One of the most common in older pets is fluid in the lungs or chest cavity. This is often associated with heart disease and lung disease. Other less common causes of dyspnea in dogs are foreign objects, lung cancer, infections such as pneumonia, injuries to the chest wall, kennel cough and allergies.
HOW THE DOG RESPIRATORY SYSTEM WORKS?
Diseases in any part of the respiratory system, and even in other parts of the body, can lead to breathing problems in dogs.
The respiratory system has many parts, including the nose, mouth, throat (pharynx and larynx), windpipe (trachea) and lungs. Air is pulled in through the nose or mouth and is then carried down into the lungs, through a process referred to as inspiration. In the lungs, oxygen is transferred to the red blood cells. The red blood cells then carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
While oxygen is being transferred to the red blood cells, carbon dioxide is transferred from the red blood cells to the air within the lungs. It is then pushed out through the nose or mouth through a process referred to as expiration.
RESPIRATION AND RESPIRATORY RATE FOR DOGS
Differentiating between a dog who is breathing normally and a dog having trouble breathing is not always as simple as it might seem. At rest, healthy dogs should have a respiratory rate of between 20 and 34 breaths per minute, and they should not appear to be putting much effort into breathing. Of course, dogs may breathe more rapidly and/or more deeply in response to normal factors such as warm temperatures, exercise, stress and excitement.
Owners should get a feel for what is normal for their dogs before any health problems develop. How does your dog breathe when he is at rest, while going for a walk, or after vigorous play? With this knowledge in hand, you will be able to pick up subtle changes in your dog’s respiratory rate and his breathing before a crisis develops.
RECOGNISING ABNORMAL BREATHING
Your dog may drool more than normal and look like they’re choking or in distress. They may also make loud noises such as snorting or rasping.
Another common sign of abnormal breathing is when your dog is breathing heavily or panting but isn’t warm and hasn’t been exercising. Heavy breathing in dogs should be of particular concern if their mouth is drawn very wide (like a ‘grin’) and/or you can see their nostrils moving.
Dogs with breathing difficulties will also sometimes stand or lie with their neck stretched out and elbows side apart and they may become distressed if you try to interact with them. Check to see if their sides and tummy are moving in and out more noticeably and/or faster than usual and pay particular attention to their tongue and gums. If they’re an unusual colour, particularly if there is a blue or blue-purple tinge, contact your vet straight away.
DOG LABOURED BREATHING CAUSES (DYSPNEA)
Laboured breathing or shortness of breath, often called dyspnea, may prevent your dog getting enough oxygen into their bloodstream and is a life-threatening emergency. The causes of laboured breathing in dogs are varied. One of the most common in older pets is fluid in the lungs or chest cavity.
WHY IS MY DOG BREATHING FAST?
Rapid breathing in dogs may not necessarily be a sign of distress. If they are breathing fast and shallow and their mouth is wide open with their tongue hanging out, they could be panting to keep cool.
However, if your dog is breathing heavily and faster than circumstances warrant — with their mouth closed, or only partially open — it could be a sign of something more serious and you should contact your vet immediately.