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Dog Hyperventilating: Why it Happens and How to Help

Dog panting heavily and hyperventilating
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Few symptoms are scarier for pet parents than a dog that can’t stop panting, and the question that’s likely top of mind is whether you’re dealing with an emergency. 

If your dog has been hyperventilating due to heat exposure and hasn’t stopped panting despite attempts to cool her off, seek veterinary attention immediately. She could be suffering from heat stroke which can be life-threatening. If she’s panting uncontrollably for no apparent reason, call your veterinarian to figure out next steps. 

Otherwise? Read on to learn why dogs hyperventilate, what to do when it happens, and how to help prevent it. 

Can Dogs Hyperventilate? 

Dog standing head tilted wondering what owner is doing

“Dogs do not tend to hyperventilate the way humans do,” says Dr. Leni Kaplan, a veterinarian at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Most documented cases of hyperventilation in dogs occur when they’re under anesthesia due to pain or complications. 

That said, dogs can heavily pant or breathe rapidly—which we often casually refer to as hyperventilation. 

“Sometimes, it can sound raspy or congested depending on the cause, but typically it just looks like the dog is taking quick, short breaths,” says Dr. Laura Robinson, lead veterinary advisor to Pawp

Why Is My Dog Hyperventilating?

Dog head tilted looking to camera

It’s normal for a pup to pant after vigorous exercise like a long game of fetch, a walk outside on a hot day, or stressful situations like a visit to the veterinarian’s office, night full of fireworks, or long car ride

A dog with separation anxiety may breathe heavily while you’re gone. 

And certain dog breeds with flat faces like Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Pugs are prone to breathing problems like frequent panting. 

But “dogs don’t usually hyperventilate except for normal panting unless there is a medical problem, often a serious medical problem,” says Dr. Lucas White, a veterinarian at Sunset Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Oklahoma. 

This could happen for a slew of different reasons such as: 

Dog Hyperventilating Signs

Dog heavily panting outside

Depending on the cause, a hyperventilating dog may also show additional symptoms of concern. 

These may include: 

  • Pacing or reluctance to settle down  
  • Lethargy or unresponsiveness  
  • Shaking, tremors, or seizures  
  • Drooling
  • Vocalizations like crying or howling 
  • Limping 
  • Licking or biting a certain area 
  • Coughing 
  • Purple or pale gums 
  • Excessive thirst and urination 

How to Stop a Dog from Hyperventilating

Anxious dog heavily panting

The key to stopping hyperventilation is identifying and treating the source of the problem. If your dog seems to be breathing quickly due to a clear cause—like the sight of grooming tools—her breathing should calm down within 15 to 20 minutes once the trigger has been removed.  

If your dog hasn’t stopped panting or is hyperventilating in her sleep or for no readily apparent reason, seek veterinary attention ASAP. 

Dog Hyperventilating: Prevention

Dog walking on the beach on a very nice day

Because hyperventilation in dogs can be caused by so many conditions, it’s not always avoidable. However, there are some steps you can take to protect your dog from common problems at the root of heavy breathing. 

“Preventing situations that contribute to dogs’ being hyperstimulated, anxious, or overheating is the best step pet parents can take to help their dogs,” says Dr. Kaplan. 

For example, if seeing other dogs on a leash sets your pup off, consult with a trainer to ease her into a healthier reaction. Positive reinforcement (read: plenty of dog treats) can help dogs learn to build confidence and feel calm in situations that may otherwise make them super anxious. 

To prevent overheating, limit outdoor activities on hot and humid days, stick to shady and breezy areas as much as possible, always keep a fresh supply of water available, and never leave your dog inside a car alone—not even for a short period of time. 

When rapid breathing is related to anxiety, a multi-modal approach including regular exercise and play, training, supplements, and possibly prescription medications is often necessary, says Dr. Kaplan. In this case, it’s best to schedule a consultation with your veterinarian to determine the best plan of action for your pet. 

Products to Help Anxious Dogs

Dog taking a treat from owner outside to help calm down because dog hyperventilating

Often, hyperventilation serves as a sign of an underlying health condition in need of treatment. But for common issues like stress, anxiety, or allergies, some over-the-counter products may help your pup breathe a little easier. 

Here are five to consider adding to your cart. 

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

The Anxious Pet Organic Hemp Oil 

Organic Hemp Oil from Anxious Pet

With a veterinarian-approved formulation that contains organic cannabinoid oil and fractionated coconut oil, this easy-to-use product from The Anxious Pet is a safe and effective way to ease your dog’s anxiety and support a good night’s sleep. 

Highlights: 

  • Promotes calm 
  • Veterinarian-approved  
  • Third-party tested for safety and potency 
  • 30% discount with auto-refills

Things to consider: 

  • Early studies are promising but more research is needed on possible pros and cons of CBD hemp oil for dogs 
  • Not available in stores 

Adaptil Calming Spray for Dogs

Vetoquinol Zylkene Capsules Calming Supplement for Cats & Dogs

For the occasional jitters, a waft of pheromones—hormones produced by puppies’ mothers—may help your pup relax and stop panting. 

Highlights: 

  • Naturally calms dogs 
  • Takes just 10 minutes to set in once sprayed 
  • Scent is only detected by dogs 

Things to consider:    

  • Not effective for all dogs 

Vetoquinol Zylkene Capsules

Vetoquinol Zylkene Capsules Calming Supplement for Cats & Dogs

Zylkene capsules contain alpha-casozepine, an ingredient naturally found in cow’s milk that seems to calm down people and dogs alike. It’s another supplement that may help ease your pup’s mood.  

Highlights: 

  • Naturally calming
  • Non-drowsy  
  • Free of lactose and preservatives for sensitive stomachs 
  • Capsules can be given by mouth or opened and mixed into a meal 

Things to consider: 

  • Little data available on use for separation anxiety 

Vetriscience Composure Chews 

VetriScience Composure Chicken Liver Flavored Soft Chews Calming Supplement for Dogs

Flavored with chicken liver and filled with relaxing ingredients like L-theanine and thiamine, these chews are a calming supplement disguised as a treat. 

Highlights: 

  • Veterinarian-approved formula 
  • Works within 30 minutes and lasts up to 4 hours 
  • Can be given as needed 

Things to consider: 

  • Has not been proven safe in pregnant or breeding pets 
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