Symptoms of Dog Respiratory Failure

Dogs should only pant heavily after exercise.
Dogs should only pant heavily after exercise. (Image: Black Dog image by Margie Peters from <a href=''></a>)

Canine respiratory failure can result from a number of different health problems, including pneumonia, kennel cough, asthma and tracheal collapse. These issues can be severe, especially if they are left untreated, and the sooner the issue is identified, the more effective the treatment will be. Recognizing canine respiratory failure is an important part of looking after your dog's health.


Cyanosis occurs when the dog's blood cannot carry oxygen effectively. A purplish or bluish coloration of the the dog's gums, tongue and lips are a sign of cyanosis, as are foot pads that are have a bluish or purplish tinge. This is a serious symptom of respiratory failure in dogs and the dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.

Fast, Shallow Breaths

When a dog takes fast, shallow breaths, he is trying to pull more air into his body. This is a natural response to exertion, but it can also be a sign of shock, pain or discomfort. Fast panting that occurs without a visible cause is a serious concern. The dog should be taken to the veterinarian.

Loud Breathing

If you can hear the dog taking labored breaths or otherwise making noise when he breathes, it is a sign of respiratory distress. It may mean that the dog has something lodged in his throat, or it can mean that the dog is suffering from liquid in the lungs or heart failure. Trauma like a torn diaphragm or vocal cord paralysis can also cause loud breathing.

Lack of Appetite

A dog who is in pain from respiratory failure may be uninterested in food. He might only eat a few mouthfuls or it might turn away from food entirely. Refusing food, especially more than once a day, can be a sign of many different health issues and it means that the dog should be watched closely.


A dog's normal temperature should rest between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Signs of fever include panting and increased heart rate. Fever in a dog can indicate that the dog is suffering from pneumonia, which is an inflammation of the lungs from a fungal or bacterial infection.

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