When they are completely at rest, dogs should take 15 to 30 breaths per minute, regardless of any pathologies they might have. If your dog is breathing slower or faster than these limits, you should feel a little concerned and take them to the veterinary clinic.
In today’s article, we’re looking at what high and low respiratory rates are and when they can be normal or pathological. Read on to find out more!
The respiratory rate can differ from one dog to the next
While the average breathing rate that a dog is supposed to have is indeed 15 to 30 breaths per minute, this number can actually vary a lot from one breed to the other. When you bring your canine friend to the veterinary clinic, the vet will usually measure the breaths per 10 or 20 seconds and multiply that so that they get an average per minute.
But the most important thing is that the dog should be completely at rest in order for the respiratory rate to be relevant. If your dog is overly stressed because you’ve taken them to the animal hospital, you will need to wait until they calm down in order for the vet to be able to measure the respiratory rate properly.
As previously mentioned, there are some differences among breeds. Consequently, large dogs will take fewer breaths compared to their small counterparts, therefore breathing around 15 times per minute. Small dogs can breathe 25 to 30 times per minute.
Puppies have an average of 20 breaths per minute, too, so they’re somewhat in the middle of adult large and small breeds.
What causes an increased respiratory rate?
Also known as tachypnea, an increased respiratory rate can have physiological and pathological causes.
The physiological factors typically consist of an attempt of the dog’s body to compensate for something – whether your dog’s trying to cool down faster or compensate for the fact that they’ve engaged in strenuous exercise and it takes time for them to get back to normal, a higher respiratory rate is perfectly normal in these situations.
Pathologically, an increase in the respiratory rate can be caused by respiratory disease (edema, for example, causes a dog to take more shallow breaths because they can’t fully breathe in), blood circulation issues where the blood isn’t getting enough oxygen, and the amount of it that reaches the organs is insufficient (poisoning, carbon monoxide exposure, etc.), or neuromuscular disease.
Quick breathing can be a sign of shock in the event of an accident, too, but it can also show up if the animal has a fever and they’re trying to cool down using this method.
Any condition that leads to pain can cause rapid breathing because, in this case, it is a form of coping mechanism. Here are some other examples of conditions that can lead to the same symptom:
- Heat stroke
- Windpipe issues
- Foreign objects
Some breeds are more likely to breathe faster due to their anatomies, such as Boston Terriers and Pugs.
What causes a decreased respiratory rate?
Also known as bradypnea, a decreased respiratory rate is rarely normal. If your dog is a small breed and they’re taking fewer than 10-15 breaths per minute, you should feel worried and take them to the vet – even if they aren’t showing any other clinical signs.
Bradypnea can occur in certain health conditions, such as damage to the respiratory nerve centers that regulate breathing – which can obviously occur in the event of accidents.
Bradypnea can also happen as a result of poisoning, lung disease, choking, and heart disease. Other potential causes are listed below:
- Injuries to the chest wall
- Pulmonary cancer
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Fungal infections
How to evaluate your dog’s breathing at home
Evaluating your dog’s breathing in the comfort of your home is particularly important if you are caring for a pet that has chronic heart disease (or other conditions that might make blood oxygenation or normal breathing problematic).
Dogs that are older than 8 or 9 are more predisposed to various chronic conditions, including cardiac pathologies – especially if they also have obesity or diabetes and aren’t getting the right amount of exercise that they should.
Count your dog’s number of breaths per 30 seconds and multiply it by 2 to find out their respiratory rate. If your dog is taking less than 30 breaths per minute and they are not exhibiting any other symptoms, chances are that nothing is out of the ordinary.
If your dog’s taking fewer than 15 breaths per minute or more than 30 breaths per minute, you should count the rate a couple of more times to make sure that it’s correct and then contact your veterinarian.
Checking your dog’s breathing rate at home is important, especially if your dog lives with heart disease. Cardiac patients need to have their respiratory rate checked at least once a day, depending on how severe their condition is.
Heart disease and changes in the respiratory rate of dogs
The problem with heart disease, especially heart failure, is that it is rarely associated with particular symptoms. Most animals develop respiratory signs first, and when they’re taken to the veterinary clinic, they are usually diagnosed with a heart complication ‘by surprise’.
Cardiac pathologies are varied, and they can produce a wide range of additional symptoms. The majority of dogs that develop them will have a respiratory rate faster than normal in a desperate attempt to properly oxygenate their blood flow.
Other signs you might notice are the following:
- Inability to exercise properly
- Lack of interest in food or water
- A large abdomen
- A respiratory rate higher than 30 per minute, even when fully at rest
The respiratory rate is an essential vital in dogs as it can let pet owners know if something is wrong and if their canine companion requires veterinary assistance. If your dog is not taking 15 to 30 breaths per minute when they are resting or sleeping, they might need to be seen by a vet.