Difficult or labored breathing is a very serious and potentially life threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Signs of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Open mouth breathing
- Abdomen heaves with every breath
- Fast and short breaths (hyperventilating)
- Breathing is noisy (raspy or congested)
- Nostrils flare open when breathing
- Gum color is grey or blue instead of pink
- Tongue is blue or purple instead of pink
What You Can Do Until an Emergency Veterinary Visit
- Make sure that your dog has a clear airway. Check for objects stuck in the back of the throat, gently wipe away any discharge coming out of the nose, etcetera.
- Dogs who are having trouble breathing are usually very stressed and anxious. Avoid doing anything that might cause additional stress to your dog (e.g., chasing your dog, restraining him/her while he/she is struggling to get away from you).
Common Causes of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Heart disease
- "Kennel Cough" with severe nasal discharge
- Foreign object stuck in the back of the throat
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
Treatment of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Treatment of the underlying medical issue.
- Dogs with severe difficulty breathing difficulties may require supplemental oxygen, which will involve a stay at a veterinary hospital.
- Medication to help your dog breathe (e.g., bronchodilators, steroidal anti-inflammatories) may be given.
- Heart medications may be needed if your dog has a heart condition.
- Removal of any foreign bodies obstructing the respiratory tract.
- Activity restriction, at least until the breathing problem is significantly improved.