No dog is immune to breathing difficulties. Nonetheless, many dogs experience breathing difficulties to some degree in their lifetime. Dog having trouble breathing can happen for a number of reasons, some of them being different diseases of the respiratory organs, tumors, foreign objects stuck in the throat, and more.

How to tell if a dog is having trouble breathing?

Most dog owners can easily recognize that their furry friend is having breathing difficulties. This is because their dogs may breathe differently than before, rapidly or very slowly and silently. However, there are plenty of symptoms you should look for before knowing for sure that your dog has a respiratory problem.

Symptoms of breathing difficulties

It’s not uncommon for the dogs to develop a combination of illnesses at once, or show unusual symptoms like coughing. For instance, your dog may be suffering from both inspiratory dyspnea and tachypnea at the same time. Therefore, you should look for all the symptoms of the listed illnesses if your dog is having difficulty breathing.

Dyspnea in dogs

If your dog is trying harder to breathe than usual, it’s likely that it suffers from dyspnea. Such an illness can be divided into three types:

  • Inspiratory – hard time breathing in
  • Expiratory – hard time breathing out
  • Both

This illness, like many others, will show hard-to-miss symptoms:

  • Dog’s belly and chest will expand more while trying to breathe in
  • Its nostrils will enlarge more than normally upon breathing in air
  • Opening its mouth to get more air
  • Breathing with the elbows away from its body (in order to put less pressure on respiratory organs for easier breathing)
  • The dog extends its neck
  • Louder breathing than usual

Tachypnea in dogs

Similarly to dyspnea, dogs that are breathing faster than usual are said to be tachypneic. It’s common that dogs are breathing faster on a hot day in order to cool down, but this may not always be the case.

Common symptoms include:

  • Faster breathing rate
  • Mouth fully or nearly closed
  • Shallow breathing (small air intake)

Panting in dogs

Like tachypnea, panting in dogs may also be mistaken for cooling off during the hot weather. However, there are a few symptoms you should look for:

  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Mouth wide open
  • Extended tongue

What are the causes of breathing difficulties in dogs?

Diseases happen for a reason. Therefore, there is a cause for each of the previously listed illnesses. You can research this thoroughly in order to prevent such happenings in the future.

Dyspnea Causes in Dogs

Any kind of nose disease, such as:

  • Small nostrils
  • Infection
  • Tumor
  • Foreign object stuck

It’s common for dogs to sniff around the new environment. Therefore, they may sniff something that may get stuck in their nose. It’s usually hard for dogs to get rid of such obstacles. That being said, you should probably call a veterinarian to help the dog. In such a case, do not try to get the obstacle yourself, especially if it’s something sharp because you may harm the dog’s nose walls.

Any kind of throat and trachea diseases, for example:

Any kind of lung disease, for instance:

  • Infection (e.g. pneumonia, fungal infection)
  • Pulmonary edema (heart failure causing fluid in the lungs)
  • Heart enlargement
  • Heartworm disease
  • Tumor
  • Bleeding or bruising of the lungs
  • Electrocution
  • Trauma

Any kind of disease of the bronchi and bronchioles (small airways in the lungs), such as:

  • Infection
  • Tumor
  • Allergy
  • Inflammatory disorder (e.g bronchitis)

Any kind of pleural space disease (space surrounding the lungs), for example:

  • Pulmonary effusion (heart failure causing fluid around the lungs)
  • Accumulations of air
  • Accumulations of blood or other fluids
  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • Trauma

Any kind of chest wall diseases, like:

  • Injury to the chest wall
  • Partial paralysis of the chest wall (e.g. tick paralysis, trauma)

Any kind of diaphragm disease, such as:

Any kind of disease that makes the dog belly press the diaphragm, for example:

  • Enlarged organs like the liver, stomach, or spleen
  • Bloated stomach (filled with air)
  • Ascites (fluid in the belly)
  • Tumor

Tachypnea (Fast Breathing) causes in Dogs

There are multiple causes that might be the reason for tachypnea:

  • Hypoxemia (low oxygen level in the blood)
  • Anemia (low red blood cell level)
  • Blood clots within vessels in the lungs
  • Same causes previously listed as with tachypnea

Panting in Dogs

Dogs being out of breath or having quick and short breaths is called panting. There are plenty of causes for panting in dogs:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Medications
  • Fever (high body temperature)
  • Metabolic acidosis (too much acid in the body; the body cannot get rid of enough acid)
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High thyroid hormone levels
  • Some of the causes of dyspnea and tachypnea in dogs may result in panting as well

In case your dog suffers from anxiety and has breathing problems because of it, please read how to relax a dog at home.

Brown dog laying on the grass with tongue out

How to help the dog having trouble breathing

Luckily, there is a treatment for a dog having breathing difficulties because of the previously listed illnesses. However, you would need to be sure what is your dog suffering from. Therefore, probably the best thing you can do is call your local veterinarian as soon as possible. Quick timing is crucial because breathing difficulties can be fatal, especially if your dog is suffering from heart disease.

Treatments for dogs with breathing difficulties

Your dog will most likely be given oxygen. This will ensure that the dog can breathe properly and calm down. This usually solves hard breathing, as the dog will have enough oxygen with almost no effort at all.

However, it might need to stay in a hospital for some time until its condition is stable. Even after your dog gets back home, it should not be very active (running a lot, for example) because it’s hard to handle for the lungs that are still healing. It may also get a prescription of pet medications. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what to do after your dog gets home from the hospital.

Treatments for dogs with an object stuck in the respiratory organs

However, if your dog is perfectly healthy but has something stuck in its respiratory organs, the treatment will be different. The goal is to get rid of the object blocking the airflow to the lungs. If there is something small in the dog’s nose, your visit to the veterinarian will not take long as it will be easily treated.

However, in some severe cases, your dog might need an operation. If something bigger, toxic, or sharp is stuck in the dog’s throat, the veterinarian may need to operate the dog in order to get rid of the object. Once again, getting your dog to a local veterinarian as quickly as possible is very important.


Diseases of the respiratory system in both humans and dogs can be fatal. Therefore, you should react quickly – in this case, get the dog having trouble breathing to a veterinarian as soon as possible. There, it will get proper care and hopefully recover quickly.

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