs may look anxious and their facial expressions become tense with pursed lips, as if they are “smiling”.

In addition to laryngeal paralysis, other respiratory and cardiovascular conditions that can cause shortness of breath in dogs include infiltrative lung disease, lung scars (fibrosis), fungal infections, pneumonia, throat or neck mass, cancer, congestive heart failure. , heart murmurs and arrhythmias and pulmonary hypertension.

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5. Dog gasping for pain

In addition to choking on breathing problems, it is important to recognize that dogs can do this when they are in pain. Dog owners may simply assume that the dog is simply aging or feeling hot.

The facial expression of dogs in this condition is often tense. Some dogs, out of breath from pain, can sit in front of the owner almost hoping to get some attention or reassurance. Others may do so and change positions often in hopes of finding a way to alleviate their discomfort.

This can be seen in dogs suffering from orthopedic, abdominal (for example, internal pain caused by pancreatitis or a life-threatening swelling that can cause breathing problems because a bloated stomach puts pressure on the diaphragm) or problems with the spine.

Dogs who are likely to suffocate from pain should see a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. Diagnostic tests may include X-rays, computed tomography, MRI, and ultrasound. A pain medication test can be done to see if the shortness of breath subsides with pain control.

6. shortness of breath from running a fever

Dogs tend to feel warm as a result of two precise circumstances; exposure to a warm environment (non -pyrogenic hyperthermia ), as occurs in the canine days of summer (as mentioned above) or as a result of indoor conditions, as it can occur when the dog has a fever ( pyrogenic hyperthermia ). The term pyrogenic comes from the ancient Greek word pûr , meaning “fire / heat” and the word gen , which means “producer of something.” The medical term for fever is pyrexia.

The normal temperature for dogs is between 100, 5 and 102, 5. Dog owners can check the dog’s temperature at home using a simple digital thermometer for humans. The reading should be made rectally, with the thermometer placed a centimeter up from the silver tip, explains veterinarian Dr. Debbie. To facilitate insertion, it helps to lubricate the silver tip with a little Vaseline or KY grease.

A temperature higher than normal may require an investigation by a veterinarian. Fever in dogs can be caused by various conditions such as infections (abscesses, urinary tract infections, fungal infections) and tick-borne diseases (lime, ehrlichia and spotted scabies).

7. Canine shortness of breath from medications

If your dog is short of breath after starting a new treatment, this condition is likely to be a side effect. Often, side effects are listed on the medicine’s package, so reading can be insightful.

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Steroids are known to cause increased drinking, increased urination and shortness of breath in dogs. Examples of steroid drugs include prednisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone.

Opioids can also potentially cause shortness of breath, as these drugs affect the thermoregulatory center in the hypothalamus of dogs. Other drugs that are known to cause this condition include diazepam and tramadol.

Other factors that contribute to the condition

There are several other potential causes of shortness of breath. The list is not exhaustive, but covers some of the most common causes of shortness of breath in dogs. As the reasons are many, it is always recommended that a veterinarian arrange things for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

8. Obesity

Overweight dogs will tend to breathe more. Just like in humans, excess fat is associated with impaired lung function. Dogs that are obese can be easily exercised compared to weaker dogs.

9. Aging

Aging in dogs can lead to increased shortness of breath due to the fact that dogs may not have oxygen, as well as when they were younger. However, this condition needs to be addressed as there may be major medical factors that trigger it.

10. Canine cognitive dysfunction

In other words, Alzheimer’s disease can also cause shortness of breath in older dogs. This progressive disease, found in older dogs, causes several changes in behavior.

Affected dogs may develop sleep cycle disorders with nocturnal walking, episodes of shortness of breath, inability to provide comfortable and other cognitive changes, such as forgetting how to get out of the potty, getting stuck in corners and forgetting verbal cues.

11. Cushing’s disease

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Hyperadrenocorticism, better known as Cushing’s disease, is a commonly diagnosed endocrine disease affecting dogs. This condition is caused by high levels of cortisol in the blood.

Excessive amounts of cortisol circulating in the dog’s body are known to cause muscle weakness, shortness of breath, increased drinking and increased urination, thinning of the skin, hair loss and a predisposition to infections and diabetes.

12. Neurological problems

Sometimes neurological problems can play out when a dog gasps excessively. In older dogs who are short of breath and have unusual behaviors or have recent seizures, brain mass may be possible. This will require MRI to diagnose, but brain masses in dogs are usually not amenable to surgery.

13. High blood pressure

Dogs do not suffer from high blood pressure as much as humans, but this can be secondary to other medical conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease or kidney problems. Just as in humans, blood pressure can be measured. The underlying cause needs to be addressed to deal with shortness of breath due to high blood pressure in dogs.

14. shortness of breath after birth

Many dogs suffocate after birth and dog owners wonder if this is a sign of trouble or not; this can be due to several problems. For example, if you are surrounded by many puppies, it can make mothers feel hot. While breastfeeding, the release of oxytocin causes mild contractions in the mother dog’s uterus that can cause shortness of breath, explains veterinarian John Rapaport in an article for Pet Place. This can also be a sign of fatigue (childbirth is quite tiring!) Or stress.

However, this condition should not be ignored in a new mother dog, as it may be due to other potential problems. The mother dog may be in pain or have a fever. Fever in a dog that has given birth can be an indication of several problems such as retained placenta and milk fever, also known as eclampsia. See your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

15. Ingestion of toxins

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Panging may be indicative of ingestion of a toxin or poison. Dogs tend to eat the strangest things, and a dog who is short of breath and uncomfortable may have eaten something he shouldn’t have.

Puppies and young dogs are especially prone to ingesting toxins due to their curious nature, but some adult dogs who are indiscriminate eaters can often face problems.


Play it safe and see the vet

As you can see, there are several causes of shortness of breath in dogs and some of them can be quite serious. If the affected dog suffocates excessively and / or develops more symptoms, it is important to make an appointment with a veterinarian to check the dog.

Two important things to look out for with a shortness of breath are the color of the mucous membranes and the time to fill the capillaries. Caution is provided in dogs that are not accustomed to handling, so it may be best to see a veterinarian directly.

To check the color of the mucous membranes, the first step is to turn the upper lip and then examine the color of the dog’s gums. In a healthy dog ​​with good blood circulation, the gums should look nice with the bubbles in the bubbles. If the gums appear white or very pale or dark red, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

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Capillary filling time is the time required for the gums to regain their color when pressed. This helps to check for blood perfusion. In this test, the finger of the thumb should be pressed against the gum, which is applying pressure. Then, after releasing the finger, the gum should blanch. In a healthy dog ​​with good perfusion, the gums should return to a healthy pink color within 2 seconds or less. If it takes significantly longer, we recommend a trip to the emergency vet.