Our Veterinary Blog

Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast?

Fast breathing in dogs can technically mean a lot of different things. After all, some dogs will breathe quickly while they are excited or exercising, while others may do so because they are sick. Although fast breathing in dogs should not necessarily always send dog owners into a panic, it is important for every dog owner to know the common causes of fast breathing in dogs.

In addition to excitement and recent exercise, fast breathing in dogs can also sometimes be a sign that a dog is overheating or experiencing pain. In addition to this, some illnesses and medical conditions can cause fast breathing in dogs as well.

In this article, we will describe all the common causes of fast breathing in dogs. We will describe how you can tell the difference between these causes and explain when you should see a vet about your dog’s fast breathing. Here is why your dog is breathing fast and what you should do about it.

Dog breathing fast

7 Causes of Fast Breathing in Dogs

There are many potential causes of fast breathing in dogs, and these causes range from normal to potential signs of a medical problem. For example, dogs will commonly breathe fast when they are excited, and this is nothing that dog owners need to worry about. However, in some cases, fast breathing can also be a sign of an illness or medical condition in dogs. Here are the seven causes of fast breathing in dogs.

Exercise

Possibly every dog owner has seen their dog breathing fast during and soon after exercising. This is completely normal in dogs, and most of the time it should cause dog owners no concern. The only time that you should be concerned about your dog breathing fast after exercising is if they continue to breathe quickly or heavily a while after they have stopped exercising.

Excitement

In addition to exercise, it is also common for dogs to start breathing fast when they get excited about something. Breathing fast from excitement is completely normal in dogs. As a result, dog owners do not need to worry if their dog starts breathing fast while they are excited. An excited dog will likely also be wagging their tail and appear to be happy and alert.

Anxiety

Anxiety can also cause fast breathing and panting in dogs. An anxious dog will appear stiff and will likely show some other signs of anxiety in addition to fast breathing. Some other signs of anxiety in dogs to look out for include:

  • Crouching low to the ground
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Whale eye (whites of eyes showing)
  • Ears pinned back against the head
  • Tail tucked between the legs
  • Urinating and defecating
  • Excessive barking

Although chronic anxiety is abnormal in dogs, fast breathing is not necessarily a medical concern in this case. Still, it may be a good idea to consult with a vet or animal behaviorist if your dog seems to struggle with anxiety on a regular basis.

Heat Stroke

Breathing quickly can also potentially be a sign of heat stroke in dogs, especially if your dog has been in a hot environment. Dogs will breathe quickly when experiencing heat stroke to cool themselves down. In addition to fast breathing or excessive panting, some other signs of heat stroke in dogs include but may not be limited to:

  • Lethargy
  • Bright red gums
  • Being hot to the touch
  • Signs of dehydration (lack of skin elasticity, sticky gums, etc.)
  • Unusual rashes or bruising on the skin
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (may or may not be bloody)
  • Collapse and seizures (very severe)

Heat stroke is a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition in dogs. As a result, this condition should be treated as a medical emergency. You should call your vet or nearest emergency vet immediately if you suspect that your dog may be having a heat stroke. On the phone, the animal hospital will be able to provide you with expert instruction on what you should do for your pet before making the trip to the vet’s office.

Pain

Sadly, pain is also a common cause of fast breathing and excessive panting in dogs. It is believed that dogs breathe quickly or pant when they are in pain to cope with the experience. Some other signs of pain in dogs besides fast breathing include:

  • Limping and walking with a strange gate
  • Lethargy
  • A reduced appetite
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Hiding
  • Flinching or withdrawing when offered affection
  • A sudden onset of aggressive behavior

If you suspect that your dog is breathing fast because of pain, then it is a good idea to take them to the vet immediately.

Dog Illness

Sometimes illnesses can cause a dog to breathe quickly as well. In some cases, this fast breathing can be the result of breathing difficulty and in other cases, it is suggested that it is a coping mechanism for dealing with painful or uncomfortable symptoms. Most of the time fast breathing as a result of illnesses will be accompanied by some other symptoms. Here are some signs that your dog may be feeling sick.

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Eye and nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Restless behavior

If you suspect that your dog may be sick, then you should take them to the vet immediately. Here they will be able to properly diagnose and treat any illness that your dog may have.

Medical Conditions

In some other cases, fast breathing can be caused by a medical condition. Most of the time medical conditions that cause fast breathing are those that can make breathing difficult. Here are some medical conditions that can cause fast breathing in dogs.

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart failure

If you suspect that your dog may have a medical condition that is causing their fast breathing or excessive panting, then you should take them to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.

When to See a Vet

Although fast breathing due to exercise, excitement, and anxiety is not necessarily the sign of a medical issue, there are definitely some instances where fast breathing is the sign of a problem. You should take your dog to the vet as soon as you can for their fast breathing or excessive panting if you suspect that:

  • Your dog is sick
  • Your dog is in pain
  • Your dog is suffering from a medical condition
  • Your dog is overheating or having a heat stroke

If you noticed that your pet is breathing fast and you’re concerned or have questions, give Main Street Veterinary Center a call at (863) 534-9584. We’re happy to help and care for your pet.

About Us

Family is family, whether it has two legs or four. At Lakeland Animal Clinic, we've spent the last 40 years healing and caring for your pets. As a family-operated practice, we know that family is about more than simply being related. Animals give us the ability to develop strong bonds and feel great compassion for a fellow living creature.