Dog Breathing Problems: We Explore Some Causes and Home Remedies
Christopher Kjolseth - June 1st 2020
Accuracy Review & Edit: Nicole Wanner, DVM - July 19th 2021
Nobody likes to see their pup suffer, and witnessing dog breathing problems can be especially scary. In this blog, we take a look at the symptoms, causes, and some home remedies for dog breathing problems.
It's important to know that home remedies are not always an option; if your dog is having severe breathing difficulties, you should get them to a vet as fast as possible.
If they stop breathing, you should absolutely head to an emergency veterinarian right away. You can perform rescue breaths and/or CPR on the way there. We’ll discuss breathing emergencies in more detail below.
Table Of Contents
It's not always easy to tell the difference between a harmless dog reverse sneeze, and a more serious breathing problem like kennel cough. If you see any of the following symptoms, your dog may have a breathing problem.
- Rapid breathing
- Noisy breathing (snoring, wheezing, choking)
- Breathing with head low and extended toward the ground
- Flared nostrils
- Breathing through mouth without panting
Some breeds with short snouts like Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, or French Bulldogs often develop breathing problems; the reason for this is usually that the opening in their nose is too small. As a general rule, the more flat the face, the more likely the dog is to have breathing problems.
Dogs have a normal breathing rate of 20-40 breaths per minute, unless they are panting, in which case the rate will be higher. Smaller dogs tend to breathe slightly faster, while large dogs breathe more slowly. They should breathe comfortably, without much effort or noise. Pay attention to how your dog breathes at rest and while exercising to help you notice any new changes.
Dogs will often have breathing problems when laying down, walking, or at night. The extra pressure on their chest and throat caused by exercising, or by laying down can amplify the symptoms of an underlying breathing problem.
To have the best chance at improving your dog's heavy breathing, you must identify the underlying cause.
There are several reasons why your dog is breathing heavily, and some are more serious than others. Here are some of the most common:
- Predisposed breed (Bulldog, French Bulldog, Pug, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, Mastiff, Boxer)
- Asthma/ Seasonal allergies
- Kennel cough
- Heart disease
- Traumatic injury
Though most people would prefer home remedies to dog breathing problems, in some cases, you must get your dog to the vet. Severe breathing problems can cause death, and the faster you get your dog to the vet, the better their chances of survival will be.
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should immediately take your dog to the vet:
- Not breathing/collapsed
- Blue or white tongue and gums (some breeds, like Chow Chows, have blue tongues normally)
- Severe pawing at mouth
- Gasping for breath
In cases where your dog has stopped breathing or is choking, you must act as fast as possible.
- Look in their throat to check if a foreign object blocks it.
- If there is an object, you can attempt to remove it carefully by sweeping a finger inside the mouth. Do not place any tools (tweezers, pliers, etc.) in your dog’s mouth or throat to try and remove an object, as this can cause more damage. If you can’t see an object but suspect your dog is choking, you can try the dog Heimlich maneuver.
- If there is no object blocking their throat, you can administer CPR. Learn about performing CPR and rescue breaths on dogs here.
- Take your dog to the nearest veterinarian as quickly as possible, either during CPR (if you have someone to drive) or after, even if your dog recovers. You can also call the vet for emergency advice over the phone while you get ready to leave.
Even if they are not an emergency, persistent breathing issues lasting days or weeks still warrant a vet visit. The symptoms could be a sign of a bigger problem.
In less severe cases, you may be able to use home remedies for dog breathing problems. These can help your dog live a more comfortable life and reduce some of the symptoms we mentioned earlier.
- Stay out of hot and humid environments. Dogs don't sweat like we do, meaning they are more prone to breathing problems caused by hot and humid climates. Use air conditioning or open windows and doors to create a cooler environment. Flat-nosed dog breeds are especially prone to increased breathing problems in hot weather. Make sure you provide shade and lots of water.
- Reduce excitement or exercise. If you think your dogs breathing problems are related to old age, perhaps decrease the amount of activity they have, or exercise at a slower pace.
- CBD. While there isn't a lot of research on CBD as a treatment for dog breathing problems. A 2013 animal study concluded that CBD "may have beneficial effects in the treatment of obstructive airway disorders." (Read more about CBD oil for dogs) Never use CBD to replace one of your dog’s existing medications unless your veterinarian approves it.
- Antihistamines. If your pup suffers from Hay fever, bee stings, allergies, or inflamed nostrils, you may want to try an antihistamine like Benadryl for dogs. The general rule of thumb for dosage is 1 mg per pound every 8 hours.
- Sterile Nasal drops. If your dog has a dry or congested nose , you may want to try sterile nasal drops. (two drops each nostril)
- Purchase an oxygen mask for dogs and tank. While home oxygen therapy for dogs is uncommon, your vet may talk to you about it if your dog is very sick.
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