Determining your dog's normal respiration rate is an important skill to have as a pet owner. If you know what is normal for your dog, and how to quickly check his respiration rate, you will be able to relay vital information to your veterinarian in a health crisis. With a little practice, checking your dog's respiration will become second nature.
What Is Normal?
The normal respiration rate for an adult dog is 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Toy breeds and puppies have a higher respiration rate; normal for them is 15 to 40 breaths per minute. While panting, a dog's respiration rate increases dramatically, and he can take up to 200 breaths per minute.
To measure your dog's respiration, you can watch his chest expand with each inhalation, you can wet your finger and put it in front of one of his nostrils or you can hold a small mirror in front of his nostrils. Count each breath for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to determine his respiration rate. Practice counting your dog's respiration when you are both hanging out at home and relaxed, so you will be comfortable doing it if an emergency arises.
Dogs don't sweat the way humans do, they can sweat through their pads, and they can cool their body by panting. If your dog has a reason to pant, because it is hot or he has been exercising, there is no reason for concern. If your dog is panting for no apparent reason, he may have a serious medical condition, and you should contact your veterinarian.
When To Worry
Aside from the number of breaths your dog takes each minute, there are other signs that something may be wrong. If you notice your dog's abdomen is expanding more than his chest, he is making loud gasping noises, his breathing sounds shallow or he is breathing with his mouth open, you should contact your veterinarian.
Other changes in respiration that may indicate trouble include a sudden change in your dog's breathing, breathing with his mouth open, labored breathing, louder-than-normal breathing, wheezing or raspy noises while breathing and standing with an unusual posture, such as pushing his head and neck down and spreading his elbows wide. If breathing changes are combined with other changes, such as increased anxiety or loss of appetite, be sure to let your veterinarian know this as well. A cough that brings up excess mucus or blood combined with rapid respiration is an immediate cause for concern.
Causes of Respiration Issues
Your dog may experience an increase in his respiration rate with no health-related issues due to a change in his emotional state, such as excitement, fear or anxiety. Other reasons for rapid respiration include overheating, fever, dehydration and low blood oxygen, as well as serious health issues, such as anemia and congestive heart failure. Shock as a result of trauma, such as being hit by a car, or an anaphylactic reaction can cause either rapid or decreased respiration.