Updated at: 24-12-2021 - By: petexpert

What does a dog hyperventilating look like, exactly? Hyperventilation in dogs is characterized by short, rapid breaths, and it may appear as though your dog is struggling to breathe. It’s the exact same phenomenon that occurs in humans. Hyperventilation in dogs is not the same thing as heavy panting or heavy breathing, though.


Why Hyperventilation Occurs in Dogs

Metabolic Acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is characterized by increased acid production due to metabolism or the reduced excretion of acids. It is relatively common in dogs, and it is most often secondary to another more serious condition. Conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis, renal failure, or respiratory dysfunction and poisoning are primary conditions that contribute to metabolic acidosis, and each must be treated in order to restore the pH balance to appropriate levels. Treatments may include dialysis, medication, or the administration of oxygen.

Getting Too Excited

Does your dog seem to hyperventilate any time you have company? Does she pant irregularly when she knows you are going to the dog park or out for a walk (activities that she regularly enjoys)? It is possible that your dog hyperventilates simply because she gets overly excited at the thought of doing something she enjoys. There is no treatment for this type of hyperventilation; however, your vet can prescribe medication if the hyperventilation presents a significant problem. Note that it is always best to rule out a respiratory ailment, heart problem, or other infection that could be causing the hyperventilation.


While dogs can hyperventilate because of sheer happiness, they can also hyperventilate because of fear and/or stress. Thunder, fireworks, loud noises – all these can elicit hyperventilation in your dog. Usually, hyperventilation is not the only symptom your pet will exhibit when stressed.  Dogs exhibiting stress will often whine or cry, yawn repetitively, pace, tremble, or hide in addition to hyperventilating. Rarely, dogs experiencing stress will break housebreaking habits and lose control of their bladder or bowels. Stress can be caused by the aforementioned situations, but trips to the vet or dog groomer or strange visitors can also frighten your dog. Your vet can prescribe medications to help them deal with anxiety.

Other Breathing Difficulties

If all other possibilities for hyperventilation have been ruled out, it is possible your dog is suffering from other ailments such as overheating, pain, Cushing’s disease, anemia, or laryngeal paralysis. Overheating due to heatstroke can cause a dog to pant rapidly, imitating hyperventilation. Pain, like stress or excitement, can also cause excessive panting. Cushing’s disease causes the adrenal glands to excrete excessive cortisol, which can cause heart ailments. Brachycephalic dogs may also exhibit excessive panting or seem to be hyperventilating due to their elongated soft palate. Brachycephalic dogs should never be allowed to get overly hot or exercise excessively due to their abnormalities which already predispose them to breathing difficulties.

No matter the cause of your dog’s excessive panting, you should always have her examined by a vet to rule out possible life-threatening ailments.


What to do if your Dog is Hyperventilating

All episodes of excessive panting should be treated as serious illnesses until your vet can rule out all possible causes of hyperventilating or excessive panting. If you suspect that your dog is panting excessively due to stress or excitement, try to remove the dog from the situation in order to help bring breathing back to normal.

It should also be stated here that owners should do their best to contain their anxiety when they witness an episode of excessive panting or hyperventilating. Your dog will often mirror your behavior, and if he or she is already upset because of breathing difficulties, your nervousness will only exacerbate the problem.

Prevention of Hyperventilating

You may not be able to prevent all episodes of hyperventilation in your dog. Your dog may simply need anxiety medications for stressful situations, and your vet may recommend a “thunder vest” if medicine is not an option you want to take. You may have to condition your pet to deal with certain situations such as the vet or groomer. If you suspect your dog has gotten too hot, immediately bring her inside and allow her rest and drink water (be sure she does not drink excessively).

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What Causes Hyperventilation In Dogs?

Apart from the rapid speed of breathing, hyperventilation is completely different from regular panting in dogs. It is more often than not associated with insidious underlying conditions that need to be urgently addressed. Here are some of these reasons that should have you worried if your dog is breathing very fast.

Allergic Reactions

Another common cause of hyperventilation and restlessness in dogs is allergies. These are usually respiratory allergies but could also be skin or even food allergies with serious complications like anaphylactic shock. In these cases, you may also notice other symptoms like skin itchiness and puffiness around the face. The dog’s heart rate may also end up being unusually high or low depending on the level of shock they are in.

Metabolic Diseases

The most commonly implicated condition in this case is metabolic acidosis. This is associated with kidney dysfunction which leaves the dog’s body unable to balance its own acid and base levels. Metabolic acidosis can also happen if the dog exercises too much in very little time and ends up producing excess levels of lactic acid in their muscles.

The dog’s body will respond by triggering faster breathing to help offset the acidity and neutralize the pH in the dog’s blood and tissues. In cases where kidney disease is the cause, urgent veterinary care is crucial for the dog’s survival.  Heart Defects

One of the leading causes of hyperventilation in puppies is heart disease. This is usually due to congenital heart diseases where the chambers of the heart or the major heart vessels fail to form properly.

The result is an upset in the normal circulation pattern for blood through the heart and lungs and to the body. With lack of enough oxygenated blood, the dog’s body triggers a hyperventilation response to try and get more air to the tissues.

Is Your Dog Hyperventilating? The Bottom Line

Hyperventilation in dogs is more common than you might think. Sometimes, it’s caused by a serious medical condition. More often, it’s related to a dog getting overly excited, a little too hot, or stressed out.

Is your dog hyperventilating frequently because of stress? A probiotic supplement can help during stressful situations by preventing and/or relieving an upset stomach. Native Pet’s all-natural Probiotic Powder is always a good choice.


Remember: Hyperventilating is characterized by short, shallow, breaths in rapid succession. Heavy panting is not the same thing as hyperventilation. If you see your dog hyperventilating and you can’t determine a cause like stress or excitement, keep a close eye on them. If they don’t calm down after a minute or so of hyperventilating, it’s time to call the vet. It’s always better to play it safe.

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