Why Is My Dog Breathing Weird?

Have you ever noticed a peculiar change in your loyal canine companion’s breathing pattern?

Maybe they’re panting excessively, even on cool days, or their breaths seem unusually rapid or shallow.

The rhythm of their breath, once a gentle lullaby, might now sound more like a sporadic orchestra with no conductor.

At this point, you ask yourself “why is my dog breathing weird”?

In this article, we’re going to discuss the different reasons and explain to you what you can do about it.

Decoding The Weird Breathing Patterns In Dogs

The Normal Dog Breathing Pattern

Before we delve into the abnormal, let’s focus on understanding the normal.

Picture your dog lounging leisurely on your living room rug, their breaths slow, deep, and rhythmic.

On average, a healthy dog takes between 10 and 30 breaths per minute, with puppies and smaller breeds typically breathing faster than adult dogs and larger breeds.

However, this ‘normal’ is fluid.

It might surprise you to learn that a dog’s physical condition and weight significantly influence their breathing rate.

A dog carrying extra weight may exhibit faster breathing even at rest, while a well-trained athlete dog might have a slower resting breathing rate.

Acknowledging these variables in ‘normal’ dog breathing is crucial for identifying when something might be off.

Identifying Abnormal Breathing Patterns In Dogs

Now that we’ve understood the ‘normal,’ what does ‘weird’ or abnormal breathing look like in a dog?

It might present as excessive panting without strenuous activity, wheezing sounds reminiscent of a stuck toy whistle, rapid breathing that seems out of place, or shallow breaths that barely lift their chest.

Unusually noisy breathing might conjure images of a runaway freight train.

Each of these signs could potentially indicate a variety of health concerns, from heatstroke and stress to serious conditions like heart diseases, lung issues, or brachycephalic syndrome.

For instance, consider the situation where a cheerful, easygoing bulldog begins to pant heavily even on cool days and seems to struggle with breathing after minimal exertion.

A visit to the vet reveals a condition called brachycephalic syndrome, a common issue among breeds with flat faces.

The key takeaway is that each dog is unique, and abnormal breathing might be their way of communicating a need for medical attention.

Is Weird Breathing Dangerous For Your Dog?

When To Be Concerned

It’s important to know when your dog’s unusual breathing becomes a reason for concern.

Specific signs warrant immediate attention.

These include consistent coughing, a bluish tint to the tongue or gums (known as cyanosis, indicating oxygen deprivation), difficulty in catching breath, a reluctance to engage in regular exercise, or an extended neck and elbows held wide apart, indicating labored breathing.

Many dog owners aren’t aware that these seemingly mild symptoms could escalate into a full-blown health crisis if ignored.

Chronic difficulty in breathing, also known as dyspnea, could impair the oxygen supply to the various parts of your dog’s body, affecting the functioning of vital organs and leading to serious health complications.

Also, prolonged oxygen deprivation can induce a state of panic in your dog, leading to heightened stress and anxiety levels, further exacerbating their health situation.

Health Risks Associated With Abnormal Breathing

Abnormal breathing could be indicative of numerous underlying health issues that are often overlooked by dog owners.

Respiratory disorders such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or tracheal collapse could cause irregular breathing.

It could also hint towards heart disease, trauma, or injury.

Certain breed-specific conditions, like brachycephalic syndrome in bulldogs, pugs, and other breeds with short snouts, can lead to breathing irregularities as well.

These abnormal breathing patterns, if left unchecked, not only worsen existing health problems but could also create new ones.

Persistent panting, for example, could result in dehydration and overheating, leading to heatstroke in severe cases.

In a cascading effect, respiratory distress might put extra strain on the heart, leading to or exacerbating heart disease.

What To Do As A Dog Owner

Monitoring Your Dog’s Breathing

Monitoring your dog’s breathing pattern is an active measure you can take to safeguard their health.

Begin by observing their normal, relaxed breathing – when they’re calm and not panting.

Count how many breaths (one complete inhale and exhale cycle) they take in a minute.

Keep a log of this baseline data, as it can provide invaluable insight to your vet in case of future complications.

An often-overlooked aspect of monitoring involves observing your dog’s breathing while they’re asleep.

This is when their body is in a completely relaxed state, and any respiratory issues often become more apparent.

Any sudden changes in your dog’s breathing pattern, be it during their active hours or at rest, warrant immediate veterinary attention.

Steps To Alleviate Your Dog’s Discomfort

In situations where your dog seems to be in respiratory distress, maintaining their calm is crucial.

Excitement or heat can exacerbate breathing problems.

Therefore, providing a serene, cool environment can help to some extent.

Plenty of fresh water and a comfortable resting place can go a long way in offering temporary relief.

Avoiding strenuous exercise until the condition is fully evaluated by a veterinarian is advisable.

Consulting The Vet

Regular veterinary check-ups can preemptively identify potential issues.

If your dog’s breathing pattern changes significantly, an immediate veterinary consultation is necessary.

During such visits, your vet may conduct a series of tests, including physical exams, chest X-rays, or blood tests to diagnose the problem.

Digging Deeper: More Information On Canine Breathing Issues

Understanding Brachycephalic Syndrome

Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by their endearing short noses and flat faces, often face unique challenges with breathing.

Their physical structure can lead to a condition called brachycephalic syndrome, characterized by narrowed nostrils and elongated soft palates.

It’s a common misconception that the only treatment for this condition is surgery.

While some severe cases might require surgical intervention, many can be managed with lifestyle adjustments like weight management, maintaining a cool environment, and avoiding physical exertion during extreme temperatures.

The Link Between Heart Diseases And Breathing Issues

Heart diseases in dogs often manifest as abnormal breathing.

The heart’s inability to efficiently pump blood can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs, causing symptoms like coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Most dog owners aren’t aware that obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease in dogs, just as it is in humans.

Dietary management and exercise, along with prescribed medication, form the backbone of managing heart diseases in dogs.

In severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary.

Being attentive to your dog’s breathing pattern is a critical aspect of pet ownership.

Your vigilance, combined with regular veterinary care, can help ensure your canine companion’s health and happiness.

After all, as a dog owner, you know that every wag, every bark, and indeed, every breath, carries a world of meaning.

Before You Go…

Now you know why your dog is breathing weird.

If you want to learn more, read the following articles too!

Or watch this video:

Dimitra Kokologianni, DVM
Dimitra holds a Masters’s degree in public health and a Bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine. She is a versatile professional with over 7 years of experience. Her passion for animal welfare and preventive medicine makes her an excellent resource for our readers.