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How to Know If Your Pet Is In Respiratory Distress

Respiratory distress occurs when an animal is having trouble breathing. It can be caused by a multitude of reasons, ranging from health complications to obstructions from foreign objects to heat exhaustion. When a pet is in respiratory distress, taking immediate action is vital. No matter the reason for your pet’s stunted breathing, they are in a life-threatening situation and must be seen by a trusted veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Understanding Respiratory Distress In Pets 

The key to helping your pet overcome respiratory distress is early intervention. As such, it’s essential to understand the signs that indicate your pet is having difficulty breathing. The common signs include: 

  • Your pet cannot catch their breath.
  • Your pet is breathing rapidly with short, shallow breaths.
  • Your pet is wheezing or heaving. 
  • Your pet is sitting upright with their neck and head extended forward. 
  • Your cat is breathing with their mouth open. 
  • Your pet’s tongue, gums, or skin is turning blue. 

How to Count Your Pet’s Respirations 

If you are unsure whether your pet is experiencing respiratory distress, count their respirations. A dog’s normal resting respiratory pattern should be in between 12-40 breaths each minute. A dog with a respiratory pattern of over 60 breaths per minute must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. To identify if your cat is in respiratory distress, count your cat’s breaths for 15 seconds while they are sitting or lying down. Multiply the number of breaths during 15 seconds by four, if the result exceeds 40, your cat must be seen by an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. 

What To Do When Your Pet Is In Respiratory Distress 

In contrast to popular belief, you should not perform CPR or give your pet any at-home medication if you identify that they are experiencing respiratory distress. Instead, it is better to use the time to get your pet in the car to rush them to an emergency veterinarian for professional intervention. Sadly lower chance of success compared to humans when performing CPR on pets. As such, it’s best to forfeit home CPR and spend those crucial minutes getting your pet to the help they need. 

To learn more about respiratory distress and how to handle these complex situations, contact your trusted emergency veterinarian today.

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