Have you noticed your dog breathing fast?
Are you worried they may be hyperventilating?
Obviously, this is a significant issue with potentially serious health implications for your dog.
So, the first thing to say is if you have any serious concerns about your dog’s breathing and health, please take them to your vet for a check-up.
With that said, in this article, we will answer the question – why do dogs hyperventilate – and cover what you need to know about this issue.
Before we look at the potential causes, you must first figure out if the dog is hyperventilating or just breathing heavily (the difference is important).
How to Know if Your Dog is Hyperventilating or Just Breathing Fast
If your dog is breathing heavily after exercise and the breathing slows down over time, then they are not hyperventilating.
However, if the breathing is more persistent and not just heavy, it may well be hyperventilation.
Signs of dog hyperventilating can include:
- Rapid and shallow breathing.
- Breathing with their mouths open (gasping).
- Struggling to breathe deeply.
- Abnormal drooling.
- Pale or blue lips and gum.
- Weakened body posture.
If they are breathing fast and exhibit some of the above symptoms, they are most likely hyperventilating, and you need to pay attention until it is resolved.
NOTE – You might also enjoy reading this post about why a dog huffs and puffs.
Why Is My Dog Hyperventilating and Breathing Fast?
There are many reasons why your dog might start breathing fast or hyperventilating.
Here is a list of the most common reasons:
- Over Excitement
- High Levels of Stress
- Reverse Sneezing (aka Inspiratory Paroxysmal Respiration)
- Heat Stroke – Being Too Hot
- Cushing’s Disease
- Respiratory Diseases
- Metabolic Acidosis
- Heart Failure
- Laryngeal Paralysis
- Tracheal Collapse
- Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
Now we can look at this list in more detail and see which one is the most likely candidate for your pet dog.
1. Over Excitement
This should be pretty easy to spot and is unlikely to be anything to worry about.
Sometimes when dogs get overexcited, they can either breathe much faster (panting) or start hyperventilating (rapid and shallow breathing).
It should be self-evident what caused it.
For example, if your dog was very excited and then started breathing fast, the chances are the excitement was the cause.
Just do your best to help them calm down and see if their breathing returns to normal.
If it does, that’s great, keep an eye on the dog and see if it happens again next time they get excited (if it does, a check-up at the vet’s is a good idea).
If the hyperventilating doesn’t stop once the dog is less excited, you should take them to the vet to ensure there isn’t something seriously wrong with them (if you can’t afford vet bills, please take a look here for help).
NOTE – You might also like to find out if dogs fake injuries for attention.
2. High Levels of Stress
Similar to the previous point, if your dog has suffered much higher than usual levels of stress, this could trigger an attack of hyperventilation.
Do your best to calm them down.
Hopefully, their breathing will return to normal, but please take your dog to a vet if it doesn’t.
This video has some great tips from a vet on how to spot signs of anxiety in your dog.
Just click the image, and it will start to play:
3. Reverse Sneezing (aka Inspiratory Paroxysmal Respiration)
Reverse sneezing, or giving it its medical name Inspiratory paroxysmal respiration, is a spasm that causes fast breathing out through the dog’s nose.
Reverse sneezing isn’t hyperventilating, but it is easy to confuse the two.
If your dog is breathing in sharply and fast through its nose, it is probably reverse sneezing.
It isn’t dangerous but can indicate an underlying medical issue, so if it persists, take your dog to the vet.
And this video will give you a good idea of what’s going on with reverse sneezing:
4. Heat Stroke – Being Too Hot
Dogs do not have the same ability to cool down through their skin that humans have.
Instead, dogs use breathing through their mouths to regulate their body temperature.
If your dog gets dangerously overheated, it might start to hyperventilate, making an already dangerous situation even worse.
If this happens, do your best to cool your dog down and keep them calm.
However, if the hyperventilating persists, take them to the vet.
5. Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease causes a dog to lose the ability to regulate cortisol effectively.
A side effect of this can be hyperventilating.
This video from a qualified veterinarian gives some great advice if you are worried your dog may be suffering from Cushing’s disease.
Just click the image to start playing:
6. Respiratory Diseases
A few different canine respiratory diseases can cause hyperventilating in dogs.
As mentioned, if you think your dog might have a medical condition, a visit to the vet is the best option.
Some respiratory diseases can be life-threatening for dogs if not treated, so please take action sooner rather than later.
(We have shared advice further down on what to do if you are short of cash and need help with vet bills).
Anemia is a condition that can affect dogs as well as humans.
When it occurs, dogs have a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells in their bodies.
Anemia can cause a range of symptoms, including hyperventilating, bloody nose, bloody stools, and bloody urine.
8. Metabolic Acidosis
Metabolic acidosis is when a dog’s internal pH balance is altered due to an increase in acidic production, and it can then cause the dog to hyperventilate.
Metabolic acidosis is often a sign of something more serious such as diabetes or even kidney failure.
Hence, if your dog shows any other signs of being unwell, please take them to the vet.
Canine anaphylaxis, also called an anaphylactic reaction, is an extreme reaction to an allergen a dog comes into contact with.
In some cases, anaphylactic reactions can trigger hyperventilating in dogs, so if your dog hyperventilates and it’s a one-off, it could be caused by an allergic reaction.
You should do your best (with your vet) to figure out what the allergic reaction was caused by and then try to keep your dog away from that substance.
Hypoxemia is a severe condition where the dog has lower than-usual oxygen levels in its blood.
As a result, one of the potential symptoms is hyperventilating along with mouth breathing, coughing, tachycardia (elevated heart rate), and gagging.
If your dog has allergies and comes into contact with a substance they are allergic to, this can cause an anaphylactic reaction, and as a result, your dog might start to hyperventilate.
If you know your dog has allergies, do your best to keep them away from whatever they are allergic to, and if they come into contact with it, keep a close eye on how they react.
If you suspect they may have allergies, keep notes of anything new they might have come into contact with, and speak to your vet about allergy testing.
12. Heart Failure
Caine hyperventilating can be a symptom of heart disease or heart failure.
If a dog is suffering from heart failure and hyperventilation, they will typically display a range of other symptoms, including fatigue, increased need for sleep, loss of appetite, increased thirst, and general signs of malaise.
13. Laryngeal Paralysis
Laryngeal paralysis is when the larynx (also known as the voice box) fails to open correctly when the dog breathes in.
This can cause hyperventilation and other symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty swallowing.
14. Tracheal Collapse
Tracheal collapse is a progressive respiratory condition that causes the trachea (also known as the windpipe) to collapse gradually.
This can cause breathing problems, including hyperventilation, coughing, wheezing, and gagging.
15. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, or BOAS for short, is the name for short-nosed dogs’ breathing issues.
Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs are three traditional breeds that suffer from this condition.
BOAS can cause a range of health and respiratory problems, including hyperventilation.
Signs and Symptoms of Canine Hyperventilating
If your dog is hyperventilating, it will show some of the following symptoms:
- Fast, open-mouthed, shallow breathing.
- Wheezing or snorting.
- Blue or pale gums and lips.
- An increased heart rate.
- Weakness, fainting or collapsing.
What to Do if Your Dog is Hyperventilating?
If you think your dog is hyperventilating, you first need to find out what could be causing it.
Are they overexcited, scared, or showing signs of illness?
Have they been stung by a bee or wasp?
Has anything unusual happened that could have triggered the breathing problem?
If you can figure out why they have gone into hyperventilation, you can reduce or eliminate the trigger.
Or, if you don’t know why it’s happening, stay with your dog and try to comfort them until it passes.
Once their breathing is back to normal, the safest thing is to get them to the vet for a check-up to ensure there isn’t something more serious underlying their breathing issues.
NOTE – You might also like to read this post asking if dogs like eye contact with humans.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Hyperventilating
It is impossible to eliminate all chances of your dog hyperventilating, but you can reduce them by studying the list of causes above.
Getting regular check-ups at your local vet is an essential first step, then making sure the dog’s lifestyle is as happy and healthy as possible is also a great idea.
By looking after their general health and well-being, you will reduce the likelihood of the conditions and triggers that can cause hyperventilating.
Should You be Concerned About Your Dog if it Hyperventilates?
It all depends on the cause of the hyperventilation, so there is no simple answer to this, but the best action is to speak to your vet and pay close attention to their advice.
Are You Worried About Vet Bills?
As you will have noticed at multiple points in this article, we have suggested taking your dog to the vet.
But what if you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills?
This website has many great resources for charities that can help you pay your bills.
Final Notes On Why Dogs Hyperventilate
Canine hyperventilating is not necessarily serious, but severe underlying health conditions can cause it.
So the best thing you can do if your dog hyperventilates or has any other issues with their breathing is to take them to your local vet for a health check-up.
Ok, so that is the end of this post looking at the question – why do dogs hyperventilate?
We really hope that it has helped you to gain a better understanding of this topic.
Please feel free to use the section below if you have any more questions or would like to add a comment.
Finally, a big thank you for taking the time to visit our site TheFactualDoggo.com.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!