Why Is My Dog Hyperventilating ? Potential Reasons Explained

Your furry four legged doggo may be hyperventilating or panting due to various reasons. The reasons can be due to his/her sudden excitement, when they are playing with you or may be because of some certain medical conditions. So, whatever may be the cause, it can turn out to be a worrisome situation for both the dog and their respective owner if it is unnoticed all the time. If hyperventilation lasts for a longer period of time, then it may cause dizziness, tingling ,weakness etc.. In this article, we will explore all the potential reasons behind hyperventilation. We will stress on the medical reasons behind hyperventilation in dogs popularly known as “Hyperventilation Syndrome(HVS)

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What is hyperventilation in dogs?

Hyperventilation (sometimes called “Over-breathing” in simpler terms) occurs when the rate and quantity of elimination of carbon dioxide occurs at a faster rate than its production in the tissues.

So, in other way, it simply means that your dog is exhaling more than he/she is inhaling. Now the question is should you be worried about this if it happens to your furry friend? The simple answer is “No”.

In most of the cases you don’t need to worry about it. It can happen with any creature who has lungs!

The immediate consequence of hyperventilation is a decrease in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream (Hypocapnia) and increase in pH in the blood (Respiratory Alkalosis).

Is hyperventilation in dogs different from hyperventilation in human beings?

The signs and symptoms for hyperventilation is same for both dogs and human beings or in general it’s same for any creature with lungs.

Your dog may be panting due to sudden excitation or it is feeling hot. Generally while your dog is panting, because of the fast breathing, your dog’s lungs can’t be filled with oxygen properly, that means there is a lack of oxygen in the dog’s blood and it is struggling to breathe properly.

The panting or fast breathing can last for a shorter amount of time. If it persists for a longer than usual, then it is an indication of some serious medical issues and you should consult with your vet for that.

Signs and symptoms for hyperventilation in dogs

As we have already discussed, in the case of hyperventilation, the alveolar carbon dioxide pressure decreases. In that case, the dog’s body wants to compensate for this change metabolically. If it is not possible to compensate metabolically, then it will increase the blood pH level.

The signs and symptoms for hyperventilation in dogs varies depending upon the reason and it also sometimes depend on the particular dog breed.

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Signs of hyperventilation in dogs

  1. Dizziness
  2. Weakness
  3. Tingling
  4. Short and rapid breathing
  5. Blue or pale pink mucous membranes
  6. Fainting and seizures
  7. Drooling while open mouth breathing

In extreme cases, due to excess ventilation, it will cause contraction of the hands and feet and spasms of flapping.

If you look into the above signs, you will see that blue or pale pink mucous membranes are the sign of hyperventilation in dogs. Generally, when your dog is panting because of excitement or while playing with you, it may breathe very fast but that is a short term phenomena and you won’t observe the change in colors in mucous membranes. If it is sustained for a longer period, then inner cheeks and gum can turn blue or pale pink. 

If that’s the case, you shouldn’t waste any further time and consult with your vet as early as possible.

The reasons behind weakness and dizziness in your dog are due to hyperventilation because your dog is struggling to breathe and the breathing pattern is short and rapid which creates dizziness and weakness.

Causes of hyperventilation in dogs

There can be many reasons why your dog is hyperventilating. Here, we will discuss major medical conditions which lead to hyperventilation in your dog.

Psychological and emotional stress

Physiological and emotional stress or an anxious feeling increases the heart rate and causes Vasoconstriction (it means narrowing of blood vessels). Hyperventilation may be caused by this and sustained by panic attack and excessive emotional stress.

Serious pain

If your puppy is in serious pain, it can hyperventilate. When some body tissues of your puppy get damaged, it releases chemicals and the brain will respond to the stimulus and increase the heart rate. 

High altitude hyperventilation

If you are on a mountain trip and your furry doggo is in a vacation mood with you, it can sometimes hyperventilate due to higher altitude because at higher altitude, the air is less dense and contains fewer oxygen molecules.

So your puppy struggles to breathe. Your furry dog’s body will then compensate it by increasing the flow of fresh air through their lungs that means by hyperventilating it will try to compensate. So, up to 8000 feet is quite okay, after that it can cause some hyper altitude hyperventilation for your dog especially if it has a past record of respiratory disorders.

Head injury and stroke

In case of Cerebral injury or Cerebral Vasoconstriction of your dog, hyperventilation helps to reduce the blood flow and volume to decrease the oxygen supply in the injured and as well as in the normal areas. Here in this case, hyperventilation decreases the Intracranial Pressure and relaxes the brain .

In case of respiratory disorders and infections like Pneumonia swelling occurs and it builds up extra fluid in the tiny air sacs of your puppy’s lungs. For that reason, your puppy may breathe very fast which cause hyperventilation.

Pulmonary embolism

Pulmonary Embolism symptoms vary from case to case. The variation depends on how much your furry dog’s lungs are involved, whether it has any previous history of lung and heart disorders or not and the size of the blood clot. 

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Pulmonary embolism is a serious medical condition that is a blood clot which occurs generally on the large veins (in legs) and then comes to the lungs through flowing bloodstream. In that case, difficulty in breathing and significant shortness of breathing are observed.

Anaemia

We all know that in blood, Hemoglobin is present which is a iron rich protein that helps red blood cells to carry oxygen from your dog’s lungs to other parts of the body. If your dog is suffering from Anaemia, then his/her body’s blood cells are unable to carry enough oxygen and as a result your puppy is feeling dizzy and weak.

Laryngeal paralysis

Some dog breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters develop Laryngeal paralysis generally when they become old. Laryngeal paralysis is mainly observed in humid, hot weather. It occurs when the muscles that hold the airways open for smoother breathing experience for your doggo is not working properly. This can cause a dog to hyperventilate to compensate this issue.

Anaphylaxis

Adverse reaction to certain drugs, vaccines or allergic reaction to a sting bite sometimes cause anaphylaxis in your dogs. For that reason, hyperventilation may be seen. Once it affects the respiratory system of your dog, it experiences shortness and difficulty in breathing which sometimes can worsen the situation.

Collapsing trachea

Trachea is the air passage which helps your dog to flow air from the voice box to the lungs. Some dog breeds like Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, and Pomeranians are predisposed to tracheal collapse but it can happen to any dog breed. Researchers suspected that some genetic factor was involved in those cases. 

In case of collapsing Trachea, the cartilage inside the trachea starts to collapse.

The clinical signs of collapsing Trachea are persistent, dry and harsh cough.

What is reverse sneezing? Is it something serious?

Reverse sneezing (also known as backward sneezing ) occurs when your dog’s back portion in the throat, sinuses get irritated . 

A reverse sneeze is more like a natural phenomena for dogs as their passageway is long.

If there is some irritation on the frontal part, they will sneeze like humans! Trying to blow it out.

But if there are some irritations on the back of the throat, then they will reverse sneeze. It’s more like snorting!

This reverse sneezing can cause temporary hyperventilation which should not be the concern for the dog owners. It is more generally observed in small brachycephalic dogs like Pugs etc..

Treatment of hyperventilation in dogs

If your dog is panting or hyperventilating for a short amount of time mainly due to sudden excitation, then you should not worry about it. It’s a natural process for them. If hyperventilation is sustained for a longer amount of time and your dog has a previous history of respiratory and heart disorders, then you have to consult with your vet. The reasons that we all mention earlier  are serious medical concerns which needs proper medication and surgery. For example, if your dog is suffering from laryngeal paralysis and collapsing trachea, then it can be treated by both proper medication and surgery. Surgery is done to correct the breathing patterns of your furry doggo. Bronchodilators like Theophylline, steroids, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) etc. are used generally to manage and reduce the frequency. 

However, it is not at all suggested to use medications without proper vet checkup and consultation because unnecessary medications can also cause adverse drug reactions which can further worsen the situation.

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Reasons of heavy breathing in dogs

Dogs are very social animals, and they love to spend time with their owners. However, sometimes a dog might seem like it’s breathing heavily or have other symptoms that indicate an underlying respiratory problem. Here are five things you need to know about heavy breathing in dogs.

  1. Heavy breathing may be caused by certain breeds of dogs, such as hounds and terriers. 
  2. Dogs who breathe too heavily will often pant excessively to cool themselves down because they can’t sweat through the skin on their faces like humans do. 
  3. Other causes include anxiety, pain from arthritis in the chest or throat region, heart problems including congestive heart failure (CHF) which is when your left ventricle becomes enlarged due to a buildup of fluid on the heart. 
  4. Dogs may also have difficulty breathing while they sleep because of their dreams. The dream causes an increase in their metabolism and makes it harder for them to breathe.
  5. If your dog is experiencing any kind of respiratory problems, you should always talk with your vet about what could be causing the problem and find a solution together.

Can separation anxiety cause hyperventilation in dogs?

Separation anxiety can cause a lot of stress for both the dog and his owner. But it’s not just about being left alone, there are other factors that can lead to an increase in symptoms such as hyperventilation.

Dogs may pant excessively or even have trouble breathing because they feel anxious when separated from their human companions. It’s important to understand the signs so you know what your pup is going through during this time and how to help them cope with these feelings.

It’s important to know that there are many reasons why a dog might start breathing heavily including heat or exercise overload, an injury or illness, fear of loud noises, pain from surgery or other medical procedure such as dental work.

If your dog has recently had any type of stressful event in their life you should be aware that they may show signs of stress like rapid panting which could be the result of separation anxiety.

If you notice your pup exhibiting these symptoms when you leave them home alone for long periods of time, consult with your vet about treatment options that could help alleviate the issue!

What can I do to prevent my dog from hyperventilation?

Some causes of hyperventilation can easily be prevented by eliminating the root cause like if your dog is hyperventilating due to extreme heat, then keeping it out from extreme heat can help you to prevent this situation. You can also prevent over excitation of your dogs by using harness rather than a collar. Try to avoid exposure to irritants like tobacco smoke etc..

But if the cause of hyperventilation is much more serious, then proper medication (mentioned previously) and surgery should be performed to overcome that.

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Immad Amir

Immad has a black Labrador who is his first child. With no prior experience of how to take care of his pooch, Immad started researching about what dogs love to eat. This blog is a journal of all the research Immad has done regarding a pet's diet.
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