As flat-nosed dogs, English Bulldogs are prone to respiratory issues. They run out of breath fast than other dog breeds. While this might be a common occurrence, you should never dismiss an English Bulldog breathing heavy. The labored breathing might indicate a more serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care.
What is normal breathing for dogs?
It’s safe to say that dogs will pant from time to time. They do this to cool down since they don’t sweat as humans do. This is why determining whether your Bulldog’s labored breathing is normal or not can be tricky.
On average, a healthy adult dog has a breath rate of 15 to 25 times per minute. At the same time, such breathing shouldn’t appear labored or painful.
You should also assess the environment where your dog is whenever it’s breathing heavily. Is it too hot? Is there something causing extreme emotions in your dog? All of these can spike your English Bulldog’s heart rate, thus the heavy breathing.
However, a dog’s heavy breathing isn’t always connected to increased heart rate. Sometimes, the problem might be right in the lungs or airway. Below, I discussed the possible reasons for your Bulldog’s heavy breathing and what you need to do about it.
English Bulldog Breathing Heavy: Common Causes
Heavy breathing, especially for English Bulldogs, should never be dismissed as random panting. You should observe your dog and consider the following possibilities:
1. Extreme emotions
Like humans, dogs that experience emotions will have an increased heart rate. It could be fear, stress, excitement, or joy. All of these will cause them to breathe heavily.
Most of these are short-lived and will go away once your dog relaxes. However, English Bulldogs with anxiety often suffer from heavy breathing quite frequently.
In this case, you must address the root cause to bring your dog’s breathing back to normal. If your English Bulldog has lung problems, it’s important to keep it calm to prevent hyperventilation.
Proper training will go a long way here. However, you have to practice patience as English Bulldogs aren’t the most enthusiastic breed when it comes to training.
One of the most common reasons why an English Bulldog breathes heavily is overheating. This occurs when a dog is exposed to high temperatures for long. And since Bulldogs are brachycephalic or flat-faced, they have higher risk of overheating or suffering from heatstroke.
Take note that overheating can become deadly for a dog within minutes. You must identify the symptoms immediately to help your dog cool down.
The following are the signs that your English Bulldog is already overheating:
- Excessive panting
- Increased drooling
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Bluish gums and bright red eyes
- Tremors and seizures
If your dog exhibited these symptoms, you must take it to a well-ventilated and shaded area. Give the pooch a small amount of cool (not cold) water at a time to help it cool down.
As much as you’d want your dog to cool down, never bring it inside an air-conditioned room right away. This may lead to shock, or even hypothermia, which can cause further problems.
Remember that heat exhaustion is very common to dogs during the summer season. English Bulldogs have an increased susceptibility due to their shorter airway that can easily collapse during respiratory distress.
To avoid this from happening, don’t walk your English Bulldog during peak temperature hours. Personally, I take my Bulldogs for a walk before dawn or after dusk since the temperatures are cooler. Also, the pavement has cooled down and will not injure my dogs’ paws.
3. Lung disease
If your dog’s heavy breathing isn’t abating, you should take it to the vet and get lung disease ruled out. Any dog can develop lung diseases like chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, or tracheal collapse.
Chronic bronchitis. In the case of chronic bronchitis, dogs will suffer from inflammation of the bronchial tree of the lungs. The reason behind it isn’t quite unknown, but the inflammation is often observed on the smaller airways. Bulldogs with chronic bronchitis will exhibit coughing that ends up with a gag. Heavy breathing will also occur, even if the dog is at rest.
Pulmonary fibrosis. This condition occurs mostly in old breeds, with terriers having the highest susceptibility. Still, older English Bulldogs can also develop pulmonary fibrosis. The tricky part here is that pulmonary fibrosis in dogs is difficult to diagnose since it doesn’t exhibit coughing right away.
Tracheal collapse. English Bulldogs are at high risk of suffering from tracheal collapse when exposed to extreme heat, excessive exercise, and obesity. The stress on the trachea will cause its rings to lose strength. When the trachea collapses, it would be difficult for your dog to deliver air into the lungs. It will lead to heavy breathing, coughing, and a slew of life-threatening complications.
If you notice any changes in your Bulldog’s breathing, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring it to the vet. Being proactive can save your dog’s life.
4. Chest trauma
Trauma in your Bulldog’s chest can lead to injuries and heavy breathing. It can be anything from a bad fall, getting hit by a speeding car, or zooming in too fast.
Your dog can sustain lacerations on the lungs, ruptured lungs, injured airways, or even a bruised heart. The only way to diagnose your dog’s real condition is by bringing it to the vet’s clinic. The veterinarian will conduct a physical examination together with X-rays and electrocardiograms if need be.
Moreover, your dog will receive oxygen supplementation and steroids to ease the pain. Depending on the severity of the condition, some dogs will require emergency surgery to fix the injury.
If you saw your Bulldog struggling to breathe after a fall, you should bring it to the vet’s clinic right away. It’s a sign that your dog is injured and in dire need of veterinary attention.
5. Foreign objects in the airway
Aside from health problems, it’s also possible that your English Bulldog got a foreign object stuck in its airway. It could be a small toy, blades of grass, or bits and bobs found around your house.
Since the foreign object blocks the airway, your dog has to breathe heavily to compensate. This is very uncomfortable, and if not removed right away, the foreign object can start an infection.
Take note that inhalation of foreign bodies can be minor to severe. Objects that got stuck along the nasal cavity are fairly easy to remove. However, if the foreign matter entered the lungs, surgery might be needed.
The good thing is that healthy Bulldogs who have inhaled foreign bodies will likely recover once it’s removed. However, early diagnosis is key to ensure that your dog won’t suffer from any complications.
You should also remember that the removal of foreign bodies on a dog’s airway isn’t cheap. It can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,900.
How can I help my English Bulldog breathe easier?
Since English Bulldogs are prone to breathing problems, you must perform steps to prevent it from happening. As a Bulldog owner, the following are some of the key tips I always share with other dog owners:
🐶Go easy with the exercise
First of all, English Bulldogs aren’t meant to exert physically like a Golden Retriever. Their bone structure makes them prone to injuries. Still, it doesn’t mean you’ll let your Bully become a couch potato.
An hour of exercise a day is sufficient for adult and healthy Bulldogs. While this breed has an image of being sluggish, it can actually have bursts of energy if motivated properly.
Playing fetch, short walks, wrestling, and tug-of-war are just some of the best exercises for Bulldogs. These routines are low-impact, but it gets your Bulldog’s heart rate going and calories burning.
🐶Limit the outdoors
Another important thing you should know is that Bulldogs aren’t outdoor canines. You shouldn’t let them stay outdoors for too long during summer. Also, the summer season is also when seasonal allergies get really worse, which will also affect a Bulldog.
After a walk or playing with your dog, make sure that they are secured inside. You can also set up a dog run if you want your Bulldog to enjoy the outdoors with less harm.
🐶Go to the vet regularly
It’s very important to take your Bulldog to routine checkups with the vet. This way, the veterinarian can diagnose respiratory issues even before it gets worse. While routine vet appointments will surely cost a fee, it’s much smaller than having to pay for expensive vet fees when your dog’s condition worsens.
🐶Mind the diet
Another thing that many Bulldog owners overlook is the diet of their pets. Bulldogs have an insatiable appetite, which is why they are prone to obesity. If you keep on giving in to their prodding for food, you’ll have an obese Bulldog with a life-threatening breathing problem.
For this breed, you need to follow portion control religiously. Also, never over-indulge them with treats because that part can easily give them surplus calories.
🐶Keep the air clean
Bulldogs have short airways, so they get easily irritated when there are smoke and dirt in the air. To prevent this, you should keep your indoor air clean at all times. Use an air purifier if you must. Most of all, don’t smoke indoors and around your dog. It’s best if you won’t smoke at all.
🐶Training is a must
Lastly, you should teach your dog basic obedience. This will prevent overexcitement as well as anxiety that will increase their breathing pace.
You should train your dog to sit and wait whenever you’re going outdoors or serving food. The same goes for when you’re arriving from work or receiving guests.
A well-trained dog won’t just have reduced breathing issues, they will also become safer at home. They are less likely to have bad falls or physical trauma. Still, proper supervision is necessary.
In this video, Dr. Jones shares more tips to help our dogs breathe easier:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why is my dog breathing heavily while resting?
A: Heavy breathing at rest happens when the blood doesn’t receive enough oxygen. The heart then compensates by increasing its pumping rate. This will lead your dog to breathe heavily, so its body will get more oxygen. However, it’s also possible that the dog has fluid build-up on its lungs. Whatever the reason is, the vet is always the best person to consult.
Q: Is rapid breathing a sign of pain in dogs?
A: Not always, but it can be. Rapid breathing can be a sign that your dog has lung problems or something is blocking its airway. If it’s happening too often and for no apparent reason, I suggest that you bring the pooch to the vet’s clinic. You might be surprised that your dog is actually dealing with a serious health issue.
Q: Why is my dog lethargic and breathing fast?
A: Shortness of breath and lethargy are very general symptoms that could mean a lot of things. Your Bulldog might be suffering from lung, heart, or liver problems. Heat exhaustion can also be the culprit, as well as obesity and hypoglycemia.
Q: Is heavy breathing a sign of parvovirus in dogs?
A: Shortness of breath and rapid breathing are just two of the Parvovirus symptoms. However, just because your dog is having breathing issues doesn’t automatically mean it’s infected. Other signs of parvovirus infection in dogs are vomiting, inappetence, bloody diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain.
Q: What does normal breathing look like on a healthy dog?
A: A healthy dog should breathe easily, with every exhale and inhale being relaxed and rhythmical. Also, each breath should be the same as the previous one. It shouldn’t be too rapid or too slow, except if your dog is sleeping. Any changes in breathing, especially if rapid and erratic, should be a cause of concern.
An English Bulldog breathing heavy should be given proper veterinary care. Never dismiss labored breathing like normal behavior. It’s best to be proactive, so you’ll save your dog from the discomfort and your pocket from hefty vet bills.
Like with humans, it’s not normal for Bulldogs to breathe heavily. As responsible pet owners, it’s our duty to ensure that our pets are healthy and will receive vet care when the need arises.