Is My Dog’s Panting Normal or Is It Hyperventilating?

Is My Dog’s Panting Normal or Is It Hyperventilating?

Panting is normal behavior for dogs. However, excessive heavy panting and irregularities in their normal breathing patterns may indicate — often serious — dog health problems. Therefore, it is important to know the signs for when, and ideally why, your dog is hyperventilating.

Common Causes of Dog Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation limits the supply of oxygen that is able to circulate throughout dogs’ various bodily systems. Identifying the causes can be pivotal in preventing and resolving different health issues for your pet. Essentially, hyperventilation comes down to two reasons: environmental factors and underlying medical factors.

Environmental Factors

Like humans, dog health can be affected by external conditions, such as the weather. Because dogs do not sweat, they rely on drooling and panting to cool down. When the weather is particularly hot, dogs can become susceptible to heatstroke. When left untreated, heat-related issues can result in your dog collapsing or passing out. Heavier breathing than usual, paired with increased lethargy on a hot day, are hallmark characteristics of heat exhaustion. Seasonal allergies can also arise for animals in the same way they do for us. Pollen and other allergens are high probability culprits.

Underlying Medical Factors

Hyperventilating may also be a sign of an underlying health issue. Heart, respiratory and anxiety-related conditions may result in heavy breathing. Depending on the other symptoms your pet exhibits, there are various reasons your pet may begin breathing heavily. Pain or issues with the function of a vital organ can be a reason for your dog to breathe rapidly and heavily. Look for the presence of other symptoms, as they are key to figuring out what may be bothering your furry friend. For example, their tongue and gums turning blue sometimes indicate respiratory issues. Alternatively, excessive licking, pawing or pacing, paired with heavy breathing, can be a sign of stress or anxiety. You can consult with a veterinarian clinic for remedy recommendations.

“Most dogs that are panting normally will also be acting normal. Dogs in distress are usually showing other symptoms such as pain, lethargy, exercise intolerance, or could even be unresponsive.”

Dr Lucas White
German Shepherd Panting on a Couch

Difference Between Normal Panting and Hyperventilating

Every dog – and every dog breed – is different, meaning no one knows your dog’s typical breathing patterns better than you. As you spend time with your pet, you will become familiar with their normal breathing patterns. Generally speaking, most dogs take 30-40 breaths per minute at rest. After exertion, they can breathe ten times as much. As long as their breathing matches their recent activity or excitement level, there is no cause for concern. When it is hot or your dog has been highly active, you should always remember to keep your pup cool and calm. Keeping them hydrated and calm will do a lot to resolve and prevent hyperventilation in most cases.

Consult a veterinarian if you notice symptoms such as:

  • Heavy panting at rest
  • Panting with a partially closed or open mouth
  • Pale or discolored gums or tongue

These may be signs of a bigger and more pressing problem and should be looked into immediately.

“Dogs will certainly pant after exercise, when stressed/nervous (like at the vet’s office), and when it’s hot but this should subside once they recover.”

Dr Lucas White

Signs of Dog Hyperventilating

As the person who best knows your dog, it is up to you to catch on to warnings that your pet may need medical attention. Heavy panting that appropriately occurs after a stimulating activity, like playing or seeing you again after a long day away, will resolve itself as your dog reenters a state of rest. Normal panting that becomes prolonged or evolves into other symptoms such as wheezing, or coughing could point to an underlying illness. Even if the onset of hyperventilation is not chronic, you can differentiate normal and alarming behavior by observing any tissue discoloration, faintness, weakness or an inability to take in a deep or long breath.

“Dogs don’t usually hyperventilate except for normal panting unless there is a medical problem, often a serious medical problem.”

Dr Lucas White
Pug Panting

Breathing Problem in Short-Nose Breed Dogs

Short-nose breed dogs are more prone to respiratory issues. They tend to have a harder time breathing during physical activity and while excited. They may snort, reverse sneeze or wheeze more than dogs without pushed-in noses. Getting your pet regularly checked on by a veterinarian professional can help make sure any larger issues with short-snout dogs do not go undetected. They are also more susceptible to more serious conditions like brachycephalic airway syndrome or a collapsed trachea. If you have a breed of dog with a brachycephalic skull, be sure to pay special attention to their breathing, making sure they stay well-rested, cool and have plenty of water.

Dog Hyperventilation Treatment

Depending on the reason your dog is hyperventilating, there are a plethora of methods you can try to restore your dog’s normal breathing. In the event that overheating is the issue, you can place your pet in a cool area like the shade or an ice bath. Give them as much water as they will drink to rehydrate, and make sure they get to rest. Keep a watchful eye to monitor signs of escalating sickness like vomiting or fainting. If your dog is anxious, try different methods of reassurance or different product means to help relieve dogs of stress. For pets with allergies, pet owners can consult with a veterinarian about finding antihistamines or other appropriate medication. If hyperventilation becomes severe and your dog begins to experience circulatory issues, visit an emergency veterinarian immediately.

How To Keep Your Dog From Hyperventilating

Prevention is the best solution. Maintaining your dog’s health is essential for decreasing the risk that your dog will experience symptoms like hyperventilation. A proper diet, the right amount of exercise and staying hydrated will go a long way for our canine friends, much in the same way it does for us. Being familiar with normal behaviors your pet exhibits will help you quickly and effectively identify any issues your pet may experience. Where hyperventilating is caused by toxic ingestion or injury, keeping a pet-safe home and a watchful eye on walks will prevent a lot of peril.

What Should I Do if My Dog Is Hyperventilating?

Always keep the general rule of “cool and calm” in mind. Do what you can to get your pet to a relaxed state. If the methods you try do not work, be sure to consult a veterinarian clinic as soon as possible to discuss their recommendations. If hyperventilating resolves itself but is a recurring issue, be sure to make an appointment with your vet to ensure nothing goes unresolved.

Sunset Veterinary Clinic has an expert team of animal lovers who know what it takes to get your pets to their best. To make an appointment, call us today at (405) 844-2888. Our friendly, knowledgeable team are the experts in the needs of small animals. We love welcoming new furry, feathery, or leathery friends — call us today to protect the health and happiness of your pet!

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