Updated by Sheryl on Jan 10, 2022
Dogs of any breed can develop trouble breathing at any stage of their life. However, brachycephalic breeds, including boxers, pugs, French bulldogs, are more vulnerable to breathing problems that cause labored breathing. Usually, an increased heart rate in pet canines is due to heat, anxiety and, exertion. But infections caused by bacteria and viruses are mostly responsible for abnormal breathing at old age.
Unfortunately, these problems can be life-threatening if left untreated. In addition, early diagnosis is crucial for the treatment of respiratory issues in canine pets. To care for a senior dog with breathing issues and to help it breathe better, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Dogs of age 8 years and more are senior dogs. At this age, these canines pant more than usual. You can consider it normal unless it is not associated with a serious medical condition.
Typically, healthy dogs breathe 20 to 34 times per minute. It can be a maximum of 50 times in normal conditions. In addition, they respire rapidly in response to excitement, anxiety, heat and, exercise. But, if your pet is breathing heavily while at rest or gets faint after vigorous activity, it is an alarming situation. The main problem is, you can't identify the difference between trouble and normal breathing easily.
Have a look at these possible causes for labored breathing in senior dogs.
Dogs can't produce sweat like humans. Therefore, they rapidly breathe in the air, humidify it and then exhale in the warm weather. This process is called panting, which evaporates water vapors from the lung and nose in canines.
Senior dogs are more heat sensitive and pant rapidly in hot weather. But, if they experience abnormal panting even without a high temperature or exercise, it may be a serious condition.
The causes of abnormal panting are:
Just like humans, dogs breathing problems in old age can be caused by psychological issues such as stress and anxiety. They become sensitive to changes in the environment and their physical abilities. In addition, they suffer hearing loss, weak eyesight, mobility issues, and many other problems.
Consequently, any change in their routine makes them more secure, and they pant heavily to cope with that situation. The other common old age problems include Old Dog's Syndrome and Canine Dysfunction Syndrome.
Dogs of 8 years or more are prone to weight gain due to bones and joint issues. Consequently, they pant more to cool themselves. Moreover, they can get out of breath even after a small activity. An overweight old dog with breathing problems is vulnerable to serious health issues such as diabetes, thyroid, heart diseases, etc.
Senior dogs are more likely to develop breathing problems due to cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure. The symptoms include fluid build-up around the lungs due to heart valves leakage.
Unfortunately, the medicines for the treatment of this problem have kidney side effects. Therefore, your vet will also monitor kidney functioning during treatment. Moreover, the infestation of heartworms also causes excessive panting in old dogs.
Old dogs have a weak immune system which makes them fall prey to bacterial and viral infections quickly. As a result, senior dogs may suffer from breathing problems such as pneumonia, canine distemper, Influenza, cold and cough, kennel cough and, allergies. All of these conditions cause labored breathing in senior dogs.
Short-nosed breeds can't pant effectively. For that reason, they are more prone to heatstroke and upper respiratory problems. Other respiratory conditions that cause trouble breathing in dogs include foreign objects in the lungs, allergens, inhalation of toxic gases, etc.
Sometimes, old dogs experience excessive breathing as a result of traumatic pain and physical injuries. Shallow breathing is common in older dogs due to internal injuries. Your furry friend might also pant heavily after surgery because of pain.
Pulmonary adenocarcinoma is a malignant lung tumor that originates in the lungs. Senior dogs over 11 are more vulnerable to this carcinoma which may cause them breathing heavily. Unfortunately, it is hard to treat, and surgery is required. But if the carcinoma has spread, surgery will not be effective.
Labored breathing or dyspnea is a condition in which your dog feels difficulty during inhalation (inspiratory dyspnea) and exhalation (expiratory dyspnea).
In addition to heavy breathing, there are other signs you need to look out for:
Often these signs are accompanied by fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, anxiety, stress, etc. Besides, depending on the actual reason behind the situation, pet owners may also notice other symptoms.