Why is My Dog Breathing Heavy in Orlando, FL?

dog breathing heavy orlando, fl

Is your dog panting and breathing heavily because they just finished having a case of the “zoomies,” or is it something else—something more concerning? Heavy breathing is natural for dogs when they just got done playing or running around, but eventually, their breathing should return to normal. But if your dog is breathing heavy even while they’re resting and it continues throughout the day, there could be an underlying medical problem that needs treating.

Heavy breathing with minimal or no exertion is abnormal for dogs, and it should be investigated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If your dog is experiencing abnormal, heavy breathing, contact our Orlando, FL, emergency animal hospital right away at (407) 298-3807.

What Could be the Cause of Your Dog’s Heavy Breathing?

There is a wide range of potential causes for heavy breathing in dogs, ranging from congenital defects to injury and disease.

Below are some of the more common causes.

  • Asthma (dogs and cats can get asthma just like humans can)
  • Kennel cough
  • Pneumonia
  • Heartworm disease
  • Collapsed windpipe
  • Breed characteristic (brachycephalic or “flat-faced” breeds like Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs often breathe more heavily)
  • Pressure on the windpipe
  • Respiratory infection (fungal or bacterial)
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Rigorous exercise
  • Stress
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Anemia
  • Nausea

In What Situations is Heavy Breathing a Concern?

We encourage you to contact our Orlando, FL, animal hospital if your dog is breathing heavily, and you’re unsure whether that indicates a serious medical problem.

Here is a list of symptoms that may accompany heavy breathing, and which should be investigated by a veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Your dog is using their abdominal muscles to help them breathe
  • They are breathing with their mouth open
  • Drooling abnormally
  • Reluctant/uninterested in eating or drinking
  • Reluctant to move
  • Gums appear either bright red or unusually pale
  • Breathing is faster and louder than typical panting

Finding the Cause of Your Dog’s Heavy Breathing

Our animal hospital is equipped to perform comprehensive exams and diagnostics. If your dog presents to us with heavy breathing, we will first need to conduct a physical examination. This will include checking the heart and lungs for any abnormal signs, and looking for any other issues that may be causing or contributing to your pet’s breathing troubles.

Furthermore, we will need to explore your pet’s medical history to see if they have had similar issues in the past. This could help us determine an appropriate treatment.

If an exam and review of your pet’s medical history prove insufficient to make a definitive diagnosis, our team may recommend blood work, and X-rays to view the heart and lungs. Hopefully, our diagnostic capabilities will help us find the answers we need to treat your pet safely and effectively.

How Can We Treat Heavy Breathing in Dogs?

The treatment we recommend to relieve your dog’s heavy breathing depends on the cause.

Is it Stress-Related?

If stress is the issue, we might recommend taking your pet to a behaviorist who can help you train them and remove potential stressors from their environment. Calming medications and pheromones may also be a part of the equation.

Is it Pain-Related?

Heavy breathing can also occur in dogs experiencing serious pain. Pain medication, laser therapy, and other options might be suggested to increase your pet’s comfort and improve their breathing.

Is it Illness-Related?

If your pet is found to have an upper respiratory illness or infection, we can treat them with the appropriate medications and antibiotics and check in with you to see if their heavy breathing is improved.

Is it Injury-Related?

Injury to the windpipe or lungs can obstruct your pet’s breathing. Surgery may be required to open up your pet’s airway, especially if they are a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed with a naturally elongated soft palate and small nostrils.

Is it Due to a Breed Characteristic?

Do you have an English Bulldog, Pug, French Bulldog, or other flat-faced breed? Due to breeding, these dogs have characteristics that, unfortunately, restrict their ability to breathe normally. Because of this, flat-faced breeds are more prone to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and can tire quickly at playtime. Be careful about over-exerting your dog during the warmer months, and pay close attention to their breathing to listen for anything unusual. Some flat-faced breeds have to see a specialist for surgery to help them breathe better.

dog on couch

When in Doubt, Take Your Dog’s Heavy Breathing Seriously

A dog breathing heavy is not always cause for concern. However, there is no harm in reaching out to your vet if you are uncertain about your pet’s condition! It is always better to be safe, and our veterinary team at 24/7 Animal Hospital of Orlando is more than happy to help.

Give our Orlando, FL, animal hospital a call at (407) 298-3807 if you have any questions about your pet!