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Health Topics  >  Respiratory  >  Difficulty Breathing

What causes breathing difficulties in dogs?

By Dr. Alison Norwich, DVM.  Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Davis, MVB

There are many different reasons your dog may be having difficulty breathing.

Fortunately, the particular way that your dog is breathing often will give clues as to the cause of the issue. In fact, it’s always a good idea to try to capture a video of your dog’s breathing issue if you can (otherwise you may find yourself acting it out in the vet’s office!).

The following lists include the most common reasons for various types of breathing difficulties in dogs:

 

Laboured Breathing (Excessive Effort)

  • Heart disease (enlarged heart +/- congestive heart failure)
  • Pneumonia (infection in the lungs)
  • Bronchitis (inflammation of the airways)
  • Trauma (ie: injury to chest wall, bleeding in the lungs)
  • Airway Obstruction (ie: foreign object like a toy or ball)
  • Brachycephalic Conformation (ie: squish-faced dogs like pugs with very small nostrils or large soft palates)
  • Paroxysmal Breathing (aka reverse sneeze syndrome)
  • Bloated or fluid filled abdomen (ie: dogs with a twisted stomach)
  • Enlarged organ or tumor in abdomen (ie: dog with a big liver that pushes on diaphragm)

 

Rapid Breathing

  • Heart disease (congestive heart failure)
  • Pleural space disease (fluid or air AROUND the lungs)
  • Anemia (lack of red blood cells to carry oxygen to cells)
  • Cancer (primary lung tumor or other cancer that has spread to lungs)

 

Excessive Panting

  • Hyperthermia/ Heat Stroke
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Pain
  • Anxiety

 

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