Heavy breathing or panting can be described as rapid labored breathing by an Australian Shepherd which is not a normal breathing pattern.
The average breathing rate of the Australian Shepherd is between 15 to 35 breaths per minute while at rest and a breathing rate higher than this translates to heavy breathing.
It is normal for an Australian Shepherd to breathe heavily or pant after exercising, playing, walking, or during hot weather.
However, generally, dog breathing should not be difficult and you need to differentiate when it’s normal and when you need a visit to the veterinarian.
So what causes heavy breathing in Australian Shepherds?
In this article, we will dive into the reasons why Australian Shepherd heavy breathing occurs, the complications, and when to seek help.
Why is my Australian Shepherd breathing heavy?
An Australian Shepherd breathing heavily or fast occurs due to various reasons including illness, anxiety, pain, heatstroke, medication, smoke inhalation, and vigorous activity. Panting helps a dog to cool down but it can also be due to an underlying health condition.
Common Reasons for Australian Shepherd Breathing Fast
Heavy breathing can be due to an underlying health problem that causes an Australian Shepherd to have rapid breathing.
Respiratory disorders, Cushing’s disease, and heart failure are diseases that cause heavy breathing along with other symptoms.
Respiratory disorders include respiratory infection, tracheal collapse, and laryngeal paralysis.
When an Australian Shepherd is stressed or anxious they tend to be restless, irritable, and have an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath.
Common reasons for anxiety in Australian Shepherd include fear, abandonment, trauma, travel, loud noise, new environments, people, or other pets.
Trauma or injury can lead to an Australian Shepherd breathing heavily because of the pain experienced. The injury could be external or internal causing discomfort and pain.
An injured Australian Shepherd will also show other signs indicating they are experiencing pain such as loss of appetite, restlessness, enlarged pupils, reluctance to be touched or to lie down, licking of the injured area, and anxiety.
Panting or heavy breathing can also be due to overheating. This occurs when an Australian Shepherd’s temperature rises due to extreme heat from its environment.
This leads to heat stroke which is fatal. Signs of an Australian Shepherd with heatstroke include heavy breathing, drooling, glassy eyes, weakness, increased heart rate, increased body temperatures, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
If an Australian Shepherd is under medication, some medication can lead to heavy breathing.
Smoke inhalation occurs when an Australian Shepherd inhales smoke from products on combustion. The smoke inhaled causes inflammation of the lungs and airways which swell and prevent oxygen uptake.
This leads to respiratory distress and an Australian Shepherd breathing heavy in an attempt to breathe to get more oxygen
It is normal for an Australian Shepherd to breathe heavily after exertion from vigorous activity such as exercise or from playing.
During these activities, the muscles of a dog require more oxygen, therefore, the heart pumps faster to supply more blood to the organs and the lungs supply the oxygen, which results in heavier breathing and rapid heartbeat.
Heavy breathing for an Australian Shepherd is not normal and should always be taken as an emergency especially when it’s not due to normal activities such as exercise or hot weather.
Because breathing heavily can be caused by various conditions that can be life-threatening it is important to seek medical help.
If left untreated, the condition can lead to fatal outcomes and even death.
What To Do When Your Australian Shepherd is Breathing Fast
Pay attention to your dog’s breathing and assess if it is due to normal vigorous activity or due to hot weather when they are cooling down.
Look out for the following signs which are a cause of concern that mean medical attention is required:
- Rapid breathing with no reason for it such as exercise playing running or being in hot weather
- Excessive drooling
- Heavy breathing especially while sleeping or resting
- Shallow rapid breathing
- Rapid breathing without their tongue sticking out
- Heavy breathing while standing and unwillingness to lie down
- Difficulty in breathing (being out of breath)
- Production of other sounds (squeaks or grunts) when breathing
- Pale or blue-tinged gums
- Rapid breathing that also engages the stomach muscles
The veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination of your dog and also different diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the heavy breathing.
Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause. This includes the administration of medication to treat stress or other illnesses.
Oxygen therapy may also be recommended or hospitalization in severe cases.
Recommended reading: Australian Shepherd hiccups: Causes and how to help
Panting or heavy breathing is normal in all dogs. However, in some cases, it can be due to medical conditions.
When you notice that your Australian Shepherd is breathing heavily, assess the factors that might be causing it whether it is due to vigorous activities such as exercise or hot weather.
If you cannot pinpoint exactly what could be the cause of the heavy breathing, always contact your veterinarian to determine the cause because it can be due to a serious underlying illness.