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Your Guide to Handling a Pet in Respiratory Distress

As pet owners, our pet’s safety and health depends on us. As such, when your pet goes into respiratory distress, it’s vital to understand how to remain calm and take on the situation in an organized manner to ensure the most successful outcome for your pet. It’s important to remember anytime a pet is having trouble breathing, the situation is life-threatening, so you will want to know what to do to keep your pet safe. 

Detect Symptoms of Respiratory Distress 

Early intervention is crucial when it comes to a pet having difficulty breathing. As a pet owner, understanding the symptoms of respiratory distress is key to keeping your pet safe. The common signs of respiratory distress include: 

  • Your pet is unable to catch their breath 
  • Fast, short, shallow breaths 
  • Heaving or wheezing 
  • Your pet’s neck or head is extended forward
  • Your cat is breathing with an open mouth 
  • Blue-ish discoloration of the gums, tongue, or skin

Count Your Pet’s Respirations 

If you believe your pet is displaying symptoms of respiratory distress, it’s important to count their respirations to understand whether they are in the normal range or if they must be seen by a veterinarian immediately. For dogs, their resting rate should be between 12-40 breaths per minute. If your dog is exceeding more than 60 breaths per minute, they are in an emergency situation and require prompt veterinary intervention. 

To determine whether your cat is in respiratory distress, count their breaths while they remain in a calm position for 15 seconds. Take the number of respirations counted within the 15 seconds and multiply it by four. If the number exceeds 40, your cat is in need of emergency veterinary care. 

If your pet is experiencing respiratory distress, do not try CPR or at-home medication. Get your pet help immediately by contacting your trusted, local emergency veterinary clinic for professional assistance.



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