Why and what to do?

Like humans, dogs oxygenate their blood through breathing, which consists of an inspiratory and expiratory phase. This phenomenon must be distinguished from panting, a normal physiological process aimed at lowering the animal’s body temperature. A dog that is breathing rapidly or labored (increased breathing rate or unusually long or heavy breathing) may have an underlying disease.

Who hasn’t worried when they discovered their dog lying down and panting like a machine after a messy football game? And that extra-large tongue hanging out? Don’t panic, a dog that is breathing heavily is, in most cases, a hot dog!

panted the dogs

Sighing: a normal process in dogs

Panting in dogs consists of breathing with the mouth open and the tongue hanging out, quickly and emitting a loud breathing noise. This is a normal physiological phenomenon in cats. This allows them to regulate their body temperature. That’s why a dog suffocates when:

  • He’s hot
  • He has just made an effort that increases his internal temperature due to the activity of the muscles

Unlike humans, dogs have very few sudoriferous (sweat producing) glands. So if he is hot, he cannot cool himself; he does that with his tongue! The panting of the dog allows the exchange of temperature between the animal and the atmosphere, through the evaporation of humidity in the oral cavity (like the evaporation of sweat on our skin).

So if your dog is panting and panting when it’s hot or just playing fetch or jogging, that’s normal! Put him in the shade and give him something to drink.

If the dog is panting abnormally

Be careful, however, if the temperature outside is very high and your dog is playing sports or locked in a car, heavy panting can be a sign of heat stroke. The rectal temperature is then very high (more than 40 °). The dog may show signs of anxiety or, in the opposite of the worst cases, a change in his consciousness. You can cool your dog down by wrapping him in a wet cloth before taking him to the veterinary emergency room.

Some dogs also pant when stressed or in pain. Some signs are immediate like licking the lips.

A labored breathing can be a symptom of laryngeal paralysis. This disease associated with a malfunction of the larynx in the throat is common in Labradors.

Dogs of brachycephalic breeds (French Bulldog, Pug, English Bulldog, etc.) tend to pant a lot, often loudly. What is considered normal for these breeds is actually a sign of chronic respiratory failure associated with respiratory obstructive syndrome in brachycephalic breeds. If your animal is in this case, a consultation with a specialist veterinarian is necessary to determine if your dog can benefit from surgery to help him breathe (removal of the soft palate, enlargement of the nostrils, etc.).

Neal Bryant/Shutterstock

Respiratory failure in dogs

Some dogs can breathe easily without panting. This sign, very carefully, may indicate a serious pathology.

The normal respiratory rate of dogs

The breathing rate is equal to the number of breathing cycles (inspiration / expiration) per minute. Concretely, you need to observe your dog and count how many times his chest rises every minute. You can also put your hand on his ribs to make the count (especially in long-haired animals where breathing movements can be more difficult to observe).

The breathing rate of a resting dog is between 10 and 25 movements per minute. The bigger the dog, the lower its respiratory rate.

When the dog’s respiratory rate goes into overdrive

Increased respiratory rate can be a sign of respiratory failure, itself linked to a disease (bacterial, viral or parasitic lung infection, edema, tumor, heart disease, anemia, etc.). High frequency can also be caused by fever or pain. In all cases, additional examinations are necessary to determine the cause of the increase in the dog’s breathing rate: imaging (radiography, ultrasound, scanner, etc.), blood tests, analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid , and so on. cough, loss of appetite, etc.).

Difficulty breathing is indicated by a dog making rapid and very large respiratory movements, usually with the mouth open. His mucous membranes will be blue. In this case, it is important to calm down the animal and take it to a veterinarian without delay.

A dog with fast or labored breathing is not necessarily sick! Resting respiratory rate is a good indicator of lung health.

Isabelle Vixege

veterinary doctor

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