A closer look: Rapid Breathing (Tachypnea) in Dogs
Respiratory rates vary from dog to dog and are affected by many external causes, so tachypnea as a single symptom can be difficult to identify. Additionally, a healthy dog’s respiratory rate is quite high whenever the dog is panting. To determine if a dog’s respiratory rate is abnormally high, it must be measured while the dog is at rest or sleeping. A dog’s normal resting respiratory rate is usually less than 30 breaths per minute. Any time a dog’s respiratory rate is consistently over 30 breaths per minute while the dog is sleeping, veterinary attention is indicated.
Tachypnea that is persistent or getting worse warrants emergency veterinary attention, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms.
Tachypnea is associated with a multitude of underlying conditions that directly affect the breathing system.
Tachypnea is also a primary symptom of pain and stress in dogs, and is associated with painful conditions.
Tachypnea also occurs with any illness that raises acidity of the blood.
Tachypnea is caused by many illnesses and situations, so the severity and concern warranted also varies. Tachypnea can be caused by environmental factors such as stress, exhaustion, or heat, or be a signifier of a more serious underlying cause such as a tumor, toxicosis, or severe lung disease.
Brachycephalic breeds are predisposed to tachypnea, but dogs of any age and breed can present with this symptom.
Testing and diagnosis
Identifying the area of distress is crucial to diagnosing the cause of tachypnea.
When no respiratory distress is present, the source of tachypnea may be unrelated to the respiratory system.
- Physical exam
- Blood work
- Diagnostic imaging
Due to the many potential causes of tachypnea, treatment varies greatly depending on the underlying condition.
Supportive care during treatment frequently includes oxygen therapy.
Dyspnea is often seen alongside tachypnea, but their causes are not always related. Dyspnea is difficulty breathing, while tachypnea is an increased rate of breathing.